The UK’s Best Adventure Races Of 2021

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Every race you tackle in any sport is an adventure. Even if you’ve cycled a hundred sportives and run dozens of 10Ks, the next one will find a way to surprise and delight you. However, some races are undoubtedly more adventurous than others. For example, running, cycling and kayaking across Scotland is more likely to throw up unexpected challenges than running around a city centre.

Some go further still, like the truly epic 11-day adventure race created by Bear Grylls for the TV series World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji. It’s fair to say that none of the races on this list are quite as adventurous as Eco-Challenge Fiji, and you’re much less likely to speak to Bear Grylls during these UK events, but you can be sure you’ll still find something to take you well out of your comfort zone.

In what will be a surprise to no-one given the COVID-19 pandemic, all this year’s events have been cancelled, but you can and should sign up for next year’s adventure races now. You’ll need plenty of time to prepare for them and who doesn’t need something to look forward to at a time like this?

Race The Sun Brecon Beacons (27th March 2021)

Teams of four race to complete this race before the sun sets, starting at dawn to give themselves as much time as possible. The event starts in Talybont with a cycle along the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal, before a 13km hike up to the 886m summit of Pen y Fan and then a 24km ride to Lake Llangorse for a 3.2km canoe. After you leave the water you’re almost done, with just a 17km cycle back to Talybont for the finish.

Sign up | £195, plus £1,800 fundraising target per team of four

Man Vs Coast (4th July 2021)

The particular part of the coast you’ll be pitting yourself against is on Cornwall, with a 25-mile (40km) route that goes from St Michael’s Mount to Land’s End. You’ll run as much of that route as you can, but you’ll also have to swim some sections and clamber over a few cliffs to complete the race.

Sign up | From £150

Man Vs Lakes (17th-18th July 2021)

How does one best a body of water, or indeed several of them? By running 26.2-30 miles (42.2-48.2km) around them – the exact distance will depend on how you go about crossing the quicksands of Morecambe Bay to start the race. After that you’ll be running up and down some of the many mountains and valleys of the Lake District, with 4,200ft (1,280m) of climbing to tackle in total, before you finish with a relatively relaxing kayak loop on Lake Coniston.

Sign up | From £99

Race The Sun Lake District (11th September 2021)

Sunrise marks the start of this team event and the objective is to complete the three sections of the race before sunset. Those sections are a 64km cycle, a 3km canoe on Derwentwater and an 18km hike to the summit of Skiddaw, which at 913m is England’s sixth-highest mountain. No mean feat, but you have got almost 14 hours to get it done.

Sign up | £195, plus £1,800 fundraising target per team of four

Coast To Coast (11th-12th September 2021)

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Run, cycle and kayak from Nairn on the east coast of Scotland to Ballachulish on the west coast. The 169km route takes you past Loch Ness and through plenty of rugged Highland terrain. It can be tackled in one go or as a two-day event, with a night spent camping at Fort Augustus. As you’d expect, you cover the bulk of the distance on two wheels, but there are both on- and off-road sections to tackle, and you’ll still be running over 32km in total as well as finishing with a 1.6km kayak – the difficulty of which should not be underestimated, as we found out the hard way.

Sign up | Solo: One-day event £300-£400, two-day event from £350-£450. Pair: One day £280-£380, two day from £330-£430. Prices rise every month

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.