Canalathon on the Calder & Hebble Navigation

Choose one of three extreme races across the Pennines, all starting and ending in Sowerby Bridge

Calder & Hebble Navigation

Peter Watts

Posted on 16/04/2019

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Our waterways are a popular location for runners of all standards, whether casual Sunday morning joggers or those who regularly run longer distances. Canals are also sometimes used as courses for running competitions, covering everything from fun runs to extreme distances. One such is the Canalathon, which takes place each year along canals in the North of England and comes in three different versions – the 50km, 75km or a leg-busting 100km.

All three races finish in Sowerby Bridge on the Calder & Hebble Navigation. The 50km race is a 31-mile Ultra Marathon along the route of the Rochdale Canal from Manchester and across the Pennines to Yorkshire. The 75km race (46-miles) begins and ends at Sowerby Bridge, heading as far as Oldham before returning to Yorkshire, while the 100km (62-miles) race also begins and ends from Sowerby Bridge but this time takes runners all the way to Manchester and back again. The advantage of running along the towpath, of course, is that routes are traffic free and often flat, making them great for beginners and more experienced runners alike, and it’s also difficult to get lost!

While the races take place along the Rochdale Canal, they all wind up at Sowerby Bridge – the meeting point of the Rochdale Canal and the Calder & Hebble Navigation – and this is where the race HQ and campsite is located. The old wharf at Sowerby Bridge was once a crucial link in a chain of waterways that allowed cargo to move between coasts – from the Humber in the east to the Mersey in the west. At the wharf, cargo was transferred into smaller boats called Yorkshire keels that would fit into the Calder & Hebbles’s smaller locks. The wharf remains a lively spot today, even on the days when no ultra runners are limping past. Sowerby Bridge is home to one of the deepest locks in the country, and the basin has numerous warehouses and old canal buildings that have been converted into cafés, bars and restaurants.

Dates for the 2020 Canalathon are still to be confirmed but places are limited so be sure to book early. In the meantime, you can find out more on here. For a more casual day out along the Rochdale Canal, have a look at our website.

Canal & River Trust