Running Events Directory For The UK: Find your next 5k, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon & Ultra Marathon

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Understanding Running Event Terrains

It wasn’t easy to define ‘Running Event Terrains’ and there was some to-ing and fro-ing as some terrains can be very interchangeable but in the end, we ended up with 6 main event terrains. Lots of people may see certain running event terrains as having a different definition however just so you know how they are defined for this website a little description of each is detailed below.

If you are an Event Organiser you will need to pick from one of these choices to ‘best’ categorise your event (sometimes it is not an easy thing to do).

If you are someone looking for events then this will help you narrow down your search results. For example, if you are looking specifically for road running events then these categories can help filter the results so that you can easily find what you are looking for.

Athletics Track

This type of event covers any events that use an Athletics Track as the main surface. An Athletics Track usually consists of a 400-meter oval-shaped track, typically made of synthetic materials such as asphalt or rubber.

A well-known example of this could be the Centurion Track 100 which is designed for runners to compete under the fastest possible conditions and with a focus on record setting.

Woman running on an athletics track

Road

This type of event covers any events that primarily use paved paths and roads as the main surface.  Road races are usually well marked with plenty of marshalls at key points so navigational requirements are usually minimal.

A well-known example of this is the Great North Run or the London Marathon.

Man running down a road

Trail

This type of event uses off-road terrain that primarily takes place on unpaved trails, typically in natural environments such as forests, mountains, and parks. This event type can involve navigating uneven terrain, such as rocks, roots, mud, and steep inclines and declines, which requires a different set of skills and techniques than road running.

Trail events can be difficult to distinguish from Fell events however one of the key differences is that, unlike many Fell races, Trail races are usually well-marked and signposted and on well-defined paths with plenty of marshalls at key points so navigational requirements are usually minimal.

A good example of a trail race is the Wooler Trail Marathon which takes place in the Cheviots Hills in Northumberland.

Runners running through a forest trail on a trail race

Cross Country

This type of event uses off-road terrain that primarily takes place on circuits that are mostly grass and open fields and wide enough for easy passing. This type of of event can be difficult to distinguish from a Trail event however a Trail event can be further distinguished by ‘being on tracks that are often through forests, mountains, and parks rather than primarily on open fields’.

A good example of Cross Country events are those that are arranged by The Northern East Harrier League which are aimed at members of Running clubs.

Runners taking part in a cross country race

Fell

This type of event uses off-road terrain that primarily takes place on steep, hilly and/or mountainous terrain, typically in the countryside. Fell running, also known as hill running, is further categorised by its rough and challenging terrain such as steep ascents and descents, rocky paths, and boggy ground. 

This event type can again be difficult to distinguish from Trail events however some defining features of Fell running events are:

  • There can be a lack of a defined path or trail so it is left to the runner to decide the best way to navigate the terrain to the required checkpoints.
  • Routes are often unmarked so again it is the responsibility of the runner to navigate the terrain to the required checkpoints.
  • Use of GPS devices is forbidden so you need to be capable of navigating by map and compass.

For the reasons stated above, Fell races require a different skill set than those required for Trail races.

Fell races are governed by a strict set of rules, such as specific kit requirements for safety which are defined by organisations such as the FRA (Fell Runners Association).

Fell runner running up the side of a hill or mountain

Sand

This type of event covers any events that primarily use sand as the main surface.  

There are probably not too many races on sand in the UK but a very well-known example of this is the Marathon Des Sables (Moroccan Sahara) or if you are from the North East of England then you may know the Blyth Sands Race which takes place along Blyth beach each year.

Runners running along a sandy beach