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Book review: Running Challenges: 100 of the best runs across Great Britain

Written by Fiona

July 01 2024

A new book called Running Challenges, by Keri Wallace, aims to showcase 100 of the best (off-road) runs across Great Britain, from 5ks to multi-day ultras. Split into three sections – England, Scotland and Wales – and featuring a mixture of marked trails, organised races and unmarked self-navigated challenges, the runs increase in difficulty as you go through each section.

It’s hoped that the book will appeal to runners of all abilities and experiences with challenges that are achievable, accessible or aspirational to different people.

To buy the book see Adventure Books. I receive a small commission for sales through this link.

Prize draw for early purchases

If you order a copy of Running Challenges before the publication date of July 18 2024, you will be automatically entered into a prize draw to win an Ultrapac Pro 8 hydration vest, a Train Elite Mid long-sleeve midlayer, a pair of Trailfly running shoes and six pairs of Active Mid/High socks courtesy of INOV8.

The Arran Corbetts provide the location for one of keri’s top running challenges. Credit: Keri Wallace

Who is Keri Wallace?

Keri draws on her experience as a runner, climber, mountain leader and co-founder of Girls on Hills, the UK’s only guided trail, fell and sky running company designed specifically for women.

She has numerous top 10 finishes across a wide range of trail running disciplines, from fell racing and ultra-running to sky running and alpine tours.

Keri has completed the three UK Big Rounds – the Bob Graham, Charlie Ramsay and Paddy Buckley rounds – in a single, multi-day push for charity in 2011.

She also holds the female fastest-known time for the Glen Coe Round and the Winter Tranter’s Round, as well as establishing the Glen Coe Classic Rock round in 2021.

Last year, she finished third female in the Skyrunner UK & Ireland series and finished fifth female in the 170-kilometre Ultra Tour Monte Rosa.

Initially a neurobiologist, Keri made a career change in 2018 and set up her own trail running business. She now lives in the Scottish Highlands with her husband and children and spends her days run-guiding and juggling being a mum to their two girls. Running Challenges is her first book.

Finlay Wild in the lead at Isle of Jura Fell Race 2022. Credit: Ewan Thorburn

My thoughts: Running Challenges book by Keri Wallace

Running Challenges in Scotland

With guide books like Running Challenges, my starting point is to flick through the book to see what I have already done, what I haven’t done and what most inspires.

First, I turned to “Scotland” and worked through the runs, from 35 to 70, nodding to myself and then making notes of the routes I might fancy next.

It was great, on the one hand, to realise I’d already completed many of Keri’s “best of” challenges, yet also inspiring to read about the routes she recommends that I haven’t done.

I agree with many of her choices about “best of” running challenges.

The runs range from short challenges of a 5k route in Mugdock Country Park, near Glasgow; a 7km loop of Lock Coruisk on the Isle of Skye; and a 11km run along the Fife coast to the 17km Ring of Steall; 18km Loch Affric Circuit, 31km Lairig Ghru; 30km Trotternish Ridge; the Cairngorm 4000s, and even a Munro Round (which takes most people many years, unless you are Donnie Campbell or Jamie Aarons).

Some of the routes that I have not yet completed and that I most fancy include a 16km route on Fair Isle (this is because I would like a trip to the island); a 23km A-to-B route on Barra in the Outer Hebrides; a 16km Paps of Jura run (perhaps even the Isle of Jura Fell Race); the 22km Rum Cuillin route (there is an island theme growing here!); a 30km Lochaber Traverse; a 46km Knoydart Traverse; and the Loch Mullardoch Round of 57km.

Keri has chosen the Cumbria Traverse as one of her 100 best Running Challenges. Credit: Kirsty Reade

Running Challenges in England and Wales

Because I live in Scotland, I have completed many more Scottish running routes than those in England and Wales. But these two countries are very accessible and offer the scope for some great trips. In Wales, I like the idea of the Snowdon Horseshoe; a route on the mountain Cadir Idris; a 29km Sedbury Cliffs to Monmouth run; the Abergavenny Three Peaks; and the Welsh 3000s (these are mountains of more than 3000ft elevation and count as “Furths”.

In England, I am drawn to running routes close to where friends live such as 6km Cat Bells, Helvellyn Edges; and George Fisher’s Tea Round; plus the Edale Skyline and Nine Edges in the Peak District. The 20km Isle of Portland route looks fabulous, too. There are notably far more running challenges in the north of England than southern regions but perhaps that is because the author knows the north much better than the south, or it’s simply the case that her choice of “the best” is more likely to include the hills and mountains.

Bay Limestone offers a great running route. Credit: Kirsty Reade

More details: Running Challenges book

The book includes a few pages of introduction and outlines “what is a challenge”. The author writes: “Taking on a challenge means something different to each and every person, but ultimately is involves an effort (often a struggle) which advances us in some way, whether that be physically, emotionally or spiritually.” There are details on “how to use the book”, too.

Each run includes information to help with planning, such as start and finish points, distance and ascent, navigational difficulty, public transport, parking, route profile and overview map. There is also an overview of what to expect when running the route and other options, plus similar challenges throughout Great Britain. The addition of photographs provides further inspiration.

More thoughts: Running Challenges 100 of the best runs across Great Britain

This is a really well designed and thoughtful book. There are tons of great ideas for running challenges and to suit many different people. Of course, any “best of” is subjective but Keri has created a list to inspire many different runners.

The book can be used in your own country, or near to where you live, to build up your running experiences and to enjoy new adventures, or as a reference guide when planning to visit new places.

The maps and routes serve as an overview and there are no GPX download references that I can see so you would need to plot the runs on a map yourself before you go. Some routes do have waymarking, while others double as races, which means you can take advantage of things being laid out a little more for you. A search on-line often reveals the routes, for example Bennachie features on Walk Highlands website. Because of the navigational aspect, I’d say the book is generally pitched at more experienced trail and hill runners. It would make a great gift for a trail runner.

  • * I was sent the book without charge in return for an honest review.

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