An epic ultra marathon event in the stunning landscape of the Lake District National Park gets underway for the first time this autumn.
The 13 Valleys Ultra takes place between 29 September to 1 October 2023 and sees entrants running and raising funds at the same time.
Organised by the Great Run Company this new event features three ultra distances – 60km, 100km and 180km – and a 20km trail distance, each promising spectacular trail and mountain running over the fells.
What is even better is that 5% of each competitor entry fee will go to The Lake District Foundation helping us to look after this stunning place.
We speak to Race Director Colin Murphy to find out more.
What inspired you to create the 13 Valleys challenge?
Having visited the Lakes since I was a child I had enjoyed many day walks and a few overnighters. However there weren’t any routes similar to the alpine walking holidays I had also enjoyed. The chance to work with Lake District National Park to develop not only an event, but a trail that would be there for years to come was really exciting.
The vision was to give a platform for people of all ages and level of fitness to share the same route and experience, be that as an ultra-runner or as a family holiday – all the while sharing the benefits of tourism with all corners of the Park.
What is your involvement in the event?
As the Event Director for the Great North Swim the challenge was to come up with a world class event, that had a real reason to exist. My role with the 13 valleys ultra is identify a route and a team to safely introduce runners to the trail and ultra running.
How did you get involved in the Great Run company?
I have been at the Great Run Company for 15 years. I was always keen to work in the sports industry and have been lucky enough to manage elite and mass events all over the UK, from athletics in Horse Guards Parade in London, to managing 60,000 finishers at the Great North Run, there is never a dull day.
Why is the Lake District such a great place for this event?
The Lake District has so much to offer, and a lot of visitors don’t really scratch the surface. The unique landscape of each of the valleys, and the cultures and stories each valley holds, provide such exciting opportunities for future visitors.
Tell us about the different levels of events.
The 13 Valleys Ultra is the headline event. Exploring the whole park and offering the most extreme challenge, it is only for the most seasoned ultra athlete. With 180k to run, and over 7000m of ascent it is up there with some of the toughest challenges in the world.
At the other end of the spectrum we have a 20km two Valley Trail. We recognise that to some none trail-runners, this will seem almost as daunting. We want to provide the platform for new runners, or those who haven’t been confident to start their off-road journey, to feel confident in taking on their first trail challenge. This fully waymarked and supported event will share some of the same trail as the 13 Valleys event and give a flavour of what running in this landscape is all about.
We then have two further Ultra distances – the 100km ‘7 Valleys Ultra’ and 60km ‘5 Valleys Ultra’ are there for anyone who is up for a challenge!
The 5 valleys is an ideal first ultra, being fully waymarked, GPS tracked and supported through well stocked feed stations. The 7 Valleys is for those who are a bit more experienced, and want to test themselves in some of the most beautiful terrain imaginable.
The step up will require not only increased fitness but also navigation skills, as the first 40km will be self navigated, before they join the waymarked 5 valleys route to the finish.
Why is it important to raise funds for The Lake District Foundation?
We benefit enormously from the landscape in the Lake District National Park – be that the breaking a sweat during a day on the fells, or soothing the soul admiring the view across one of the lakes.
It’s easy to think that such a perfect landscape takes care of itself, when the reality is very different. Donating part of the entry to The Lake District Foundation not only gives the charity much needed funds to help its mission to maintain that landscape, but it also reminds us all of the very real impact we have on the environment around us.
As we encourage people to explore all 13 Valleys, we want them to remember to respect the landscape, and help to leave it as they find it to allow many more people to benefit in the future.
What is it like to launch an event like this for the first time?
Exciting, and daunting, in equal measure. The scale of the route means that logistics are complicated, with medical and contingency planning not a small task. However the thought that this event will come to life, and give birth to a legacy trail is incredibly motivating. We can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Enter the 13 Valleys Ultra
5% of each competitor entry goes towards The Lake District Foundation.
Find out more and enter the 13 Valleys Ultra here: