Looking for a challenge? Then look no further – we’ve rounded up the top outdoor challenges in Britain for you to try. Whether you prefer running, swimming, cycling or all three, there’s something for you. There are plenty of events taking place over the rest of 2023, so you won’t have to wait long to try one!

running challenges

Running challenges

The AJ Bell Great North Run

Date: 10th September

The Great North Run’s claim to fame is that it’s the world’s largest half marathon –perfect if you’re after a lively event. To add to the excitement, Sir Mo Farah has announced he’ll join this year’s event, the last race he’ll run professionally. Join Sir Mo and thousands of others for the 13.1-mile route, which stretches from the city of Newcastle to the sea at South Shields. Ballot entries have been snapped up but there are still charity places available.

Richmond Marathon

Date: 10th September
If you don’t secure a place for the London Marathon there’s an excellent alternative. The Richmond Marathon goes through one of south-west London’s most beautiful boroughs. It starts at the famed Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and even passes through the historic Hampton Court Palace. The event claims to be “London’s flattest marathon” – a great opportunity to beat your PB and enjoy the scenery. Public entries have sold out, but places are still available via the run’s official charity partners.

The Loch Ness Marathon

Date: 1st October

North of the border, Baxters Loch Ness Marathon is a stunning route with an opportunity to spot the fabled Nessie! The course runs alongside Loch Ness, through epic Highland scenery, and finishes in the city of Inverness. Other options include the River Ness 10k, River Ness 5k and the Wee Nessie for little ones aged five and under. Entries close soon, so sign up while you can.

13 Valleys Ultra

Date: 29th September until 1st October

Completed a marathon? It might be time for an ultra! The 13 Valleys Ultra is a new ultra-marathon in the Lake District National Park. There are four routes to choose from – 60km, 100km and 180km, with a 20km trail as an easier option too. Whichever you pick, you’ll be treated to fantastic scenery running through the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ordnance Survey (OS) is the event’s official mapping partner, a stamp of approval for the Ultra. Check out OS’s long distance trail running tips, if you’re thinking of entering the race.

Dragon Slayer Ultra

Date: 6th August

The fearsomely named Dragon Slayer Ultra is an ultra-marathon that begins and ends at Wales’s Chepstow Castle. It’s a hilly trail that goes through the Wye Valley and along the famed Offa’s Dyke, crossing the border between Wales and England. There’s a challenging 35-mile option, plus the interestingly named 12-mile Dragon Tickle. Entries are still open for the summer event.

cycling challenges

Cycling challenges

The National Three Peaks Challenge

Date: Any – you choose

You’ve probably heard of The National Three Peaks Challenge, but did you know you can cycle between the mountains? According to the official website, there are several routes to choose from when cycling to Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) – covering well over 400 miles. Whichever route you plan, the site notes you’ll tackle about 4,000 metres of ascent, so it’s certainly a challenge. Register your adventure on the website to be featured in the archive and get sent a certificate after completion.

The Cotswold Classic

Date: 19th August

The Cotswold Classic offers three cycling routes through the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). There’s a long (118km), middle (82km) and short (59km) route. Start from Stratford-upon-Avon and follow your favoured route, taking in stately homes, medieval villages, and glorious countryside in the AONB.

Kielder Forest Gravel Epic & Kielder Borders Gravel Epic

Date: 9th and 10th September

Into off road biking? Then this is for you! Dubbed “the biggest gravel weekend of the year” by the event organiser, it’s made up of two days of racing – Kielder Forest Gravel Epic on the first day and Kielder Borders Gravel Epic on the second. There are long and medium routes on offer over the weekend, both passing through England’s largest working forest.

Land’s End 100 Sportive

Date: 16th September

Pick from a long, medium and short route when you cycle the Land’s End 100 Sportive. The event begins at St Michael’s Mount, an iconic landmark on the Cornish coast. Expect quiet roads and plenty of Cornish landmarks, including Stithian’s Reservoir, Newlyn Harbour and Land’s End, the race’s namesake. Much of the route follows the coast, so it’s a great choice for seaside lovers.

The Beast Sportive

Date: 20th August

The Beast is a long-distance journey through the Lake District, boasting challenging passes, country lanes, forest roads, lake shores and even seaside promenades. Whatever your scenery of choice, you’ll find it on The Beast. There are two feeding stations along the route to keep you going and a chill out area at the end, which may be needed after 108 miles!

swimming challenges

Swimming challenges

Swim Serpentine

Date: 16th September

Set in the heart of London, this swim takes place in Hyde Park’s iconic Serpentine Lake. Entries for different lengths are available, ranging from half a mile to a lengthy six miles. General entries are sold out, but charity places are still on offer. A range of charities are on board – including Alzheimer’s Society, Rethink Mental Illness and Macmillan Cancer Support – so you choose the cause that means the most to you.

The Big Brutal Swim

Date: 10th September

Don’t let the name put you off – there’s something quite special about The Big Brutal Swim! It’s held in the glacial-formed Llyn Padarn, one of Wales’s deepest lakes, overlooked by Snowdonia’s incredible mountains. There are three lengths to pick from – 2.5k, 5k and 10k, with different categories for wetsuit and non-wetsuit entrants.

Salty Seadog Long Swim

Date: 5th August

This challenging open water event is held at Dorset’s Hengistbury Head and is geared towards experienced swimmers. Choose your distance – 2.5km, 3.8km or 5km laps of the sea. Cake will be available on the beach post-race, to make the day go even more swimmingly.

Blackpool Pier to Pier Open Water Swim

Date: 9th September

There are plenty of sights to see at the Blackpool Pier to Pier Open water Swim! It’s a challenge that allows you to explore the famous seaside resort, on the land and in the water. Entry to the 1.6-mile swim includes a free heritage tram ride to the town’s North Pier, before you enter the water and swim to Blackpool’s South Pier. You’ll catch sight of the famous Blackpool tower on route and finish at a water park near the Pleasure Beach.

Fireworks 500

Date: 4th November

Fireworks 500 is a great choice if you want a swimming challenge over a shorter distance. The night swim covers 500 metres of open water at Capernwray Dive Centre, a quarry close to Lancaster. You can choose to go at a gentle pace or a more competitive one. There’s a fireworks display after the race – to finish the night off with a bang.

Other challenges to try

Can’t decide between running, cycling or swimming? There are plenty of challenging triathlons to choose from if you’re looking for a multi-sport event. Check out York Triathlon, the London Triathlon and Helvellyn Triathlon.

Read next: What’s so great about doing a Triathlon


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