Book in! The best races for 2020
Looking to get fit for 2020? Start with my curated guide to the best local triathlons, runs and fun events, and I'll see you at the finish line.
Ready, steady… oh wait, hang on a minute, I’m just finishing my Mars Bar. Yes, the days when I would describe myself as ‘sporty’ are long gone, but even I have to admit that my relationship with multi-pack chocolates has gone way past couch potato stage.
I’ve never been much of a runner and always been slightly jealous of those ponytailed joggers who look like they’re getting a buzz akin to finding a pair of Louboutins at half price…. However, 2020 is my year to tread the tarmac and with what I hope will be a more mature, positive attitude to my health (quick, take the Mars bar and hide it from me immediately).
I’m eyeing up the Great South Run with the aim of feeling fit and buzzy again, and I plan to enjoy the training as much as the races (plus a shiny medal wouldn’t go amiss, always up for some bling). And even if I’m not quite at Olympian level if I can get to the end of the race without a tomato face, I’ll be making progress.
Fancy giving yourself some fitness motivation too? I’ve curated a hit list of the best local (ish) triathlons, runs, and more unusual local events to pique your interest, whatever your ability level.
Add some cool fitness gear, a sunny day, and let’s do this people!
TRIATHLONS AND DUATHLONS
Gosport Go Tri Aquathlon, Gosport Leisure Centre
When: 26 Jan 2020
What to expect: This is one to ease you into the whole triathlon thing with more of a duathlon (despite the name). Participants will swim for 300m and run 3000m and is ideal for juniors (aged between 10 and 14) and those wary about their initial fitness.
Triathlon Festival, Ageas Bowl, Southampton
When: 29 Feb 2020
What to expect: This dual event starts with two loops around the (rather grand) Ageas Bowl before a 10k ride around the nearby roads (roads are meant to be quiet at the 8 am time slot) before a victory lap once more around the stadium. Good for those who are a little bit more proficient and don’t mind skipping on the swim.
Winchester May Day Triathlon, Winchester
When: 8 May 2020
What to expect: Use your utterly confusing Friday May Bank Holiday to get your heart racing. The Winchester May Day Triathlon is on the slightly amended Friday this year. The course includes a 200m swim in a pool, 11k bike ride and 2.5km cross country run. Complete this one and even King Alfred the Great would be impressed.
The Bloodwise Blenheim Palace Triathlon, Woodstock
When: 30 – 31 May
££: From £35
What to expect: You’ll get a scenic tour of Blenheim’s beautiful grounds with the route looping around the palace. There are four entry options – sprint (750m swim, 19.8km bike, 5.4km run), super-sprint (400m, 13.2km bike, 2.9km run), Olympic, and the Weekend Warrior where you can go for as long and as far as you can. You can enter in a team, with all entrants encouraged to raise funds for Bloodwise, a charity supporting blood cancer.
Beale Beastie, Berks
When: 7 Jun 2020
££: £52.63/ £26.32
What to expect: Just over the border in Berks, this event kicks off with an adult race in the morning (400m swim, 20km bike, 5km run), followed by five different races of varying lengths for kids 8 – 16. This is one of the only junior triathlons with an open water swim (it’s across a freshwater lake, wetsuit compulsory), plus participants will also get discounted entry to Beale Park Wildlife Park and Gardens.
Cowman, Calfman & Stampede Triathlon, Emberton Park, Milton Keynes
When: 2 Aug 2020
What to expect: There are three races on offer here – the middle distance Cowman (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run), the Calfman which is just over standard distance (900m swim, 46km bike, 10km run) and the Stampede (750m swim, 22k bike, 5.25k run) a sprint distance that was introduced in 2018. You can tackle the events individually or enter as a team for longer distances.
WoBurner Triathlon, Woburn Abbey, Beds
When: 5 – 6 Sept 2020
What to expect: This event in Beds makes it onto the list because of the spectacular venue. The route includes a swim across the lake in front of the Abbey (1.9km), a lapped course through Beds countryside (90km) and a run through the Deer Park (21.1km). The best bit? You’ll get a free burger when you cross the finish line.
Lock to Lock SwimRun, Eynsham Lock
When: 20 Sept 2020
££: £50/ £85
What to expect: Clue’s in the name, there’s no cycle in this race around Oxford University meadows. The race starts in the medieval village of Eynsham with a swim across the Thames, finished with a hilly off-road woodland run. You can opt for a half (1.2km swim, 7km run) or full (1.2k swim, 7k run, 1.6k swim, 450m dash, 1k swim, 6k run) so this is definitely one for stronger swimmers.
West Wight Triathlon, When: 20 Sep 2020
What to expect: The bike section of this tri is the largest of the heats but with an absolutely scenic view around the Wight, I imagine it will be much less of a slog than you’d expect. With a 600m pool swim, 7.5k run and 35k bike, it’s one of the larger asks of our picks and involves the windy roads of the Wight, but definitely unlike any other location across the area.
Newport to Ryde, Newport
When: 11 Apr 2020
What to expect: This 7-miler is perfect for those wanting to run the Wight but in need of a stiff drink or to jump on the hover home afterwards. Starting off in Newport you’ll run through the back roads of the north of the Wigh to reach your seaside destination.
Testway Ultra, Linkenholt
When: 4 Apr 2020
What to expect: Yikes, this one is a doozy! But if you’re up for a challenge you can opt from a 40 or 50-mile route (*gulp*) that spreads across the beautiful landscapes of both Hampshire and Berkshire. If you’re not the fastest and think you’ll end up running through the night, don’t panic. There’s a 14 hour cut off so you can slink off for an ice-bath (or a G&T stacked with ice instead).
Hundred Acres 10k, Forest of Bere, Wickam
When: 4 Apr 2020
What to expect: Gorgeous but wooded, this is a beautiful run in the Forest of Bere that will be accentuated by the beautiful Springtime we’ll (hopefully!) be having. As well as the 10k, there are also options for a shorter 5k on the same day and a 10k trail race and half marathon on Sun 5.
Blenheim Palace 10k & Family Fun Run, Woodstock
When: 19 Apr 2020
What to expect: Along with a 10k run, there’s a one-mile junior race, open to under 15s, taking place before a larger family-friendly 7k fun run around the grounds and parkland. There’ll also be a four-mile wheelchair and buggy race. Entry to palace and grounds are included in race price.
Isle of Wight Festival of Running, Various
When: 24 & 31 May 2020
What to expect: The annual Isle of Wight Festival of Running is the pinnacle of the Wight’s sporting calendar and offers a range of races for all ages and abilities. With the 5k Duver Dash, Freshwater 5k, Tapnell 10k (bit of an alliterative theme going on here) before the one of the trickiest – but breathtaking – half marathons in the country, The Needles Half. Trainers on peeps!
When: various dates
What to expect: Parkrun organises totally free 5k timed runs in 692 locations (and counting) around the world open to all ages and abilities. All you need to do is search your hometown to find your nearest run, sling on your trainers and go! Parkrun also organises junior races.
When: 16 Aug 2020
What to expect: Flex those hamstrings this is a run on the easterly side of the Wight through spots like Nettlestone, St Helens and back again. It’s a windy hilly track (but not as hilly as the West Wight, *phew*) but at around 13 miles in the August sun, this should be a sunny but fun challenge. Don’t forget your suncream!
Isle of Wight Marathon, Cowes
When: 4 Oct 2020
What to expect: This is the big one for the Island and boasts the title of the longest-running in the country (this will be its 64th year), the Wight Marathon starts from Cowes and makes the most of the miles and miles of beautiful Wight for running like the wind. Highlights on the route are Gurnard, Afton and Wellow before eventually returning back to Cowes for your medal.
Great South Run, Southsea
When: 18 Oct 2020
What to expect: If you like to run flat and on-road then The Great South Run is a must. As well as attracting all the ‘slebs’ (including Iwan Thomas, Timmy Mallett and Stephen Mangan in the past) this 10 miler takes you through along the pretty Southsea seafront, into the dockyard and nets you a medal and t-shirt for completion.
Fancy something a bit different?
What to expect: I love this idea! Organised by Great Ormond Street Hospital, Running off Christmas is a sponsored new year challenge to run as far as you can in January. The idea is to run 31 miles in the month, wherever and whenever you want, whether you run a mile a day or run a few times a week.
West Wight 3 Hills, Freshwater
When: 13 Apr 2020
What to expect: Forget the Three Peaks Challenge and take the West Wight 3 Hills. This is an eight-mile course, but just so happens to be a bit of a climber with ascents of 900 metres. Its route takes you along beauty spots such as Golden Hill Fort, Alum Bay and Tennyson Down, before taking you back to the trendy little village of Freshwater.
Bournemouth Inflatable 5k, Ringwood
When: 25 Apr 2020
What to expect: As if running wasn’t tricky enough, try taking on a course of inflatables as well. This 5ker is actually based in Ringwood and involves a bonkers course that is as much about the fun as winning (we’re still looking at that time though. Competitive, Moi?) Good for a challenge with friends and a bit of a laugh when you fall flat on your gluteus maximus.
Festival 5k, Basingstoke
When: 3 May 2020
What to expect: Running with added retail therapy? No, it’s not Supermarket Sweep its the Festival 5k. Start your pace off with a quick whip around the Festival Place Shopping Centre before heading outdoors, you then return in all your triumphant glory just in time for the shops to open. Celebratory pair of shoes after, perhaps?
Tough Mudder, Badminton Estate, Glos
When: 15 Aug 2020
What to expect: This one’s all about getting muddy so, naturally, we’re all for it. The Classic Tough Mudder is an 8 – 10-mile race including 25 obstacles and – you guessed it – rolling around in loads of mud. There’s also a shorter, 5km version with 15 obstacles.