Top Tri Tips

5 beginner tips for getting into triathlon

Triathlete and Hits Radio DJ Hattie Pearson is here to share her best triathlon tips for beginners. From her top hacks for gearing up without it costing a fortune, to keeping motivated and of course, crossing that finish line...

Triathlete and Hits Radio DJ Hattie Pearson is here to share her best triathlon tips for beginners. From her top hacks for gearing up without it costing a fortune, to keeping motivated and of course, crossing that finish line, here’s the lowdown on setting yourself up for triathlon success. Over to you, Hattie. 

1. Set your goal and go smash it!

Choose an event that’s suitable for you and that you think you’ll enjoy. Book something that’s challenging enough that you’ll feel you’re pushing yourself, but nothing too difficult that you’ll end up injured because, where’s the fun in that? Find an event that’s local to you to save on travelling and additional stress. There are hundreds of events nationwide. 

After doing one sprint distance triathlon in 2021, I knew I wanted to up the distance; that’s when I applied to be part of Team Outlaw and got a place to compete in my first ever middle-distance triathlons at Outlaw Half Nottingham and Outlaw Half Holkham. I loved every minute!  

2. Beg/borrow/buy second hand

Triathlon can be — but doesn’t need to be — expensive and very addictive. I’m telling you now, because once you’re in, there’s no looking back! Starting out, you definitely don’t need all the gear. Think of people you could potentially borrow from if you don’t have specific items. There is so much second-hand kit available online too; think of all those now-unwanted lockdown purchases. You could find an absolute steal and save yourself a fortune. I did my first triathlon on a hybrid bike with a rusty chain!

3. Safety first 

Make sure you’re safe! Open water swimming comes with risks, and that’s why it’s always important to do it as part of an organised group. 

In terms of the cycling element, you’ll see bikes that are worth thousands of pounds that look like spaceships, but as long as yours is road worthy and safe, it doesn’t need to be anything special — put a baguette in a basket on the front of your bike if you really want to! Oh yeah, and don’t forget your helmet! You don’t need to spend thousands on a new bike; just hop on the saddle, give it a peddle and see whether you get the bug.

4. Group training FTW

Whether it’s your local park run, your regional triathlon club or some colleagues from work who like riding their bikes at the weekend, try to find others to train with. Triathlon is a solo sport when it comes to race day, but when you’re putting in the hours of training, you want to have fun and making it social makes it less daunting. From joining communities like 10IronWomen and Manchester Triathlon Club, I’ve made friends for life and learned so much from more experienced athletes who are willing to share their tips.

5. Smile for the camera!

Don’t worry about your time or pace on your first time out. You’re a newbie to the sport and there’s no need to put added pressure on yourself to be doing as well as Colin from accounts whose been doing triathlons for 30+ years! Bring supporters along with you. Recruit your friends or family to be there cheering you on and soak up the atmosphere. You’ve put in some hard work and the very least you deserve is a hug at the finish line and a lift home! 

Hattie Pearson is a HITS Radio DJ and an ambassador for Outlaw Triathlon. You can use her discount code  – HATTIEXOL24 – for 5% off your race entry and Outlaw will donate a further 5% to Hattie’s chosen charity, Fund Her Tri.

Time to Tri

Top Tips: Why it’s Time to Try a Tri

Professional triathlete and British Triathlon accredited coach, Natalie Lawrence shares five tips on how to get into a triathlon and why you might like to get started...

Fancy trying something new? Triathlons may be the thing for you in 2024. The challenge of mastering three disciplines to complete a triathlon attracts people of all ages and abilities to try the sport that combines swimming, biking and running. Getting to the stage of crossing the finishing line of this exhilarating sport involves physical and mental strength – and it’s totally worth it!

Professional triathlete and British Triathlon accredited coach, Natalie Lawrence shares five tips on how to get into a triathlon and why you might like to get started:

1. It’s a hugely rewarding achievement

Sometimes the best rewards come from stepping out of your comfort zone. Overcoming self-doubt and feeling a little scared means that being consistent with training and getting to the finishing line will be even more rewarding. For beginners, I recommend starting with a super-sprint, or sprint distance race. These are typically short swim legs of around 200-400m and they’re based in the pool or open water. See if you enjoy it before investing more time (and money) into the sport. Then you could try a longer, more challenging event. Events like the Outlaw Triathlon Series offer long distance events as well as sprints, aquathlons (swim-run) and aquabikes (swim-bike), which are ideal for a first event. Not only that, but you can watch more experienced triathletes do their thing, too

2. Make friends and discover new communities

Triathlon is a lifestyle sport that can fit into the time that you have available. Having four young children myself and running a coaching business, I schedule time for training so that I don’t feel guilty for interrupting family life. Triathlon is a friendly and sociable sport, so you’re likely to meet lots of like-minded people. Finding your tribe can help you to feel more connected and self-confident, which you can achieve by being part of a club or group, or simply just through chatting to others at events. Many of my lifelong friends have come from the sport and I continue to make new connections the more I’m involved in the community. 

3. Invest in your lifelong fitness and health 

The commitment of working towards a big goal has physical, mental, social, and emotional benefits. By spreading training across three disciplines, you create a broad fitness base using different muscles and energy systems. Spreading your time across swimming, cycling, and running also reduces your injury risk and provides an endless source of learning. I recommend strength training alongside triathlon as it is important for injury prevention, rehabilitation, and overall strength and power improvements. All this training, of course, must be supported with good nutrition and recovery. Once you’ve mastered these aspects, you’ll not only be a good triathlete, but will have improved your long-term positive health.

4. It doesn’t have to cost the earth 

Triathletes can be flashy with their shiny bikes and fancy gadgets. However, it doesn’t have to cost the earth, especially at beginner level. There are events where the swim takes place in a pool, so you just need your regular swimwear, and if you already own a bike, you have a head start. Many events can be completed on mountain or hybrid bikes. You need a cycle helmet and, of course, a pair of running shoes – but you might not need much new equipment to get started. As you progress in the sport (note: it’s very addictive), there are plenty of second-hand triathlon bargains, as well as free training advice and programmes available on the internet. When you start, the hours you put into training are much more important than the pounds you invest into gear. It would be worth investing in a coaching plan as you progress, to give you the best tools for achieving your multisport goals.

5. You are never too old to Tri 

It’s never too late to start! This is the beauty of triathlon; it welcomes and caters for all ages. Whether you’re a beginner or want to compete for your country at the world championships, there are age groups up to 90+ at all triathlon events! If you are fit, healthy and up for the challenge, there’s nothing to stop you from taking on your first triathlon. Plus, you never know who you’re inspiring along the way.

Natalie Lawrence is an ambassador for the award-winning Outlaw Triathlon Series, which features events from sprint to long-distance. She combines professional sport with being a mum to four young children and running a coaching business for all levels of triathlete:

Ask us Anything

Ask Us Anything Edition 02

From duathlon recommendations, to race day shoes, breathing techniques, bike repair courses and more, here is what you've been asked us this month.

From duathlon recommendations, to race day shoes, breathing techniques, bike repair courses and more, here is what you've been asked us this month.

p.s. please click here if you want to submit your own question.

Question | 1

Do you know where I can find a list of in-person (not online) basic bike maintenance classes? I'd just like to learn how to look after my bike properly, and check it is safe every time I go out. (Chloe, The Midlands)

Answer | 1

Great question. Admittedly none of the team actually live up in the Midlands currently, however we have done some research and found some options below that are local bike shops offering a variety of bike maintenance courses for different skills.

  • Birmingham Bike Foundry - a great small class option for covering the basics (which seems to answer your brief!)
  • Future Cycles Training in Leicester: - these look like they offer a great range based on different levels so you can always do more with them as you advance
  • Women in Tandem - While this isn't a course but a network of women who are into cycling, they offer a variety of  free 'Dr Bike' sessions where I'm sure you could learn how to fix any issues your bike has.  

From Lisa, Let's Do This team member, seasoned runner and aspiring cycling enthusiast

Question | 2

I am keen to avoid swimming! Can you recommend suitable duathlon events for me - First timer - so sprint event preferred initially, ideally with closed roads or v minimal traffic for the bike element near London [Mark]

Answer | 2

I think a great option will be Dorney triathlon/Duathlon - it's a great location with the iconic Dorney lake (famed for rowing in the 2012 Olympics) which sees both the run and cycle happen within the grounds (so no traffic)! There are plenty of options to compete with both the standard and sprint distances and even a relay if you wish to team up and tackle the disciplines. They also have swim/bike options and the full triathlon to really complete the menu for all things multi-sport!

From James, Let's Do This team member and seasoned triathlete

Question | 3

Hi - I have a question about breathing and running. What’s the best breathing techniques for long distance running? I.E. half marathons. What exercises can you do to practice this? Thank you

Answer | 3

For breathing keep it rhythmic and regular -breathe in for two steps and breath out for two. So it’s a constant in in, out out. If you start panting or irregular breathing then you won’t get the oxygen in.

From Frankie, Let's Do This team member and runner / triathlete-extraordinaire

Question | 4

When training for a half marathon do I need to incorporate additional protein into my routine? If so, when is best / any brands you recommend? [Emily, Surrey]

Answer | 4

When doing any training, the 'gains'/'improvements' come from your recovery. When you exercise whether that's running, lifting weights, cycling etc your muscles get broken down and the key component in their repair is protein. This doesn't mean you need to be smashing protein shakes every time you work out or even every day but a good rule of thumb is to eat around 1-2g of protein per kg of bodyweight. Personally, I'm 62kg and all I do is ensure I have 20-30g protein in each meal (through meat/fish, beans, lentils, scoop of protein powder in my morning oats etc) and that works for me. On an extra hard day I might have a recovery shake that has 20g protein but it's not the be all and end all. Best tip: fuel your body properly with good, whole foods, lots of carbs, plenty of fruit and veg etc - now is not the time to be trying any sort of fad diet!

Please note I am not a registered nutritionist or dietician, this is just my advice from years of training for triathlons, running, hockey etc. Please speak with your GP or registered dietician if you are going to be making any drastic changes to your diet

From Frankie, Let's Do This team member and runner | triathlete-extraordinaire

Question | 5

Do I need to buy a separate pair of trainers for race day? How much of a difference will they make? [Sara, Dorset]

Answer | 5

Rule number one in racing - nothing new on race day and this includes clothing, footwear, food and drink! However, it is recommended to have a separate pair of race trainers for race day only and even a 'shoe rotation' during your training. Each time you wear a pair of trainers, it compresses the foam and insole making it less absorbent to the impact when you are out running which could in turn lead to greater risk of injury. You need to give your shoes time to relax after each run.

Personally - I have a few pairs of shoes I use in my rotation;

Saucony Triumph 20 - slow, long runs

Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 - tempo efforts

Saucony Pro 2 - track or interval/max effort work

Nike AlphaFLY (carbon plated) - race day only (I always wear for an effort 5k before I race in them so they're not brand new on race day).

Each brand of shoe has their own version of the Saucony ones listed below - Brooks, ASICS, Adidas, Nike etc. It's about finding the right shoe that works for you. Now I admit this might be a bit on the extreme end of shoes and you can easily do your training in one pair, you just need to find the best 'everyday trainer' from your preferred brand.

To go back and answer the question properly, no you do not need to buy a new pair of trainers for race day but, it will make a hell of a difference on tired legs if you have fresh shoes! Barely used foam and padding and a lighter shoe will give you a spring in your step and it'll help stop your legs feeling as tired at the end of the race. If you opt for a carbon plated shoe, you could be looking at anywhere between 2-5% faster - there's a reason all the top athletes and professionals choose these types of shoes for race day!

From Frankie, Let's Do This team member and runner | triathlete-extraordinaire

Ask Us Anything

Think of us as your active-lifestyle agony aunt. From gear recommendations to running hacks, we’ll answer all your event-related questions. Our favourites will feature across our social pages and in these newsletters.

Think of us as your active-lifestyle agony aunt. From gear recommendations to running hacks, we’ll answer all your event-related questions. Our favourites will feature across our social pages and in these newsletters.

To get your questions answered, either DM us at @letsdothis_ or email in at

The best ones we’ll share here on our blog, in our newsletters and across social media to help others in our community. 

To view the latest questions and answers from our community, click here.

A few things to bear in mind:

  • While we will endeavour to get back to as many questions as possible, we sadly can’t commit to answering every question submitted.
  • By submitting the question you give us permission to publish your question alongside your first name + city.. If you would prefer for us to anonymise your question please let us know.
  • As none of us are trained physios or medics, we can’t offer any advice relating to injury (preventing or rehab) and/or health
  • The responses and recommendations shared are on behalf of our team members who are passionate participants in the various sports we offer on the platform - they don’t necessarily reflect the views of Let’s Do This.
  • We are not paid for any of the recommendations we provide
  • Let’s Do This are not responsible for any action(s) taken in light of the answers received.
  • We reserve the right to block / remove comment and posts that are not in keeping with the tone of our channel and that we or others may find offensive
  • Please limit your questions to only running / cycling / triathlon events, equipment or training- related questions. As much as we want to be there for you, we’re not qualified to answer questions beyond this scope

13 best 70.3 triathlons in the world

From beginner-friendly routes to the world's most challenging courses, these are the most unforgettable middle distance/half Ironman events in the world.

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. 

Find your next 70.3 event

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. 

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2. The Brutal Half, Wales, UK

Course: Swim: 2-loops in Llyn Padarn lake; Bike: 2-lap, 1514m/4966ft elevation gain; Run: 1x5.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.

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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

WALCHSEE, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Atheletes compete during the Challenge Walchsee-Kaiserwinkl triathlon event on September 2, 2012 in Walchsee, Austria. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images for Challenge Walchsee-Kaiserwinkl)

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.

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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. 

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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.  

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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The list of best 70.3 triathlon events:

  1. Ironman 70.3 Vichy, France
  2. The Brutal Half, Wales, UK
  3. Challenge Walchsee Middle Distance, Kaiserwinkl, Austria
  4. Ironman 70.3, Staffordshire, UK
  5. Half X Triathlon, Cumbria, UK
  6. Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, Canada
  7. Ironman 70.3 St George, USA
  8. Savageman 70, Garrett County, USA
  9. Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney, Australia
  10. Ironman 70.3 Taupo, New Zealand
  11. Ironman 70.3 South Africa, Buffalo City
  12. Ironman 70.3 Maceió, Brazil
  13. Israman 113, Eilat, Israel

7 things to expect from your first 70.3 triathlon

From the day before your first 70.3 event up until the afterglow of finishing, these are the things to remember so you can enjoy the day as much as possible.

So you've signed up for your first Half Ironman. The prospect of a 1.9km/1.2 mile swim, a 90km/56 mile bike ride, and a 21.1km/13.1 mile run, for a total of 70.3 miles can look pretty daunting at first glance, but now the wait is over. The question remains - what can you expect on the run up to the event?

The most important thing here is just to trust in your training and preparation. Doing your first middle distance triathlon will be one of the most challenging and rewarding endurance experiences. Remember, everyone around you on the day will be willing you on; from fellow competitors to marshalls and supporters.

The good news - you’re in the hands of one of the best organisers out there. Your job is just to make sure you follow their process and you’ll get super support throughout the event.

Find your next 70.3 event

1. Pre-race admin:

The day before the race you will have to register, take part in the pre-race briefing and drop your gear at transition. Make sure you plan your movements for the day and have a clear idea of what clothing and nutrition you want to leave for the race day. It’s best to visit these places only once in order to avoid queues and hanging around!

2. Race briefing:

The race briefing is your best friend. The organisers will let you know about any last changes to the course or helpful tips about what to look out for and what to expect when you’re out racing. These are crucial for putting your mind at ease for the challenge ahead. Take a notebook in for any important facts you need to remember.

3. Help is always around:

Whether you’re on the swim, bike or run, Ironman always have helpful marshalls that deal with any problems. Rest assured that at every point during the race help won’t be far away to deal with any problems that arrive. Your job is just to trust your training and enjoy the day.

4. Use the official tracking app:

The app is a fantastic tool for those supporting from afar to keep track of you in real time through each stage as well as being a useful way for your supporters to find a spot to cheer you on throughout the course!

5. Make the best of the aid stations:

You will burn up to 5,000 calories by completing a half ironman, so it’s important to keep your body fuelled Throughout the day you will go past plenty of aid stations stocked with everything you need. From energy gels to isotonic drinks, be sure to make the most out of the nutrition on offer to make the experience as fun and competitive as possible.

6. Be prepared for one of the best finish line experiences

Make sure any supporters on the day are ready for you at the finish line. It’s one of the best race finishes you will ever experience and a high five from them as you run down the red carpet will be something you won’t forget. Don’t worry about turning off your sports watch and focus on the moment.

7. Make sure to put some money aside for the merch

Having completed a pretty serious feat of endurance, you'll want a couple of mementos. After finishing,  you'll pass through the merchandise tent - there’s some pretty stylish finisher’s items that you can buy to show off what you’ve done. Make sure to keep some money in the bank for those!

Group of people doing an endurance sports event.

What to expect from your first Ironman event

10 years ago, completing a marathon was the pinnacle for any amateur athlete. Nowadays, that status belongs to a different challenge: the Iron distance triathlon. So, what exactly is an ironman?

Well, an ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile marathon run. And if you’re taking on this famous distance, then you will probably consider doing it with the undisputed king of the long distance triathlon - the category-defining “Hoover” of swim/bike/run: Ironman. In fact, Ironman offer two distances: the full “Ironman” distance, and the half “Ironman 70.3” distance. Common to both are slick organisation, great venues and a hefty price tag.

Sounds crazy right?! Well, I competed in my first Ironman event at Staffordshire in 2017, 2 years later I crossed the finish line at the Ironman World Championships in Nice. So, from experience, I'd really recommend taking the leap and signing up to your first ironman event, even if it's not an official one.

Find an Ironman triathlon

1. Fancy bikes

Most triathletes are cyclists first and foremost. They love their bikes and obsess over details like shaving 20g of weight off their bottle holders. Some of the bikes look more like rocket ships. The good news is you absolutely do not need an expensive bike to take part and do well. Wiggle do a good line in cheerfully priced road bikes that will get you from A to B in no time or check in with your work to see if you're signed up for the cycle2work scheme.

2. Free stash

The Ironman brand is so strong that it often gets confused with the Iron distance category. That's what makes their stash so desirable. As part of your entry you get a t-shirt, swim cap, rucksack, and of course that all important finisher’s t-shirt at the end. And there’s also plenty more you can purchase at a premium on the weekend of the event.

If this is your first official ironman event, then expect to leave the weekend dressed in epic stash that you can we wear with pride once you're home.

3. Lots of nutrition

These are long races. It’s very easy to end up depleting your glycogen stores. Thankfully, competing in an official Ironman event is a bit like a culinary tour of high-end nutrition products (gels, bars,  isotonic drinks), with some more traditional options thrown in (bananas,  salty snacks to avoid cramp, coca cola). That said, it’s still worth taking some food of your own, since you don’t want to try anything too new on the day.

If you're worried about cyclings infamous 'bonk' or hitting the wall, then check out our article on how to avoid this here.

4. Strict rules on the bike

Ironman events are draft-illegal. What does draft-illegal mean? Well, this means you can’t sit in the slipstream of another rider to save energy. You have to keep at a distance of at least 12 metres from others, and, if passing, you must do so within 25 seconds. The race marshals are tasked with enforcing these rules, which can mean tight calls and narrow disqualifications. Best to play it safe with this one. 

If you're worried about these rules, then it's best to practice while you're training to make sure you don't contravene any of the strict ironman rules come raceday.

5. Great organisation

They’ve done this before. Ironman events run like clockwork, from the moment you arrive to register, until you fetch your bike from the transition area after the race. There’s also full briefing beforehand where you can get your questions answered, marshals and clear markings throughout the course, and well-ordered transition zones so you can focus on the racing rather than the logistics.

6. An epic finish

This is, after all, the reason we do it. That feeling of crossing the finish line after 5, 10 or 15+ hours etches itself into your memory. And it’s made that bit sweeter by the announcer, who gives you your moment in the sun by calling your name out to the crowd, and who will usually try to high five you in your final strides.

Seriously, the finish-line feeling of a half-marathon or marathon event is truly epic... but this is next level and crossing the line at an Ironman event has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

Stephanie Ede, Ironman World Champs 2019

7. Post-race feed

Ok, you've done it, you've completed an Ironman event. And, after 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles on the bike, and 26.2 miles running, you will be hungry. Luckily, Ironman lay on a great buffet with heaps of lasagne or something similarly carb-based, as part of your entry. It’s also generally easy enough to procure a few beers if you’re in the mood for celebrating your achievement, and the mood is always much lighter and cheerier after the racing is done. Tuck in and celebrate!

So, what are you waiting for, sign-up to your first Ironman event now.

5 best sprint triathlon events

From America to Asia, there is a huge variety of sprint distance triathlons to choose from. Here are our favourites.

With multisport events becoming more and more popular in recent years, there are now a huge number of sprint triathlons to choose from in order to have your first try of a tri. The distance of a 750m/0.47 mile swim, 20km/12.34 mile bike, and 5km/3.1 mile run should take anywhere between one and two hours. Here are our 5 favourite swim-bike-run events over the sprint distance.

Find a sprint triathlon


One of the highlights of the UK triathlon season, the Blenheim Palace Triathlon is the world’s ONLY triathlon located slap bang in the middle of a World Heritage Site. With two separate Sprint triathlons taking place over the race weekend, entrants can expect a 750m swim in the fresh water lake, followed by a slightly more testing undulating bike course and a 5.4k run around the stunning Queen’s Pool to finish. The event as a whole welcomes 7000 participants every year – as well as being great for first timers looking to dive into their first triathlon, it’s a fun day out for the whole family too.

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It’s a testament to the quality of this event that the 25 for 25 Sprint Triathlon event at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon sold out in its very first edition in 2018. Held amongst one of Asia’s most luxurious resorts, Athletes can expect a 0.5K swim in the Lagoon, followed by an 18.5K bike and a speedy 6K dash to the finish line. And for all those looking for a big feed beforehand, each entry includes a ticket to the pasta party!

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With a fast and flat course perfectly suited to beginners and seasoned vets alike, the Grand Rapids Triathlon in Ada, Michigan kicks off with a beautiful swim in the Thornapple River (don’t worry, it’s more like a lake!). Athletes move onto a flat, country road cycle before topping things off with a scenic and, crucially, shaded run. Entrants can also take advantage of numerous free clinics before race day, as well as a pre-race swim and ride to get familiar with the course. As a previous host of 6 USAT Championships, the Grand Rapids Tri is a truly world class event.

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Offering a unique urban route through the capital, there’s a good reason the London Triathlon attracts 11,000 athletes year on year, making it the biggest competition of its kind globally. There are 3 distances on offer (Super Sprint, Sprint & Olympic) on both Saturday and Sunday, as well as the option to enter the race as part of a relay team. Sprint competitors take the plunge for a 750m looped swim in Royal Victoria Dock, followed by 20k bike towards Central London and 5k run by the ExCeL Arena. For the more daring, why not make a weekend of it and enter both days!

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Taking place on the spectacular sands of Zuma Beach, Malibu, the Nautica Malibu Tri is one of the most sought after events on the west coast, attracting 3,000 competitors for race distances from Classic to Long Course. Remarkably, last year’s event raised over $1.4 Million for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles pediatric cancer research. The classic distance boasts a half mile swim in the ocean, followed by out and back bike (17 mile) and run (4 mile) courses. Athletes can expect to make their way through some of Malibu’s prettiest roads, and take in some truly iconic views of the surrounding mountains and Pacific Ocean.

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  1. Blenheim Palace Triathlon
  2. Laguna Phuket
  3. Grand Rapids Tri
  4. London Triathlon
  5. Nautica Malibu Triathlon


5 training tips for a Half Ironman

Here our some bits of advice anyone can use to make their Ironman training more efficient and enjoyable.

Training for a Half Ironman (aka Ironman 70.3 or Middle Distance Triathlon) should be fun. And it definitely shouldn’t take over your life. Follow these five steps to ensure you enjoy your half iron experience as much as possible.

Find a Half Ironman event


First thing first, work out what you want to get out from this experience.

Do you want to smash pbs and qualify for world champs? Or is this more of a game of survival; you want to get around the course with a smile on your face and be able to enjoy some post race beers at the end?

Once you’ve made this decision, it’s time to put together a training plan.


Whether you’re uber scientific about this; or you just mentally sketch out the days and time slots that you’re able to train – the key here is that you set out something that works to your schedule and you are able to find a routine.

As a minimum you should be doing three 1 hour sessions during the week and then use the weekends for the longer sessions. You need to understand that if you are racing for five to seven hours, you should also have trained to go that long; so don’t hold back on the weekend training.

Even with a base level of fitness, you should give yourself at least 6 weeks to train and your training should gradually build up in intensity so as to avoid injury.


Friends are the ones who motivate you to leap out of bed in the morning. Especially during the winter months. And a long weekend training session is best shared; particularly when it comes to the cafe stop for coffee and cakes.

If you haven’t signed up to this race with a mate, consider joining a triathlon club – there are plenty around. You’ll have lots of questions along the way, so it’ll be a real help to have people around you who know what they’re talking about.


Make sure you mix up your training – focusing on both your strengths and weaknesses – but also make it fun by adding variation to your sessions, both in terms of intensity but also locality.

Be it running around a track, through fields, or simply as a commute to work; cycling on a watt bike in the gym, around the park or along county roads; swimming in your local swimming pool, in the sea, or in the lake.

The 70.3 includes some long distances, but in some sessions it will help to work on speed and power rather than just stamina. Sprint cycles and Fartlek runs are particularly useful for working on both your aerobic and anaerobic systems. They also mean you can have a good, quick workout and open up some valuable free time.

Variety is the spice of life and ironman training is one hell of a lot more fun if you keep things interesting for yourself.


In an Olympic distance race you can get away without paying much attention to nutrition, but try that in a Half Ironman and you could be in trouble.

You should use your training to work out how many calories per hour you should be taking on board; and also to determine what works best with your stomach. Energy gels react badly with some people; and you don’t want to leave it to race day to find out you’re one of them!

On race day, you will need to be consuming slow energy-release carbohydrates such as flapjacks for the long time period, as well as salty foods such as pretzels for the amount you’ll sweat out, so it’s vital to have practiced this beforehand. Keep hydrated with electrolyte drinks or hydration tablets which have carbohydrates and sodium in.

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