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Photo credit: Kintyre Way Ultra & Relay

Top 10 ultras for beginners


Last updated: 30-Aug-18

By Alice Morrison

Top ten lists for Ultras are always thorny, but for beginners it is even more so, as you have to factor in distance, continuous v multi-day, terrain and navigation. I (Alice Morrison) am definitely well-qualified as a beginner and slow runner, but I felt I needed some help so I brought in the big guns and consulted the ultra running community. Here is what we came up with. Please, do log in and leave your comments as I am SURE we have missed off some corkers...

The Thames Trot. Photo credit: Go Beyond Ultra.

10.  Thames Trot

The Thames Trot is 50 miles along England’s mightiest river. Highly recommended by Steve West because it is easy to run, has great organisation and relaxed cut offs. It is quite a long one to start off with, but a reasonable fee and also a good one to bring supporters to. A big, mixed field of runners for this one.

9. Nashville Ultra Marathon

A predilection for cowboy hats and country and western may have influenced this choice.  Seriously though, the Nashville Ultra Marathon has got some nice features for beginners. It is 90% on paved trails and navigation is very simple. You have a whole range of distances 50km, 60km, 70km and 50 miles and you are allowed to swap distances DURING the race. So, you can switch up or down if you need to.

8. D33 in Aberdeen

This came highly recommended by Lois Simpson, Neil Harkness and Roy Milne. The D33 is flat and an “out and back” with lots of checkpoints and support. At 33 miles it is not too long. Neil has all the details if you want to check out his Strava for March 14. It is 60% on a path and by the river so mud is definitely a possibility. There is also a really nice training plan for newbies on the website.

7. Round Ripon Ultra

Anne-Marie Lord was a fan of this one because of the great scenery. It is also a good one to test your navigation skills out on. It is a 35-mile route which includes a world heritage site, pretty Yorkshire villages, woodland tracks and open moorland, and a Royal deer park. Entrance to the Round Ripon Ultra is very reasonable.

The Druids Challenge. Photo credit: XNRG.

6. The Druids Challenge

We need at least one multi-stage in here so are opting for Druids. It is 135km and takes you from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Swindon in Wiltshire over 3 days, with 2 over night stops in Watlington and Wantage. The varied terrain, excellent organisation and do-able distances make it a great one to do when you are moving on to multi-stage, but it is tough.

5. Nomad’s Run Marrakech

If you are looking for a warm up (see what we did there?) for one of the big desert runs like Marathon Des Sables, then Nomad’s is ideal. It is in the Agafay desert, 45min drive from Marrakech airport. 56km over sand, hills and rock and along a long, hot, dry, riverbed. Stunning desert scenery, good check points and relatively easy navigation.

4. Kintyre Way Ultra Half

Recommended by Ultra doyenne, Angela N Brin. She says the Kintyre Way is good for beginners due to the generous cut-offs, which does away with one of the big worries for a newbie ultra runner. Very pretty in good weather – and of course Scotland is famed for its weather! – and not too technical. It is 35.5 miles from Tayinloan to Campbelltown with 1300m of ascent. So, you get to give those climbing legs a stretch.

The Brecon to Cardiff. Photo credit: Run Walk Crawl.

3. Brecon to Cardiff

Jayne A Jones did the Brecon to Cardiff for her first Ultra and was full of praise for the ease of navigation and the check points. Fantastic scenery too from the breathtaking, literally, Beacons, to the industrial heritage of the Taff trail. It is a 42 miler with a cut off of 12 hours. Nice, varied terrain.

2.  The Lakeland 50

Fifty miles in the Lake District? A beginner’s Ultra? Obviously, this is not an easy run but it deserves its place because the cut off is 24 hours so it is achievable for anyone who can persevere. It is also through one of the most beautiful parts of England and the terrain and weather will probably both challenge you. You can do the Lakeland 50 solo, in a pair or a three. Long established, with excellent organisation and a chance to mingle with the elite mountain runners.

1.Tiree Ultra Marathon

This is a 35 mile run round the island of Tiree and looks completely irresistible, so we have put it in first. Joey Wilson did the hard sell for this one, “It was an amazing experience for a first time Ultra. Fantastic support and the most breathtaking island once you get over the fact that there are no trees! If all Ultras are like this, I’ll be doing a few.” Susan Murchie backed him up and added the important detail that there was lots of cake at CP3. Checking it out, the big plus has to be the joy of running right round an island. Navigating the Tiree Ultra Marathon is easy, the terrain offers quite a few challenges and if you have any strength left in your legs, there is a celebratory Ceilidh in the evening. 

If you didn’t find your favourite, log in and let us know! We’ll try and keep stretching till we get to fifty...

Honourable Mentions
Clyde Stride – from Davie Mooney
Glen Ogle – from Emma Main, Fiona Caird Thomson, Lois Simpson
Ennerdale Water – from Jackie Dench
River Ayr Way – from Andrew William Crichton
Canary Islands – Paul Cooper

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