Athletes scramble up a mountain during Helvellyn Triathlon
Athletes scramble up a mountain during Helvellyn Triathlon

World's best triathlons: 31 to do before you die

So you want to go out in style? You want to say, yep, done that and, without doubt, got the T-Shirt? But with so many races to choose from, how will your tri racing CV look when it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil? Well, look no further! Here's our list of the world's best triathlons...

19 Helvellyn Triathlon, Ullswater, Cumbria

Martin Cain, the course record-holder, is a man with a strong claim to be called the UK’s hardest triathlete. This is what he thinks of Helvellyn Tri.

“Looking for a challenge? Then the Helvellyn Triathlon is it. Despite the blisters, blood and the fact that I walk around like John Wayne for days afterwards, I’ll keep going back for more. The swim is beautiful… but freezing; the bike is superb… as long as you enjoy 1:4 hills; and the run scenery is outstanding… if you can lift your head to look at it.”

A skull-crushingly cold swim, brutal climbs and hair-raising descents have forged the Helvellyn Triathlon’s reputation as the UK’s toughest multisport event.

Since its inception in 2004, snowballing word of mouth has seen 600 of the UK’s hardiest triathletes come to Cumbria each August/September armed with the mandatory survival blanket, map, compass and whistle.

In the stunning setting of England’s Lake District, the course features a 1.6km swim in the bitter-cold waters of mountain-ringed Ullswater. The 61.2km bike route is legendary for The Struggle climb over the Kirkstone Pass at 44km.

Rising 400m in 5km, it’s an absolute brute, loaded with 20% ascents that will force even the most experienced athletes to push their steeds skyward. Then, far from offering a relaxing route home, the descent from Kirkstone Pass is highly technical, with exposed upper slopes, tights turns that need to be negotiated at speed and drystone walls lurking ominously at the side of the roads.

TriHard Event’s 14.5km run route continues piling on the punishment, sending athletes to within touching distance of the 949m summit of Helvellyn, the third-highest peak in England (only 22m less than the highest).

 “Accept that you won’t be able to run all the way to the top of Helvellyn. On the really steep sections it’s both faster and more energy-efficient to power walk, with the final stretch up Swirral Edge a rock scramble,” says 2013 winner Richard Anderson.

The descent, again, is no picnic either and will test athletes’ downhill running skills to the max. Cain labels it “hair-raising and brutal . . . and I almost always fall,” and the race organisers recommend all athletes cut their toenails, because they won’t have any left by the finish line.

Race tips: Helvellyn Triathlon

Helvellyn Triathlon in pics

Continue reading our guide to the world's best triathlon (14/31)


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