On your marks, get set… Race 2021
Looking to get fit for 2021? 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 reacquainted myself with my trainers in during the pandemic, just enough to keep on the trim side of curvy and feel the pleasure of the burn. Fast forward to 2021 and I’m signed up to run my first half marathon in October. If I can get to the end without the St John’s Ambulance offering me a lie-down and Rich Tea biscuit, 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!
All Nations Sprint Triathlon, Dorney Lake
When: 8 May 2021
What to expect: You’re at an Olympic venue here (2012 rowing events were held on the lake), so all the more motivation to cross the finish line. This race has a buzzing atmosphere, plus it’s a flat and friendly course, all abilities welcome (400m swim, 20K bike ride, 5K run).
Classic Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlon, Marlow
When: 23 May 2021
What to expect: Open to all abilities (newbies welcome) with a shorter sprint race and an Olympic distance route *gulp*. Both start with a swim across the River Thames (750m/1.5km), followed by a cycle (24.5k/37km) and sprint (5km/10km). There are prizes for first, second, third overall male and female, plus everyone who takes part gets a medal. No on the day entry.
Royal Windsor Triathlon, Windsor
When: 13 June 2021
What to expect: Windsor Triathlon is an iconic race with a royal route taking you past some fantastic sights. There’s a 750m/ 1500m swim in the River Thames, followed by a bike leg (20/40km) through the streets of Windsor, passing Windsor Castle and out into the countryside. Finishing with a 5K/10K run into Windsor Great Park and along the spectacular Long Walk. Sprint and Olympic distances, both with relay options available..
Banana Triathlon, Windsor
When: 3 July 2021
What to expect: It doesn’t have to be blood, sweat and tears. The Banana Triathlon is a fun event for all the family. There are a total of six different races, the Banana Split, Half a Banana, a Banana Fritter, a Whole Banana (relay option also available for this distance), or a Jumbo Banana, there’s something for all abilities and ages. Also duathlon and scootathlon options. Extra points for if you wear yellow.
Beale Beastie and Wee Beastie, Pangbourne
What to expect: This event kicks off with an adult race in the morning (400m swim, 20K bike ride, 5K run), followed by different races of varying lengths for kids aged 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.
Bloodwise Blenheim Palace Triathlon, Woodstock
When: 11-12 Sep 2021
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 as a team, with all entrants encouraged to raise funds for Bloodwise – supporting blood cancer.
Outlaw Half Bowood, Calne, Wilts
When: 12 Sep 2021
What to expect: A brand-new event – Outlaw Half Bowood! Taking place in the beautiful 100 acres of Bowood House & Gardens, there’s a 1.2 mile swim in Bowood Lake, followed by a single-loop 56-mile ride through the unspoilt Wiltshire countryside before completing their epic journey with a three-lap 13.1m run through the Bowood Estate.
Henley Triathlon, Henley-on-Thames
When: 11-12 July 2021
What to expect: This is the 13th year of Henley Triathlon which takes place at Henley Leisure Centre and within the grounds of Gillotts School. The swim (400m) takes place in a heated pool, followed by a cycle around rural Oxfordshire (25km) and a flat grass run (5km). There’s also a super-sprint and women-only race (200m swim, 12.5K cycle, 2.5k run) and a children’s race with a relaxed, family atmosphere in 11 Jul (£25).
Castle To Coast, Windsor
When: 24 July 2021
What to expect: A new event on the triathlon calendar and the clues in the name. You’ll be swimming, cycling and running from Windsor the coast… Brighton to be precise. This is an epic one day race that kicks off with a 2K swim at Eton Dorney, then a 67-mile bike ride down to Hassocks, finishing with a half marathon trail run down to Brighton’s sea front.
Newbury Triathlon, Newbury
When: 5 Sep 2021
What to expect: Now in its 30th year, Newbury Sprint Triathlon is open to newbies to the sport and seasoned athletes. You’ll kick things off at Northcroft Leisure Centre’s heated outside 72m pool for a 300m swim, followed by a 22K cycle that takes you out to Welford Park (home to the GBBO tent) and back again for a 5K run around the town. It’s a friendly event that’s perfect for beginners.
When: various dates
What to expect: Parkrun organises totally free 5K timed runs in 730 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. Due to lockdown, events are currently on hold. But keep a beady eye on their website, it could be the next step from from your Couch to 5K app.
Run Dorney Lake, Eton
What to expect: If you’re new to competitive running or just want to push yourself to a new distance, the flat course at Dorney Lake is perfect to build stamina and confidence, with 5K, 10K and half marathons to run. It was also a London 2012 Olympic venue so you imagine you’re going for gold and bask in your own glory. Next event is scheduled for 13 Mar.
Newbury Racecourse 5K/10K/Half, Newbury
When: 21 Feb
What to expect: A relatively new race to the competitive calendar but one that is flat, so you can push for a PB. Gallop around Newbury Racecourse over 5K, 10K or a Half Marathon. You’re running laps, one loop for 5K, two for 10K and four for the half. See you in the Winner’s Enclosure.
Reading Half Marathon, Reading
When: 11 April 2021 (reserve date 7 Nov 2021)
What to expect: You set off from Green Park and finish at the Madejski Stadium and there’s 13.1 miles of flat and hills in between. Lots of London Marathon runners do this one in advance of the big one, but it’s open to all abilities and always has a great vibe. Also 3k family Green Park Challenge.
All Nations 5K & 10K, Dorney Lake, Eton
When: 8 May 2021
What to expect: Run for your country. Well sort of., At least you get to race in the team colours. The All Nations 5k and 10k run is set at the stunning Olympic venue Dorney Lake, and is open to all. A fast, flat course, it’s time to go for gold.
Run Fest Run, Windsor Great Park
When: 28-30 May
What to expect: Chris Evans’s baby – man who loves to run and party (just not at the same time) – he started the event to bottle the elation you feel at completing a challenge. We love the sound of the 3K Sunset Shuffle, but there’s also a family fun run and a 2.5K family road race, as well as more traditional 5K/10K and Half Marathons for the super keen. Your reward? Join the kids rave, silent disco and live music while sinking your gnashers into a gourmet burger. Camping available.
Windsor Running Festival, Windsor Great Park
When: 25-26 Sep
££: £27.50 (10K), £39.50 (HM)
What to expect: Windsor Running Festival is a mash up of the Women’s 10K and the Windsor Half Marathon with loads of historical royal sites thrown in so you keep putting one front in front of the other. After a lockdown the idea of running up the stairs is enough the make me wheeze, but if we start training now, we could be ready. Shall we? Team Muddy – I will, if you will.
Down Tow Up Flow Half Marathon, Marlow to Windsor
When: 25 Jul 2021
What to expect: A flat multi-terrain half marathon that takes you along Berkshire’s stunning waterways, with rural, urban and historical outlooks. A friendly atmosphere and, as a point to point race, you can park your car at the finish and get whizzed up to the start by coach.
Virgin Sport Oxford Half Marathon, Oxford
When: 17 Oct 2021
££: £49 (2020 price)
What to expect: A scenic 13.1 mile route around Oxford’s historic buildings and universities with a buzzing atmosphere of onlookers lining the streets. The route is mainly flat, so go for that personal best! I’m signed up for this one, so see you at the finish line with a large G&T.
Winter Woolly, Woolhampton
When: 27 Dec 2021
What to expect: The Winter Woolly 10K, from the fabulous grounds of Elstree School in Woolhampton. Don’t be lulled into a gentrified amble around the grounds, this 10K is multi terrain with muddy lanes, footpaths, trails and woodland and a fair few hills.
FANCY SOMETHING A DIFFERENT?
Running off Christmas
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 a 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.
Color Obstacle Rush, Windsor
When: 19 Jun 2021
What to expect: Putting the fun into running, The Color Obsctacle Rush will finish with you looking like a unicorn. But first you have to tackle the 5K obstacle course, with 20 inflatable obstacles, 8 colour stations, space hopper racing and water fights, plus 20 music zones, a chill out area… and much more!
Muddy Dog Challenge, Windsor
When: 5-6 Jun 2021
What to expect: Got a pooch or just love being around dogs, then this race is paw-fect. Windsor’s Muddy Dog Challenge in aid of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home is a 2.5K/ 5K obstacle course. Lead the way through parkland, forest trails and formal gardens to the finish line. You’ll be barking mad not to do it.
Color Obstacle Rush, Newbury
When: 31 Jul 2021
What to expect: If you love The Color Obsctacle Rush you can do it twice. After the Windsor gig, it moves to Newbury Racecourse and where you can do it all again – 5K obstacle course, 20 inflatable obstacles, 8 colour stations, space hopper racing, water fights, plus 20 music zones, a chill out area. I’m game if you are.
Tough Mudder, Culden Faw Estate, Henley
When: 15-16 May 2021
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.
The Little Welly, Henley Showground
When: 12-13 Jun 2021
££: Course & festival £22.50
What to expect: Little Welly specialises in obstacle courses for kids and returns for its sixth year in Henley with a new location at the Showground, new obstacles, entertainment and a longer course. The course is a hop, skip, jump and dash through loads of challenges, taking in streams, trails, mud and woodland. Oh, and did I mention it’s the biggest obstacle course for kids in the UK? If that doesn’t tire out the little blighters, what will? Then there’s the accompanying festival with – deep breath – kart racing, rope climbing, circus skills workshops, live music, helter skelter, laser tag, climbing wall, pony rides and loads of family activities.
Maverick USE Exposure Dark Series, Stonor Park Henley
When: 21 Dec 2021
What to expect: Fancy running in the dark (yes please, the wobble on my arse is currently on the tsunami scale), This trail run around the Culden Faw Estate in the Chiltern Hills starts after dark, at 6pm, with three route options – 5k, 10k, 15k.