Never mind running for its aesthetic benefits – take it up for its spiritual ones. This new year, we present seven of the most intrepid events the sport has to offer
When well-meaning articles emerge at this time of year urging us to run because, well, it’ll make us thinner and appease festive over-indulgence, they fail to mention the singular thrilling joy which the ability to put one foot in front of another at considerable speed evokes. It’s not the prospect of a flatter stomach or toned limbs which attract us – those are merely happy side effects – but the chance to explore stunning and vast landscapes in the most natural manner imaginable; to gasp in the air and feel unique terrains underfoot. All that propels us forwards is a feeling which reminds us of our tiny part in the world, but also manages to make us feel utterly at one with it.
So instead of aiming to run with a pair of Saint Laurent cigarette pants or a Céline slip dress as your motivation this new year, may we suggest these gruelling but sensational adventure events which take place across the globe, and which are famed by those in the know for the transformative experiences they offer.
South Africa’s Comrades marathon was first run in 1921 as a celebration of the camaraderie shown by the soldiers who fought in the First World War. Spanning 90km between Pietermaritzburg to Durban, the race is run in a different direction each year with the ‘Up’ route offering an extra challenge. The race prides itself on the human spirit which it inspires.
Ö Till Ö
Taking place across an archipelago of islands to the east of Stockholm, the Ö Till Ö is a swimrun competition comprising 10km of swimming and 65km of running, hopping between the sea and trails to trace a line from Sandhamn to Utö. Each team of two passes lush green forests, traditional Scandinavian country homes and the clear, fresh sea to complete this intense but beautiful challenge, which was first dreamt up as a dare laid down over late night drinks in 2002.
To Utah, where the Wasatch mountains provide the backdrop to this high-altitude uber-marathon with a difference. The brainchild of champion ultra distance runner, Karl Meltzer, there’s no endless plodding here but tricky vertical ascents and descents to negotiate, meadows of wildflowers to weave amongst and even the occasional moose to greet along the way. Truly invigorating.
Ultra Trail Mount Fuji
For anyone fascinated by the mindset required to take on long, arduous distances, a visit to one of Japan’s most iconic races is an absolute must. Circling the breathtaking base of Mount Fuji (or just half way for the Shizuoka to Yamanashi race), the 168km Ultra Trail is based on the age old Japanese principles of self-discovery as well as one’s relationship with natural surroundings, rather than competition with fellow humans.
The Coastal Challenge
You might have considered a remote getaway to the gorgeous tropical beaches of Costa Rica, but The Coastal Challenge offers the chance to take in either 150km or 230km of the country’s lush rainforest-covered Pacific coastline and Talamanca mountain range, before finishing in a tiny fishing village in Panama.
The bucolic beauty of the English countryside is the setting for the Maverick races, which take place in idyllic spots in counties from Devon to Sussex and Gloucestershire. With each race offering short, middle and long distance options, this event is a wonderful way to sample the magic of running amongst the wildlife before becoming immersed in some of the more extreme opportunities around the world.