There is a huge variety of middle distance triathlon events around the world. Whether you’ve signed up for an official half Ironman or an independently organised event, you won’t be able to get away from the 1.9km/1.2 mile swim, 90km/56 mile bike, and 21.1km/13.1 mile run that all 70.3 triathlons require.
Here we’ve chosen our favourite middle distance triathlons, from beginner-friendly routes to the world’s toughest courses. We’ve included 5 from Europe, 3 from North America, 2 from Oceania, and 1 from each of Africa, South America and Asia. Sadly, there isn’t yet a half ironman in Antarctica, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted if ever there is one.
1. Ironman 70.3 Vichy, France
Course: Swim: 1-loop in lac d’Allier; Bike: 1-lap figure-of-eight, 900m/2953ft elevation gain; Run: 1-lap, c.40m/131ft elevation gain
The historic rowing lake forms the focal point of this scenic race, surrounded by Vichy’s iconic center and pretty parks, and the bike course journeys out to spectacular views of the Auvergne volcanoes. After competing for the full 113km, you might want to exploit the fact that Vichy is known as the Queen of Spa towns, and treat yourself to a sports massage.
2. The Brutal Half, Wales, UK
Course: Swim: 2-loops in Llyn Padarn lake; Bike: 2-lap, 1514m/4966ft elevation gain; Run: 1×5.mile lap of lake, then up and down Mt. Snowdon, 972m/3190ft elevation gain
There are not many full distance triathlons that can boast almost 1000m of elevation gain on the run section, let alone a middle distance triathlon. There’s no doubt where the race got its ‘Brutal’ name. Climbing Wales’ highest mountain after the chilly lake swim and arduous bike will be a serious challenge for your legs, heart, and mind, but you’ll be able to brag about finishing for years to come.
3. Challenge Walchsee Middle Distance, Kaiserwinkl, Austria
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Lake Walchsee; Bike: 2-laps, 1140m/3740ft elevation gain; Run: 5 laps, 132m elevation gain
Part of the Challenge Family race series, this race is popular for its friendly atmosphere, stunning surroundings, and challenging bike course. The swim takes place in the pure waters of Lake Walchsee, and then the bike journeys up into the tough Wilder Kaiser mountain range. The scenic Kaiserwinkl region rewards the climbs with spectacular views, and then the run around Lake Walchsee is mercifully flat.
4. Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, UK
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Chasewater reservoir; Bike: 1-lap 756m/2,481ft elevation gain; Run: 2.5-laps, 176m/578ft elevation gain
Set in the heart of the West Midlands, this 70.3 benefits from the stunning surroundings of the Cannock Chase area of outstanding natural beauty. It is a particularly good course for beginners, with a relatively flat, rolling course. The run pays two visits to Stafford Castle, before finishing in the historic Market Square where you are guaranteed a warm reception in the town centre.
5. Half X Triathlon, Cumbria, UK
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Lake Windermere; Bike: 1-lap, out and back, 2800m/9186ft elevation gain; Run: 1 lap out and back, 1079m/3540ft elevation gain
This race claims to be mile-for-mile the toughest triathlon in the world, and looking at the stats it’s hard to disagree. The bike route is quite frankly brutal. It takes in 6 of the UK’s steepest road passes, all of which have sections of gradient over 20% (and some up to 33%). If that hasn’t emptied your legs sufficiently, then the run section is unlikely to leave anything left in the tank, with four significant climbs through the Lake District, culminating at the top of Fairfield Peak.
6. Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, Canada
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Lake Tremblant; Bike: 1-lap 900m/2953ft elevation gain; Run: 1-lap, 476m/1562ft elevation gain
Despite its challenging terrains, this is one of the most visually stunning triathlons on the circuit. Lake Tremblant has calm, pristine waters, the bike course passes through forests and mountains, and along beautiful rivers, and the run takes you through Mont-Tremblant Old Village, past a waterfall and along the banks of the lake. It’s no wonder that triathletes come from all around the world to compete in this bucket list 70.3.
7. Ironman 70.3 St George, USA
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Sand Hollow Reservoir; Bike: 1-lap, 1078m/3537ft elevation gain; Run: 1-lap out-and-back, 386m/1267ft elevation gain
This 70.3 is famous for having the iconic red rocks of America’s Southwest as the backdrop. The bike route takes you up through Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park for a challenging climb adorned with breathtaking views, and then the run mixes the nature of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve with city views and a finish in downtown St George.
8. Savageman 70, Garrett County, USA
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Deep Creek Lake; Bike: 1-lap, 1078m elevation gain; Run: 1-lap out-and-back, 386m/1267ft elevation gain
The swim and run sections of this triathlon are stunning and relatively simple, but the main draw of this Maryland event is the bike course. There are several tough ascents, especially the Westernport Wall, where you can earn a named brick in the road if you complete the climb unscathed and which has an average gradient of 25%, peaking at a dizzying 31%. What goes up must come down, and many of these climbs lead to technical descents.
9. Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney, Australia
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Penrith Lake; Bike: 2-laps 422m/1385ft elevation gain; Run: 1.5-laps out-and-back, 63m/207ft elevation gain
This course gives you the best Sydney has to offer. The event takes place from the Sydney International Regatta Centre, which was home to rowing and canoeing in the 2000 Olympics. The swim is in the famous Penrith Lake in front of grandstand support and the bike course is flat and fast, with stunning views of the Blue Mountains. All of this, before the run takes in the Nepean River along the scenic Great River Walk. Running a half ironman has never been so pleasant.
10. Ironman 70.3 Taupo, New Zealand
Course: Swim: 1-loop in Lake Taupo; Bike: 1-lap 344m/1129ft elevation gain; Run: 2-laps out-and-back, 34m/111ft elevation gain
Swim in Australasia’s largest freshwater lake, cycle surrounded by mountains featured in the epic Lord of the Rings films, and enjoy the highest ranked ‘Overall Run Experience’ of all Ironman 70.3 events. This iconic course is one of the flattest on the circuit, so is a great opportunity for a PB, making it a favourite amongst professionals.
11. Ironman 70.3 South Africa, Buffalo City
Course: Swim: 1-loop in East London’s harbour off Orient Beach; Bike: 1-lap 1497m/4911ft elevation gain; Run: 2-laps out-and-back, 281m/922ft elevation gain
Despite being on the Wild Coast, the swim is protected by breakwaters so the waters should be calm. The bike route is challenging, with rolling hills, but you are then rewarded with a run section that offers stunning coastal views and enthusiastic crowds. This is a great event for those wanting to mix their exercise with tourism, as there is plenty to be seen in the surrounding area before and after race day, such as Nahoon’s Bat Cave and miles of beaches.
12. Ironman 70.3 Maceió, Brazil
Course: Swim: 1-loop at Pajucara Beach; Bike: 1-lap c.100m/328ft elevation gain; Run: 3-laps out-and-back, c.70m/230ft elevation gain
The northeast of Brazil is one of the most beautiful settings for a triathlon event imaginable. The clear emerald waters and white-sand of Alagoas’ coastline give Maceió the name ‘Water Paradise’. The course is gentle, allowing athletes to take in the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, and there is sure to be an unforgettable beach party once you finish.
13. Israman 113, Eilat, Israel
Course: Swim: 1-loop at Royal Beach; Bike: 1-lap 1895m/6217ft elevation gain; Run: 1-lap, 99m/325ft elevation gain
After swimming in the Red Sea, the bike route heads on to route no.12, with steep climbs overlooking the Gulf of Eilat and Arava Valley. The first half of the run is entirely downhill, which sounds pleasant but will be a test for your calves, before the course flattens out along the coast and enters the sailing club for a raucous finish. The main challenge on the course is the weather conditions: several sections are particularly windy, and in previous years the race has seen rain, hail, sand storms, and extreme cold.
The list of best 70.3 triathlon events:
- Ironman 70.3 Vichy, France
- The Brutal Half, Wales, UK
- Challenge Walchsee Middle Distance, Kaiserwinkl, Austria
- Ironman 70.3, Staffordshire, UK
- Half X Triathlon, Cumbria, UK
- Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, Canada
- Ironman 70.3 St George, USA
- Savageman 70, Garrett County, USA
- Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney, Australia
- Ironman 70.3 Taupo, New Zealand
- Ironman 70.3 South Africa, Buffalo City
- Ironman 70.3 Maceió, Brazil
- Israman 113, Eilat, Israel