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New off-road Caledonian Challenge marathon

Written by Fiona January 23 2012

If you know me…Or you read this blog… you’ll know that I am always on the look out for new outdoors challenges! Just after turning 40 I decided to run my first marathon, the Loch Ness Marathon. A couple of years ago I set a goal of cycling the Bealach Mor Sportive. Last year, I took on my first Olympic distance triathlon in London. And this year I’m thinking of aiming for a long-distance off-road running event.

Walking the Caledonian Challenge

Walking the Caledonian Challenge

At the back of my mind is an offer via Goretex to join a team running in the epic Transalpine Run. But this seems like a bit of a goal too far for my first year of off-road long-distance events and so I might settle for the Highland Fling.. or perhaps the new off-road marathon being staged this year as part of the annual Caledonian Challenge. Then again, I might do them all!

For many years, teams have taken on the challenging 54-mile trek along the famous West Highland Way in 24 hours across Scotland’s stunning Highland scenery to help raise money for charity. I have blogged about this before.

And the Caledonian Challenge is now open for entries to the event that takes place on June 16/17.

New off-road marathon for Scotland

Added to the main event is the new 26.2 mile run, which organisers are hoping will prove as popular as the 54-mile hike.

There is no doubting that the rising numbers of distance and cross-country runners will be keen to try this new marathon. Claimed as being “more challenging than the 2012 Olympic marathon course”, the Caledonian Challenge will take in some of Scotland’s most breathtaking Highland scenery. Entrants can choose to run the course in less than six hours or opt to hike the hills in less than 12 hours.

The marathon course details

Hot off the press is the details of the marathon route. Runners will follow the West Highland Way up out of Glen Nevis and along a stunning upland plateau before dropping back down into the remote and picturesque old fishing hamlet of Kinlochleven, back at sea level. The 26 milers will then take a diversion from the West Highland Way before they get to the Checkpoint, which is just over the midway point.

Having paused to undertake any necessary running repairs, participants will embark on the most challenging section of course. They will undertake a punishing, 550m continuous ascent from sea level up to the top of the Devil’s Staircase. Here they may wish to pause for breath and take in the stunning view of the distinctive summit of Buchaille Etive Mor opposite, in Glencoe, and Rannoch Moor stretching away into the distance.

They will also be able to see in the distance the finish line of Glencoe Mountain Centre. It looks within touching distance but is actually another 6 miles away.

Participants will drop sharply down the zigzags of the Devil’s Staircase and follow an old military road past the iconic Kingshouse hotel before a final sting in the tail: A two-mile gentle ascent up to the finish line and a well-deserved Caledonian Marathon medal and slap-up finish-line supper.

Every three miles or so, there will be a drink station where runners can replenish their fluid levels. Are you up for the challenge?

Taking up the challenge

Taking up the challenge

John Mercer, who is events director for the Scottish Community Foundation, which organises the Caledonian Challenge, said: “The Caledonian Challenge is one of the most well-respected events in the UK charity calendar and, as participants have to complete a 54-mile course in 24 hours, it really is a big challenge that requires months of training and teamwork to complete.

“However, because of the length of the course, we have not seen many endurance athletes or charity runners opting to run it in previous years. Therefore, we’ve decided to create a brand new 26-mile course for these people.

“We hope that this will encourage more athletes to enter the 2012 event and tackle what promises to be the most stunning and challenging marathon in the whole of the UK this year.”

The Caledonian Challenge is one of the major fixtures on the UK’s fundraising calendar, regularly attracting more than 1000 entrants and raising £1 million every year for a range of charities and community projects. The event is open to teams of four to six people and participants must pledge a minimum of £400 each for charity by the deadline of March 31, although early bird discounts are also available to entries submitted by February 14.

More information about the event and how to enter can be found on the website.

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