On your marks, get set… Race 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. A few years ago, I was a regular runner, just enough to keep on the trim side of curvy and feel the pleasure of the burn. Fast forward to 2019 I managed to complete the Couch To 5K on the same day I badly sprained my ankle. The universe is trying to tell me something.
Well, this year I’m back – whoo hoo! – 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 hoping to do a half marathon this year with the aim of feeling fit and buzzy again, and I plan to enjoy the training as much as the races leading up to the intimidating big one. But if I can get to the end without the St John’s Ambulance offering me a lie down and Rich Tea biscujit, 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!
Good Fri Tri, Radley College, Radley
When: 10 Apr 2020
What to expect: The route takes place on the scenic grounds of Radley College and surrounding Oxfordshire countryside, finishing with a lap around the purpose-built athletic track (200m swim, 11km bike, 2.5km run).
All Nations Sprint Triathlon, Dorney Lake
When: 9 May 2020
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, 5k run).
Classic Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlon, Marlow
When: 24 May 2020
What to expect: Now in it’s 10th year this event is 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.
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.
Outlaw Half Bowood, Calne, Wilts
When: 7 June 2020
What to expect: A brand-new summertime 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.
Royal Windsor Triathlon, Windsor
When: 14 June 2020
What to expect: Now in its 30th year, Windsor Triathlon is one of the most iconic races 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: 27 June 2020
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.
Henley Triathlon, Henley-on-Thames
When: 12 July 2020
What to expect: This is the 11th 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). There’s also a brilliant children’s race with a relaxed, family atmosphere.
Castle To Coast, Windsor
When: 25 July 2020
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 65 mile bike ride down to Hassocks, finishing with a half marathon trail run down to the sea front.
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.
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.
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.
Newbury Racecourse 5K/10K/Half, Newbury
When: 9 Feb, 6 Jun
What to expect: A new race on the 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.
Winter Woolly, Woolhampton
When: 23 Feb 2020
What to expect: The inaugeral 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.
Reading Half, Reading
When: 5 April 2020
What to expect: You set off from Green Park and finish at the Madejeski 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.
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.
All Nations 5K & 10K, Dorney Lake, Eton
When: 9 May 2020
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.
Windsor Half Marathon, Windsor Great Park
When: 27 Sep 2020
What to expect: The one I have my sights on. The Windsor Half is the UK’s most picturesque half, taking place ini Windsor Great Park. The course itself is all on road and quite challenging, and it’s pretty hilly. But, what goes up must come down!
When: 11 Oct 2020
What to expect: A flat 10k route along Reading’s historic waterways, offering a multi-terrain course that is rural, urban and historical. A friendly atmosphere for beginners, yet a fast course for those who want to try for a PB! In addition to the 10k race, there will be 3k and 1k fun runs covering all age groups, so bring the family!
Virgin Sport Oxford Half Marathon, Oxford
When: 11 Oct 2020
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!
Autumn Festival of Running, Wendover Woods
When: 2-3 Nov
What to expect: Following an inaugural Festival of Running in March, this Autumn edition will ahve a variety of events across the weekend including a 5k, 10k run and canicross (with Fido!) for all abilities. There’ll also be a 3k children’s race on Sat, followed by a 1k for littlies on Sun.
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.
Maverick USE Exposure Dark Series Oxfordshire, Culden Faw Estate
When: 8 Feb 2020
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.
Color Obstacle Rush, Windsor
When: 16 May 2020
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!
Rough Runner, Oxford
When: 22-24 May 2020
What to expect: Live your Gladiator-Total Wipeout-Ninja Warrior fantasies out in one go. A TV show obstacle event, the Rough Runner is coming to Oxford and it looks absolutely brilliant. Book up for 5K/10K/15K and tackle the Travelator, a 4om zig zag slip and slide, sweeper arms and more. There’s a kids course too, suitable for ages 7-12.
Color Obstacle Rush, Newbury
When: 23 May 2020
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: 29 May 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.
The Little Welly, Henley Showground
When: 6-7 June 2020
££: 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.