Book in! The best local 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.
Before I had kids, I did the occasional triathlon and 10k race, just enough to keep on the trim side of curvy and feel the pleasure of the burn. Fast forward 10 years to last summer when, on zero training and a slight hangover, I crawled my way around a beginner’s triathlon course at Dorney Lake on the hottest day of the year, before being overtaken by my 12 year old daughter. Yeah, ouch.
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’ve booked into four triathlons with the aim of feeling fit and buzzy again, and I plan to enjoy the training as much as the races. My daughter will still beat me because she’s built like a mountain goat (not literally that would be weird) , but 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!
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).
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.
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.
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 the longer distances.
WoBurner Triathlon, Woburn Abbey, Beds
When: 5 – 6 Sept 2020
What to expect: This event is just over the Beds border but 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.
Abingdon 10k, Tilsley Park
When: 12 Jan 2020
What to expect: A great, flat track if you’re looking to smash your personal best. The race is three laps of the park, plus a final 500, sprint around the athletics track.
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: 5 Apr 2020
What to expect: Now in it’s 38th year the route follows a pretty rural route around the Vale of the White Horse, starting from Grove and ending in Charney Bassett.
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.
Heyford Air Base Half, 10k & 5k, Bicester
When: 21 Jun 2020
What to expect: The three routes take in the Cherwell Valley countryside, the Cold War Airbase’s runway, RAF and NATO taxiway – all of which are super-flat with bags of history. There’s also a 1k junior race.
Burnham Beeches Half Marathon & 10k, south Bucks
When: 9 Aug 2020
££: £20/ £25
What to expect: Both these races are on a mix of closed roads, hard surfaced woodland paths and through Burnham Beeches ancient woodland. After the race Caldicott School is opening its swimming pool if you fancy a post-run dip.
Bank Farm 5k & 10K, Chesham
When: 5 Sept
££: From £9.21
What to expect: This is Bank Farm’s second annual race day with a well-marked trail through the beautiful Chilterns countryside. There’ll be medals for all, plus dogs are welcome.
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 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 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.
The Little Welly, Henley Showground
When: 6 – 7 Jun
££: 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.
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.