Written By Jasper Johnson
Jasper is a new member of the Ultra X team. A keen middle distance runner who is looking to up the distance to an ultra marathon, Jasper enjoys writing about all things running.
For many runners an ultra might seem like an unachievable goal. Anyone that has run a marathon will know just how tough 26.2 miles can be – and so the idea of anything further can be terrifying!
However, Ultra X was founded on the firm belief that everyone can do an ultra marathon. More than half of those who line up on our start lines will be first timers and a lot of them will have never ran a marathon when they initially sign up.
A question we get asked a lot at Ultra X is: “What are the best ultra marathons for beginners?” It’s a difficult area to comment on as ultra races, particularly those on the trail, are subjective and it’s very hard to suggest that Race A is easier than Race B because it all depends on the individual taking on the event. Having said that, there are huge difference between events in the ultra-category in terms of difficulty with some, like UTMB, taking the best in the world a full day to complete.
In this article we select some of our favourite beginner ultra marathons to help guide first timers on their ultra journeys.
Ultra X 50 England
Peak District, UK
26 September 2021
Ultra X 125 England is set in the beautiful and challenging Peak District National Park. The “Sunday only” 50km race provides a chance for runners to cross under the blue Ultra X arches in a single-stage event.
The course takes runners through some of the most challenging parts of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park and some of the well-known beauty spots, like the spa towns of Castleton.
See you there!
Taupo Great Lake Relay
Lake Taupo, New Zealand
13 February 2021
$45 per person
The Taupo Great Lake Relay takes place on the shores of Lake Taupo on New Zealand’s north island.
Whilst there is an option to compete in the event as a solo runner, most run as part of teams of 8-10 runners taking around 14 hours to circumnavigate the largest lake in New Zealand.
While there is a grand total of $150,000 worth of spot prizes given away, most of the runners take part just for the joy of team building and participating. With multiple formats from solo runners to walking teams, there is an option for everyone. Team starts are also staggered to allow plenty of space along the narrow trails. However, this does mean the running teams head off at 2am, so prepare for a long day!
Ultra X 50 Scotland
Loch Ness, Scotland
9 May 2021
Ultra X 125 Scotland is a similar format to Ultra X 125 England, with an option for runners to join for the “Sunday only” 50km single-stage and run along the same course as those doing the full weekend will cover on their second stage.
The course takes participants from the southern end of Loch Ness in Fort Augustus, to Loch Ness Beach in Dores. There are checkpoints stationed approximately 10km apart where competitors can access water, shelter, and, if necessary, medical support. And for anyone concerned about what to think about over the 50km, the Scottish Highlands has some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK – the perfect distraction for any budding ultra runner.
Run Jurassic Ultra
Jurassic Coast, UK
26 September 2021
Sadly, White Star Running had to cancel their 2020 race – but that does mean they’ve had loads of time to make this year’s race epic!
“Run by runners for runners” is the phrase used to describe the event, and we could not agree more. These events are fun and social, if not the most serious race around. The weekend includes everything from a 52km ultra right down to a 10km and a kid’s race, to ensure there is an option for every member of the family. This is a fantastic race to get friends and family into running – be it the ultra or just the 10km.
Salt Pans Ultra Marathon
100km (3 days)
The Salt Pans Ultra Marathon was founded in 2019 and is a three day trail run on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans of Botswana. At 100km it is a bit longer than other races on this list but with very little elevation and the distance spread over several days, we think it’s a great first race.
On the face of it, this is probably the best value-for-money ultra out there, costing just £320.
If you are not put off by the 6.5-hour drive through the rural countryside with not much in the way of road markers, then this is a goer! Competitors are given the privilege of traveling through some of Africa’s most beautiful landscapes being the largest salt flat in the world hosting Africa’s only breeding ground of the greater flamingo.
Country to Capital
1 May 2021
Country to Capital is now well established as the opener for the UK ultra race calendar.
This is historically a sell-out event that attracts a mixed field. The route takes you through the stunning Buckinghamshire countryside and finishes in Little Venice in central London.
Kilimanjaro Ultra Marathon Stage Run
14-21 August 2021
240km (8 days)
Alright, this one isn’t strictly speaking a race, but it will certainly appeal to any budding ultra runners that wants to go and explore. The Kilimanjaro Stage Run combines authentic ‘off-the-beaten-path’ travel and exploration with organised supported running, making the distance and terrain manageable for runners new to the ultra scene. The aim is to circumnavigate Mount Kilimanjaro.
For those looking for a running holiday with a bit of adventure included, in a unique and incredible part of the world but without the competitive edge, then look no further. A total of eleven days, with eight spent running… a rather civilised multi-stage ultra, if we may say so!
Spring Trail Series by Ultra X
22 May 2021
10km – 100km
265m – 2,510m
£25 – £90
The Spring Trail Series by Ultra X offers four race distances: 10km, half marathon, 50km and 100km. Each race takes place along The Serpent Trail, a stunning route that weaves through the greensand hills, river, woodland, and lowland heath of the South Downs National Park, a habitat which is rarer than rainforest and home to a variety of rare and endangered species.
As is always the case with Ultra X events, these are far more than just races, they are awesome experiences. At the start/finish there will be an expo selling merchandise, hot drinks, food and much more. You are actively encouraged to stay on after your race and enjoy the festivities, BBQ and bar, and thanks to the various formats there really is someone for everyone.
TRIBE Relay Across Scotland by Ultra X
John Muir Way, Scotland
18-19 June 2021
This one is a bit different. Another relay race, TRIBE Relay Across Scotland sees teams of 4 or 8 race from one end of Scotland to the other, along the John Muir way. Competitors need to be on the go for 24hrs so forget about sleeping on this one. However, it is done on the summer solstice so you can take advantage of the extra daylight hours.
Team Ultra X headed up there last year and for anyone that can break their record, there are some serious prizes up for grabs! Check out the video above for a preview of what’s in store!
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