On Sunday 22nd April 2012, thousands of spectators from across the country will gather in the capital to watch the annual London Marathon. More than 50,000 participants will push their bodies to the limit, taking on the 26.2 mile route around the iconic streets of London to challenge themselves and to help raise millions of pounds for charity.
But for the thousands more that missed out on entry to this year’s race, there are hundreds of other events taking place up and down the country to inspire tough guys and novice athletes alike. England provides the perfect backdrop for an al fresco challenge, from city marathons to forested mountain bike trails, lake swimming and mountain fell-running.
Take the London Marathon as inspiration and limber up for one of England’s greatest physical tests. Here are 10 of the best.
Skills: Running, navigation, endurance
The Soldier Challenge
19th May 2012, London
This endurance event sees people take to the streets of London in teams for a military-style physical and mental test. Combining running and navigation skills, this 10k race is open to people of all abilities. The event will see teams traversing the city, completing a number of different tasks and locating other special checkpoints on route. All the money raised goes to ABF the Soldiers’ Charity, helping soldiers, former soldiers and their families in times of need.
Entry fee: £50 per person
Skills: Stamina, speed
Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest
13th October 2012, London
17th November 2012, Nottingham
Hailed as one of the UK’s toughest obstacle courses, Survival of the Fittest invites participants to pit their wits against thousands of fellow competitors in a test of stamina, grit, speed and guts. This adventure run packs a challenging route in each host city: run solo or as part of a team with tough and engaging obstacles throughout the unforgiving 10k course. Recommended for seasoned athletes.
Entry fee: £49 per person
London Stadia Trekathon
13th May 2012, 1st September 2012 and 31st August 2013, London
This challenging day will takes walkers on a 26 mile route around London into the heart of the City, through busy streets, peaceful parks and following the river eastwards to the finishing point at the O2 Arena. The marathon-distance route is an enormous challenge for walkers, but provides a great opportunity to tour London on foot and to see the Olympic venues without the use of the tube or the bus. The route takes in the Olympic Park, Lords Cricket Ground (archery), Hyde Park (Triathlon and Marathon Swimming), Horse Guards Parade Ground (Beach Volleyball) and North Greenwich (equestrian).
Entry fee: from £49 per person
Skills: Endurance, patience
9th–10th June 2012, London, Surrey and Sussex
This demanding yet memorable 24 hour challenge will take walkers from Richmond in London through the trail footpaths of Surrey and Sussex to a momentous finish 100 kilometres, some aching muscles and an incredible experience later. Event organisers Blind Veterans UK – the national charity which supports blind ex-Service men and women – invites experienced walkers, recreational strollers, or beginners wanting to do something great for themselves and for charity to take part.
Entry fee: £99 per person
Skills: Strength, endurance, a strong stroke
16th June 2012, Alton Water Park, Suffolk (Great East Swim)
22nd-24th June 2012, Windermere (Great North Swim)
1st July 2012, Salford Quays (Great Manchester Swim)
The Great Swim is a series of outdoor swims in lakes, lochs and docks around the UK. A fantastic challenge for all swimming abilities, participants can choose from 1/2 mile, one-mile and two-mile distance swims. 20,000 took part in 2011, raising hundreds of pounds for charity in the process.
Entry fee: from £32 per person
Skills: Running, endurance
10th and 11th November 2012, Longmoor Camp, Hampshire (Hell Down South)
3rd November 2012, Delamere Forest Park (Hell Up North)
The HellRunner challenge offers trail running at its toughest. This 10 -12 mile challenging off-road run features tough twists, turns and of course the famed Hills of Hell and Bog of Doom. The multi-terrain courses are characterised by their varying underfoot conditions, from running tracks and trails to water-filled bogs and steep hills. Not for the fainthearted, entrants should expect to get very wet and muddy.
Entry fee: from £30 per person
Skills: Endurance, multi-discipline
2nd June 2012
West Wyncombe Park, Buckinghamshire
The Columbia HellRide is open to individuals, teams of 3 and teams of 5. The course comprises a circular 5km run loop and circular 7.5km mountain bike loop and particpants have 8 hours to complete as many laps as possible. One team member at a time must complete alternative run and bike laps in sequence.
Entry fee: from £40 per person
Skills: Extreme endurance, stamina
23rd – 24th June, Hadrian’s Wall Country
Perhaps England’s most iconic ultra-marathon takes participants along the 69-mile historical path of Hadrian’s Wall, taking up to 2 days. For almost 2,000 years this vast Roman construction has stretched across the wild beauty of Northern England, and is now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Run or walk through the stunning countryside of Cumbria and Northumberland, rising from the lowlands of the West into the rugged hill country of Northumberland National Park before descending gently to the banks of the River Tyne.
Entry fee: from £120 per person including camping.
Skills: Strength, adventure
12th May – Bedgebury Forest, Kent
26th May – Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
9th June – Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
This series of 10k trail adventures take place in some of the country’s most beautiful forests and woodlands. Off-road running has never been so invigorating – think the fresh scent of pine, springy forest floors underfoot, long field edges and past open water. All Trailblazer locations have been selected for the quality of their running routes, their accessibility and their stunning backdrops. Runs end at the Event Village, which feature post-race food and entertainment.
Entry fee: from £25 per person
Skills: A sense of adventure
River Rat Race
26th August 2012, Stockton-on-Tees
This urban adventure, set against backdrop of the mighty River Tees, is a wet ‘n’ wild 10km running event like no other. Splash, jump, kayak and climb across this course along the banks of the River Tees, which links together various water and shore based activities en route. Scurry over, under and into the River and experience Stockton-On-Tees like never before. Join hundreds of people and take part in this action and adventure challenge – no special skills required, just a pair of trainers and a sense of adventure.
Entry fee: £39 per person