Summer races to add to your list

Ready to step up from a marathon to an ultra this year, or looking to build on your ultra experiences? Now’s the time to book events for later this year.

I like to have goals that give me a reason to get up each morning even when I’m not ‘feeling the love’, and to structure my training around. Once I’ve chosen an event and set that goal, it’s a lot easier to establish training milestones – what needs to be done by when – to make sure I can achieve it.

So, here’s what I’ve got booked for 2020, featuring some of my favourite races and some new events I’ve had my eye on all winter. As always, there are some question marks and possible gaps during the summer. The aim is to make goals that are exciting and challenging enough to keep me on my toes, but build in a degree of flexibility if things need to change.

South Downs Way 50 (SDW50)

4th April

Centurion organise terrific 50 and 100-mile events, and the South Downs Way is one of my favourite places to run. From a practical standpoint, you can leave your car at the start and take the coach (via an optional ticket) back to the start after you’ve crossed the finish. And, if you need to pull out at any point, a sweeper bus will pick you up and take you back to the finish.

There’s a 13-hour cut off, with checkpoint cut offs en route. Each of the seven checkpoints are well-placed and well-stocked, and Centurion’s enthusiastic crew provide ample support to encourage you along the way.

This will be the 6th time I’ve tackled the SDW50, and I’m aiming to do it in under 10hr30 – a good benchmark for completing my goals later in the season.

Kennet & Avon Canal Race (KACR145)

24th July

As one of the three races in the Grand Union Canal Race series, the KACR captures a certain magic for me. I have fond memories of taking the train from Bristol to London as a child, and would never have dreamed of running such a distance!

The KACR is a 145-mile non-stop race. For 2020, the route has been reversed. Now it starts at Little Venice near Paddington in London and finishes at the John Sebastian Lightship in Bathhurst Basin, Bristol. Along the way, the route takes in the Grand Union Canal towpath to Slough, the Jubilee River and Thames to Reading, and then the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath to Bath, before heading onto the Avon towpath into Bristol.

I’m on the waitlist hoping to bag one of just 50 available places for unsupported runners – fingers crossed! Having DNFed two previous attempts of this race, I’d dearly love to cross the Bristol finish line.

CCC ® (part of the UTMB ® series)

24 – 28th August

Ever wondered what the UTMB points on event websites mean? Qualifying events (including the SDW50) award a set number of points to finishers, which, if gained during the qualifying period, can then add up to the ability to enter one of seven prestigious UTMB races.

The CCC is a thrilling 101km non-stop event from Courmayeur in Italy, passing around Mont Blanc and finishing in Chamonix. Big mountains mean stunning views and immense elevation, covering 6100m during the race. All seven UTMB races are hugely popular, so entry is only available through the points system and then a competitive ballot draw. I’ll find out on 9th January whether I have a place for this year’s event.

I timed-out at Trient in 2018 – something I blogged about – so I have ‘unfinished business’ with the CCC.

Autumn 100 (A100)

10th October

The A100 is a 100-mile continuous trail race based in the twin villages of Goring and Streatley on the River Thames. The course takes the shape of a cross and takes runners on a series of four different 25 out and back spurs, using sections of both the Ridgeway and Thames Path national trails.

Like the rest of Centurion’s races, checkpoints are well-stocked. And, after each 25-mile spur, you’re able to access your kit bag. The route is challenging, and runners must prepare for whatever the autumn weather throws at them! I can’t wait – I’ll either be celebrating a successful summer’s running or looking to salvage my season! Like the SDW50, the A100 is a UTMB qualifying race.

XNRG multi-day ultras and Humanity Direct charity single day series

Multiple dates – check their website

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the XNRG coaching team, and you’ll find me crewing most of their events again this year. However, XNRG events are particularly brilliant for ultra newbies – particularly the Humanity Direct single day series. Raising funds for a great charity, each of the three HD events XNRG are running this year take in 50km within a stone’s throw of London. There are no cut off times, and you’ll be well-supported by a crew known for creating an amazing atmosphere. It’s the perfect environment to push yourself that bit further.

XNRG’s multi-days are also great. I’ve been a competitor on almost all of them, as well as crewing more recently as part of the team. Again, they’re well thought-out so all you have to do is run, and the evening speakers are world-class. Their multi-days are great fodder for something like preparing for a 100-miler or something like the UTMB series or the Marathon des Sables.

Whatever your goals for this new year, I wish you fun on your journey. The shortest day is now behind us so those headtorch morning runs will soon be a distant memory!

I might have these races in the diary but I’m always keen to hear of new ones to get excited about! Leave me a comment with your recommendations.

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