Eight Best Trail Races to Run Off the Turkey

The whole point of being a trail or hill runner is that you can eat more mince pies than the rest of the population over the festive period…as long as you remember to shake them off again with a load of running this January. Why not kick start your 2018 with a race or two?! With events all over the UK you can choose from an exciting 10k at night, to a blast across the countryside with a canine friend. Keep it short with a 5k parkland trot, or go long with a towpath 30 miler or a hilly half marathon. For the ultra-mad amongst you, there are a couple of beasts too, including night navigation through the mountains and a non-stop ultra along a National Trail. Whichever you choose, your Christmas gut will be well and truly gone if you sign up to and train for one or more of these fantastic off-road races.

Runners take on the Devil's Burdens Relay in Fife, 129 kb
Runners take on the Devil's Burdens Relay in Fife
© Peter Bracegirdle

Whether you start gently or push yourself on a biggie, a race is the perfect motivation for getting in shape in 2018

Kielder Night Run 10k, Northumberland

Sat 6 Jan, £18, website

Kielder night run, 183 kb
photo: Stephen Wilson

Exciting nighttime running through the beautiful Kielder Forest trails, illuminated by the twinkling glow of two hundred headlamps, this 10k will be a New Year's outing to remember forever. Open to all abilities, this race will have you bobbing in your headtorch beam along single track, muddy paths, and wide woodland trails which may well also be covered in snow - fingers crossed for a crisp winter's night. According to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), the star-studded skies above Kielder Water & Forest Park are the darkest in England, so be sure to switch off your light at the end of the race for an unmissable spot of galaxy gazing. And if you don't fancy dark trails, sign up to the Kielder Winter Trail 10miler at 10:30am the same day.

Tri-Adventure Mickleham Adventure Event, Surrey

Sun 7 Jan, £22, website

Chase down as many checkpoints as you can in two hours, 255 kb
Chase down as many checkpoints as you can in two hours
© Tri_Adventure

Unscramble your brain and start 2018 as you mean to go on with this exciting navigation event down south. You have two hours to practice your map skills as you chase down as many checkpoints as possible around the rolling trails of Mickleham in Surrey. If you fancy upping the ante, there's also a Sprint event where you swap to mountain bike whenever you like within the two hours and use two-wheels to grab even more checkpoints. Or if you're feeling super fit, try the Experience with double that time. You can hire bikes at the event - it's good cross-training y'all.

Richmond Park New Year 5k or 10k, London

Sat 13 Jan, £15/£18, website

If you're stuck in London, you could do worse than 5 or 10k through Richmond Park, 224 kb
If you're stuck in London, you could do worse than 5 or 10k through Richmond Park
© The Fix Events

London-locked at the start of 2018? Don't worry, you don't need mountains for a lung-busting trail run. Sign up fast as places are limited, and enjoy the mix of country paths and gentle hills within one of our capital city's most famous parks. All ability levels are welcome at this friendly 5k or 10k run, and walking is very much allowed. Can't get into this event? Ka-boom, there's one on 27 Jan too, and it's regular like, so there's one or two each month. Go for it!

High Fells of Hedgehope Half Marathon, Cheviots

Sun 14 Jan, £30, website

High Fells of Hedgehope, 162 kb
photo: High Fells Events

Beware fair weather runners, what could be more bracing in the middle of the first month of the new year? Of course, it's a half marathon to the top of the second highest summit in the Cheviots, Hedgehope at 714m. The race goes directly up the peak, through bogs, rocks and heather to superlative views from the summit if the weather is playing ball. Last year's race clocked -7 here, with a nice helping of sleet too, so all entrants need to be experienced mountain people. If the river Breamish is low, the organisers also threaten to direct the course right through it in an effort to clean your shoes before you return to the Valley Cottage Cafe in Ingram. Lately departed local farmer Sarah Wilson is also remembered with a prize cup in her honour for the winner.

The Spine Race, Pennine Way

13-21 Jan, website

Spine Race, 172 kb
photo: Spine Race

Eat as many mince pies as you want, and smother them (and yourself!) in brandy butter - you'll need an extra layer of fat on you as you run this 268 mile monster along the Pennine Way National Trail from Edale to Kirk Yetholm. This is definitely one for the true trail nutters out there, and although it's sold out for 2018 and needs a fair bit more training than a last minute panic of "I ate too much at Christmas! How can I get rid of my gut?" I'd still like to include it in here because it's such an inspiring race to support. Commit yourself to following a Spine Racer on the trackers, then pay them a visit en route, running (staggering) with them through this beautiful but boggy mountain landscape. One absolute highlight is the section along Hadrian's Wall at Haltcastle. Catch them running across there and bag a 10-miler or so for yourself into the bargain.

Waterway 30, Nottinghamshire

Sat 27 Jan, £37, website

Tranquil waterways and scenic canals, this 30-miler also welcomes Cani-Cross runners too, so your pooch can benefit from a super fit start to the new year as well. The route follows two main tow paths, The 'Cuckoo Way' (Chesterfield Canal) and 'Trent Valley Way' (River Trent). This makes the navigation super straightforward for anyone still a tad bleary-eyed. This race has a remote feeling to it, and because of the flood plain beside the River Trent, the going can be tough underfoot. This is a good one to book now to scare you into keeping up your training throughout January.

Waterway 30, 100 kb
photo: Hobo Pace

Devils Burdens Relay, Fife

Sat 27 Jan, £54/team, website

Feeling the burn on the Devil's Burdens, 188 kb
Feeling the burn on the Devil's Burdens
© Chris Upson

Teamwork! That's what you need to keep you motivated to run off that gut in 2018, and this Scottish relay certainly doesn't disappoint. Between six runners it's a total of 31km over the Lomond Hills with a hearty 1250m of ascent, starting and finishing at the scenic Falkland Estate. There's one trail leg and three hill legs, the middle and longest two of which need to be run in pairs. If you're thinking of planning a club trip, this stat might get your competitive spirit flowing: only two clubs have won the event overall since 2005 - Shettleston and Carnethy. Now there's a challenge!

Marmot Dark Mountains, Forest of Bowland

27-28 Jan 2018, £79/pp, website

Who's afraid of the dark?, 34 kb
Who's afraid of the dark?

Definitely not a race for the faint hearted, this overnight race takes the classic two-day mountain marathon format and "gives it a dark twist," say the organisers: "Rather than two days of running with an overnight camp in between, we pack everything into one winter's night!" 'Well, at least you don't have to carry a tent,' you might be thinking, but au contraire my friend, for safety each pair must still carry a sleeping bag, mat, tent and stove in case you come a cropper in those cold, dary mountains. This year's race is billed as the premier event in the 2018 British Mountain Marathon Championship, in an area with "highly engaging navigation' - that basically means really really challenging. Go and have a go if you have all the mountain skills and think your head will be clear by the end of January…

  • Check out Claire's trail running advice and inspiration on her YouTube channel Wild Ginger Films

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