Choose your challenge! – Keri Wallace’s favourite routes from Running Challenges, 100 of the best runs in England, Scotland and Wales

May 15, 2024 5 min read

Choose your challenge! – Keri Wallace’s favourite routes from Running Challenges, 100 of the best runs in England, Scotland and Wales

Sunset on Aonach Dubh during the Glen Coe Classic Rock Challenge. © Keri Wallace 

Running Challenges is a collection of 100 great running routes with varying levels of distance and difficulty, with something for everyone. The guide is also an invitation to get creative and design your own personalised adventure. Use it for inspiration, for motivation or to build-up gradually towards a bigger goal. I hope this book will help you try new things and ‘think big’ while looking closer to home (i.e. in the UK rather than overseas) for running adventures and life-long ambitions.

Here’s a selection of my favourite running challenges from the book to get you started:

MY FAVOURITE STARTER CHALLENGE

Cat Bells, Cumbria. © Keri Wallace 

The book includes a number of trail parkruns which are ideal for those new to running but if you’re looking for something a bit different with incredible scenery, it’s hard to beat Cat Bells. An easy classic of the Keswick area, it’s a short hill run with a few straightforward technical sections thrown in. For some the busy trail might be off-putting but if you’re new to trail running it can be reassuring to have folk around when you’re starting out. On the summit, take a moment to enjoy the mountain panorama and position above Derwent Water.

What’s great about this wee hill is that the challenge can grow with you. Try it as an out-n-back or a short loop and then as you become more confident, extend the challenge to include neighbouring hills and trails. Cat Bells is a much-loved landmark and a great access point into the wider north/western fells of the Lake District National Park.

MY FAVOURITE FLAT (ISH) TRAIL CHALLENGE

Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye. © Keri Wallace 

If you’re looking for a flattish adventure then there’s surely nothing more memorable than the loop around Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye. It’s not easy to get to but that’s all part of the fun if you ask me! Travel to this incredible location by boat (via the seal colonies) and run a flat but not straightforward trail around the shore of the loch, surrounded by the towering Black Cuillin. Crystal clear waters are inviting and it’s a perfect spot for wild-dipping – but beware of the legendary Kelpie! The trail is rough and wet in places but the landscape and geology are spectacular. Loch Coruisk may be a popular tourist destination but few venture beyond the short Scavaig River where the loch meets the sea. You can expect a quiet trail and jaw-dropping scenery on a trail running adventure like no other! 

MY FAVOURITE SINGLE SUMMIT CHALLENEGE

Suilven, Assynt © Keri Wallace

For me, the best single summit run has to be Suilven in Assynt, North West Highlands. It is an understatement to say that this is an iconic mountain. If you drive the scenic roads around Coigach and Assynt, you will be struck by its shapely profile from every direction, as it juts out of the flat landscape looking other-worldly and entirely improbable! The trail into the mountain is remote and wonderfully runnable. Pop in for a nosey at Suileag Bothy along the way and marvel at the incredible Famine Wall constructed at the bealach 160 years ago.
With this mountain you simply have to see it to believe it – so save it for a clear day!

MY FAVOURITE RACE CHALLENGE
Looking down towards Llyn Idwal and across to Tryfan, Eryri. © Keri Wallace

The ultimate in sea to summit racing, the Welsh 1,000m Peaks Race is a traditional fell race from Abergwyngregyn on the Welsh coast to the summit of Yr Wydffa (Snowdon), the highest point in Wales. The audacious race route traces a direct line over through dramatic mountains, steep cwms and over rocky summits as well as over grassy slopes and along pitched stone paths. You will need your wits about you for self-navigation and will encounter every type of running terrain imaginable!

Previous race experience over similar ground, distance and ascent will be a definite advantage but the option of a ‘Pairs’ or Short Course entry will help less experienced competitors take-on this classic race for the first time.

The Welsh 1,000m Peaks Race has a long and special history, and completing this challenging race will make you a part of it.

MY FAVOURITE COASTAL CHALLENGE

Bosigran, South West Coastal Path. © Stephen Elson

Being a runner who was born and bred in Cornwall, it would be tricky to have any other coastal favourite than the South West Coastal Path. At 1,014km, there’s a huge length of trail and great variety of landscape to choose from, so it’s difficult to pick a favourite section. In Running Challenges I’ve focused on a stretch not too far from my childhood home. It showcases the North Coast of Cornwall, with its rugged headlands and narrow zawns, as well as the area’s mining heritage and rural economy. It’s a dramatic and wild section which contrasts greatly with more popular stretches along the coasts of Dorset, Somerset, Devon and S. Cornwall. There is a lifetime of challenges along the South West Coastal Path and one day it would be great to go on a huge holiday to run them all! In the meantime, I’ll be racing the Arc of Attrition 100 next January …   

MY FAVOURITE HISTORICAL CHALLENGE

Hadrian's Wall is the most well-known and best-preserved landmark of Roman Britain and is testimony to the planning, tenacity and power of the Empire. The wall was also a massive feat of engineering in 122AD  stretching seventy-three miles, it took six years to complete! Today a National Trail follows its line over the undulating countryside, crossing rivers and negotiating crags along its length. If you’re a history-buff then you’re in for a delight, with ditches, forts, fortresses, watchtowers and civilian settlements scattered throughout. There are also numerous museums and related sites of historical interest, so make sure you take your time running this one. Why not spend a few days completing this challenge, with a tick-list of must-see locations to enrich the journey!

If you don’t have time for the whole thing, Running Challenges recommends a single section of the route for indulging your love of British history.

Photo: Hadrian's Wall © Nick Brown

 

 

 

 

 

ON MY BUCKET LIST

Me on the final summit of a 3 day Paddy Buckley Round as part of the UK Big Three Challenge (to complete all three in 10 days). May 2011. © Keri Wallace

A few years ago I had an entry to race the Dragon’s Back Race (DBR) but was unable to see it through due to Covid and family commitments. Since then, I’ve continued to do battle with the idea of entering this outrageous and widely acclaimed stage race. Should I, shouldn’t I? I love the idea of running along the spine of Wales, experiencing the contrast of terrain from north to south, but I admit to being more than a little intimidated by the event camping element. I love camping but know well the brutal nature of stage racing and the struggle to get going again day after day! I often wonder if I’d prefer to make a more leisurely running journey along its length, sticking to the line of the Cambrian Way. The challenge of racing is different to the challenge of slow adventure – and both have their merits. Either way, the appeal of this route for me is the long, high-level traverse, with little waymarking and a wild feel. These are the key things that I look for in all my challenges (that and big spiky mountains)!

What’s on your trail running bucket list? If you don’t have one, then you urgently need a copy of Running Challenges in your life!