Learn to run against the breathtaking backdrop of the towering Alps – which means you could be in for some vicious hill training, however easy on the eye the local scenery is.
Based in an überluxurious Heidi-esque chalet near Geneva, Adventures In The Alps offers a variety of running retreats catering for beginners (and to think we started in our local park dodging dog mess) to serious speedsters looking to better their race times.
Besides plenty of one-to-one time with the coaches, there’s kayaking or swimming in Lake Annecy’s thermal waters, adrenaline-based activities such as zip wiring and parasailing as well as mountain walks and cycle rides through pristine forests.
Held in the cobbled town of Lagos on Portugal’s Algarve, runners are housed in a luxury private villa and can enjoy not only coached sessions in spectacular scenery (think cliff paths, woodlands and beaches), but wine tasting, excursions, sports massage and thechance to go cycling or swim in the ocean or pool.
The food’s pretty special, too – along with a BBQ and two restaurant nights out, carb-loaders can look forward to homemade wood-fire pizzas and wild mushroom and chorizo risotto. And the marathon-specific training programme; try not to forget that part, it’s quite important.
Book here: embracesports.co.uk
Jelley Legs offers a range of trail weekends for anyone wanting to experience either trail running or the idea of pushing themselves towards running an ultra.
Up to four guests are housed in physiotherapist Dave Jelley’s cottage near the World Heritage site of Fountains Abbey, and all breaks include three guided runs and two night’s B&B. You’ll get tips on map reading, compass skills and how to improve your running style. Speed isn’t an issue but you have to be able to run for at least an hour to get your money’s worth.
Home-cooked three-course veggie dinners (£12.00) are available for those who don’t want to stray too far from home after a day spent ploughing through the Yorkshire countryside.
Cost: From £159
Book here: jelleylegs.co.uk
The team at Running The Highlands promise not only expert training on Balmoral Castle Estate but, that rarest of things, tranquillity.
According to the organisers, you’re guaranteed peace and quiet ‘except for the sound of the River Dee, the noises of red squirrels playing around outside and the panting and puffing of our guests’. Catering for both beginners and seasoned marathoners, the weekends often include talks by running legends such as Ron Hill, as well as sports massage and a practical session on stretching and core stability for runners.
Guests can choose from accommodation ranging from cottages to a three-star hotel, and the sports nutritionist-designed menus feature such locally sourced produce as venison and salmon. Each weekend features three guided off-road runs plus a running technique session (with drills) and a speed session.
Cost: From £315
Book here: runningthehighlands.com
Located in Iten, a small high-altitude Kenyan town dubbed ‘The Home of Champions’ because of the 1,000 Kenyan athletes based there, this holiday offers guests – of all abilities – the chance to pit themselves against the world’s greatest endurance runners on its soft red dirt trails. Not only will you get up close and personal with world champions (for the five minutes you can keep up with them) and be coached by highly experienced coaches, but you’ll live like an athlete, too.
Accommodation is at the High Altitude Training Centre, which was set up by world champion Lornah Kiplagat to support local runners and formely used by Paula Radcliffe. A safari to the Lake Nakuru National Park and visits to local athletes’ homes and animal sanctuaries feature on the tightly-packed itinerary, too.
Book here: traininkenya.com
Although Run In The Sun offers running holidays all year round, most guests come here during January and February to gear up for the spring marathon season in the welcoming climate (18ºC is the average winter temperature).
Based just 800m from the seaside town of Moraira on the Costa Blanca in Spain, the company hosts small groups in either a private apartment or adjacent villa. Specialising in one-to-one instruction, UK Athletics coach Paul Fletcher leads guests on scenic runs through the spectacular surrounding mountains and the nearby beach.
Yoga and Pilates, and interval, hill and track sessions are also on the agenda, as are races ranging from 10Ks to half marathons.
Book here: runinthesun.com
Purple Patch boasts frequent return business (people keep coming back and not just because they got lost on the way home) and hosts camps throughout the year in both the South Downs and the Chiltern Hills.
Guests can run as much or as little as they like – this is not a boot camp and the emphasis is as much on fun and making friends as it is on having your running technique analysed. Following a talk highlighting the various types of training, and how they benefit you physiologically (from a former sports science lecturer, not just someone clutching a self help book), guests then head outdoors to put theory into practice.
Typically, there are four runs per weekend, along with a core conditioning and stretching class (massage costs £8.00 for 15 minutes). The high guide-to-guest ratio means beginners are just as welcome as those chasing a PB.
Book here: purplepatchrunning.com
As long as you can run at least six miles and feel the need to tackle a mountain the way Spiderman goes up a skyscraper, you’ll find much to love about Run Snowdonia’s Technique Training Camps, hosted by Welsh international athlete Sarah Ridgway, a qualified Mountain Leader.
The weekends are not about pace but about learning how to run on different sorts of terrain and navigate and plan your own routes and therefore open up an entire new world of trail running.
Runners stay in a bunkhouse with the option of upgrading to a B&B and though meals aren’t included, the organisers have extensively researched the best local eateries so expect lunches in cafés and pub-style meals after a bracing day in the mountains.
Pick up the latest issue of MR for a six-page spread on all that Snowdonia has to offer.
Cost: From £160
Book here: runsnowdonia.co.uk
The camp, held in Falesia in Portugal from March 8, can accommodate up to 100 runners and is aimed at everyone from novices to national-standard runners.
The region has a variety of sandy trails, forests, beaches and hilly cliff tops so there’s a wealth of different terrain to test yourself against. You can choose to stay for seven, 10 or 14 nights in either selfcatering studio apartments (£229pppw) or the four-star Stella Maris Apartment Hotel (£349pppw).
There’s a welcome pizza night, a celebration BBQ night and a karaoke night, so you can carbo-load and bang out a tune with your newfound running rivals and friends.
Yoga, Pilates, core work (the editor’s now unpacking his bags), personal training and massage sessions are available, and a physio will be on hand to offer injury advice.
Cost: Accommodation (see above) plus a camp fee from £95.00 for seven nights.
Book here: 209events.com