It’s been YEARS since I’ve planned a year of racing as exciting as 2017 looks set to be. Goal-setting has been a bit of a minefield for me over the past few months, but I’m hoping that these“Big 5” races will provide enough colour and excitement to break that negative cycle; banish the goalsetting blues, and set the scene for a year full of new challenges and adventures. Here’s how the year is shaping up:

1: Dark Skies Run @ Kielder: 26.5, 25 March

My first marathon since 2015, this one looked too good to miss. It’s a trail run, at night, at Kielder Water and Forest Park: an International Dark Skies accredited Dark Sky Park. It’s billed as the ‘ultimate starlit running challenge’, and I can’t wait. This won’t be about fast times for me – I’m realistic enough about my training schedule to know that completion is the goal for me here!

2: Maxi-Race Annecy, 83 km, 26 May

The big one! Perhaps too big … but that’s what challenges are all about, right? If I knew I could do it, it wouldn’t be half so much fun. At 83km with 5,200m of climb/descent, this high-level tour of Lake Annecy will be my biggest race EVER … and my first as a ‘senior’, as it’s the day after my 40th birthday! Delayed celebrations may be in order. Lake Annecy is a very special place for me, and completing a full tour of the lake on foot will be a truly epic test. Here’s hoping it doesn’t end with my first DNF …

3: Man vs Horse Marathon, 10 June

I’ll be honest, this is a ‘provisional’ inclusion at the moment: it depends on successful completion/survival of Maxi-Race. But Man vs Horse is a super little race; a little under a true marathon distance, it does what it says on the tin: men (and women!) race horses around an undulating trailrunning course in a beautiful part of Wales. It’s seven years since I last ran this course, and I’m planning to return for a reunion with the old friends with whom I ran it back then. The big challenge will be making it to the start-line …

4: Scafell Skyrace, 40km, 16 July

I’m a bit scared about this one – perhaps because I know the course and terrain better than any of the other (even bigger, even scarier) races I have lined up. But I’m also hugely excited. The Scafell Skyrace is a linear race, starting at Seathwaite and ending in Ambleside: one of my favourite places in England. It’s going to be an epic journey. My hope is that, if I make it this far through my race programme for the year, I’ll stand a good chance of leaping this hurdle too. If not, well, there’s still plenty of training time between now and July, right? And determination can carry a person a long way …

5: Ring of Steall Skyrace 29km AND Mamores VK, 15/16 September

Last year I ran (and walked, and crawled) the inaugural Mamores VK. It’s an amazing course, but, for reasons I’ve struggled to define, the experience left me feeling a little flat. So I’m going back this year and adding a bit of extra challenge: I’ll be tackling the brutal Ring of Steall Skyrace the very next day! Last year I supported Ryan as he ran the Ring of Steall. It was a glorious day; the course was brutal (there’s no better word for it); the euphoria amongst the race finishers was palpable. From that moment onwards, Ring of Steall has been on my ‘must-run’ list. It’s going to be tough … but it’s going to be epic!

As usual in my race planning, I’ve gone for quality over quantity for 2017: each race has its own kind of special sparkle to keep me motivated to train for it. Now: onwards and upwards!