IN RECENT years, more and more runners are taking their hobby to new levels and setting their sights on new challenges to test themselves to the limits.
Gone are the days when joggers in the local park could only aspire to take on the London Marathon – these days fitness fanatics have a wealth of road races, cross county routes, fun runs and marathons to choose from.
And with South Bucks and the surrounding area home to some of the best races in the south east, we round-up five of the best and most gruelling challenges for wannabe Mo Farahs to take on.
Has anybody conquered them all? Leave your comments below
1. Wycombe Half Marathon
With two races in one, Wycombe’s premier running race rolls around each July with the hundreds of competitors turning out each time hoping the British summer will stay kind to them.
Organised by Wycombe-based club the Handy Cross Runners, the event features a 13.1 mile half marathon course which snakes its way through Wooburn, Bourne End and Flackwell Heath before finishing in the picturesque surroundings of the Rye.
And a shorter 10k route is available to those not quite ready to take on the mammoth half marathon course.
Over 1300 runners turned out for last year’s race, which was won for the fourth time by Bucks-based Sri Lankan Olympian Anuradha Cooray in a time of 1.08.56.
To register for this year’s race, visit www.handycrossrunners.co.uk
2. Gerrards Cross Fun Run
HELD once every two years, this mammoth fun run consistently attracts over 1000 runners young as the village grinds to a halt for the charity occasion.
Over the past 13 years, the run has grown to become the town's biggest community fund raising event.
Celebrating its most recent outing only a matter of weeks ago, the Fun Run aims to provide an opportunity for families to have a great day out on the Common while raising money for worthwhile charities.
To date, the Fun Run has raised over £215,000 for a variety of good causes.
This year, children's races returned to give anyone aged between 4 and 9 years old the chamce to get involved in the fun.
MP and Attorney General Dominic Grieve could be seen in his running gear for this year’s race, finishing in the top third of the field in a respectable 29 minutes, 30 seconds.
3. Santa Fun Run
WHILE Marlow’s annual Santa Fun Run might not look like a rest for the hardened running enthusiast, this fiercely contested festive favourite features a deceptively large number of top athletes vying for victory underneath the fake beards and red hats.
Having started out with the relatively small number of 150 fancy-dressed Father Christmases during its fledgling years, the Christmas dash now attracts around 2000 people braving the cold for the 5k course.
Organised by Marlow’s rotary clubs, it pulled in over £25,000 for charity last year.
Last time out, Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave sent the racers off on their merry way and then later handed out awards to the three speediest Santas.
And Paralympic gold medalist Naomi Riches gave out the awards to the three quickest Mother Clauses.
The 5km street course takes in most of Marlow town centre, including the High Street resplendent in its Christmas dressing, making this a refreshing festive alternative to some of the other more serious races in the calendar.
4. Marlow 5
FOR over three decades, athletes have been coming out in their droves for the Marlow 5, which takes in the picturesque surroundings of the Thameside town.
Over 1200 runners took to the streets for this year’s race, the 31st incarnation of the popular May five miler.
Organised by the Handy Cross Runners, the Marlow 5 acts as a warm up for the club’s main event, the Wycombe Half Marathon, two months later.
Streets across town, including the High Street, Spittal Street, Marlow Bridge and parts of West Street, were closed to traffic for the duration of the race, which this year took the winner a mere 25 minutes, 28 seconds to complete.
5. The Charity Relay Marathon
A marathon with a difference, this novel relay race sees teams of up to ten people taking on a leg of the 26-mile distance.
Held in Braywick Park, Maidenhead, the family-friendly occasion requires teams to make up the marathon distance between them, from an ultra-fit solo runner to slightly less fit groups of ten.
A charity fundraising effort, it is aimed at companies looking for a corporate challenge event or for schools wishing to raise funds for the school or PTA, or just for a fun day out with your friends.
Although it is an ideal fundraising event, there is no obligation to raise money for charity.
This year’s Relay Marathon is held this Sunday, June 8, For details, visit www.purplepatchrunning.com