Completing your first-ever triathlon will be one of the most life-affirming and unforgettable multisport memories you’ll ever create.
But how to pick the race for you can be one of the biggest challenges, with the course, location and multitude of distances all key factors to consider.
Here, we’ve picked a selection of the best beginner triathlons in the UK. We’ve gone for open-water swims for all of them, and have chosen of mix of grassroots events, mammoth spectacles and scenic beauties from across the land to give a wide and varied mix.
And remember that they’re not just for beginners, with many offering fast racing for PB smashing and a host of longer distances.
Lake swims are our preferred water body of choice, but calm bays are worth considering too, while an ever-so-gently rolling bike course is seen as ideal (and one on closed-roads is best) instead of pancake flat, where you will have to pedal continually.
Now, it’s time to pick our favourite beginner races in the UK.
1. Deva Divas
Location: Chester, Cheshire
This Chester-set, women-only sprint-distance race has long reaped the plaudits, winning the British Triathlon ‘Event of the Year’ gong on two occasions.
Much of the success is down to the care and welcoming ethos of the Chester Tri Club organisers, with beginner’s seminars and training days held before the race. The race starts with a point-to-point swim in the River Dee before a well-marshalled 25km bike and flat riverside run.
2. Royal Windsor Triathlon
Location: Windsor, Berkshire
Okay, there may be easier beginner triathlons, but we’d be hard-pressed to pick a greater race to do your first tri than the Windsor Triathlon.
Held since 1991 and perennially popular ever since, no other UK race oozes tri history like Windsor. How often do you get to swim in the shadow of the Queen’s gaff and bike on open roads around the Great Park?
The notoriously early start, river swim and nasty Castle Hill on the run won’t suit all, but for any beginner to triathlon wanting to experience a race etched in multisport legend, we’d recommend the Windsor Triathlon over any UK race. And the crowd-lined final discipline is arguably the greatest run course in UK tri.
3. Banana Triathlon
Location: Dorney, Buckinghamshire
To the disappointment of 1980s’ TV fans, this Human Race event has recently dropped its Bananaman title, but the beginner appeal of the enclosed Dorney Lake location remains. And that draw is the calm lake, the completely closed- roads course and lack of anything resembling a hill.
The Banana Triathlon also offers a huge range of distances, including the Half Banana (400m swim, 10.6km bike, 2.5km run) and Banana Fritter (400m swim, 21.2km bike, 5km run) options.
Tej Thaker is a regular Banana Tri man. “All those nerves you have before tackling your first triathlon ease very quickly. What I love most about the venue is the bike and run course run along the calm and clear lake, so you pass supporters on each lap who all cheer you on, whether they know you or not.
4. Brighton and Hove Triathlon
Location: Brighton, East Sussex
From John Lunt, the organiser of the 2012 Olympic Games tri event, the Brighton Triathlon has swiftly established itself as a major UK tri event. If a sea swim might not suggest a beginner-friendly course, the Hove waters are often calm and the September slot means it’s regularly an inviting temperature.
After 400m in the water, the supersprint course then heads along the seafront on closed roads before a beach- lined and very flat promenade run course.
Andréa Avena did his first tri at Brighton. “This is a friendly, well-organised and safe event. The marshals helped calm my nerves, the sea was perfectly calm, too, and the lifeguards were supportive with me as it was clearly my first tri and sea swim.
“The bike and run routes were perfectly managed and, most importantly, flat! Overall, a great experience for anyone looking to give triathlon a go.”
5. Blenheim Palace Triathlon
Location: Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim has long been a must-do event on the UK tri scene. Set against the majestic backdrop of Blenheim Palace, the race sees some 7,000 athletes traverse the historic grounds over the weekend for the supersprint or sprint races.
And it’s all set within the Blenheim Palace grounds on lovely traffic-free courses flanked by thousands of spectators.
6. Cardiff Triathlon
Location: Cardiff, Wales
From Always Aim High Events, this is one of the UK’s biggest city-centre races (26-27 June 2021). Located in Cardiff Bay, with the event village and transition held in front of the Wales Millennium Centre, the super-sprint event begins with a point-to-point swim in the calm Cardiff Bay before a fast and flat bike route along completely closed roads.
The race concludes with a run along the Cardiff Bay barrage, with the only worry being the dodgy weather that the race has sometimes experiences in the first few years.
Regular 220 Triathlon freelancer Jack Sexty is a fan: “If you want a deluxe beginner’s experience, the Cardiff Tri is a great place to pop your multisport cherry. It’s bang in the city centre, the atmosphere is buzzing and the flat bike course takes place on completely- closed roads.”
7. Falmouth Triathlon
Location: Falmouth, Cornwall
There are many reasons why Falmouth Triathlon is ideal for beginners. For a start, it takes place near the town centre, dozens of B&Bs and several car parks, making logistics a little easier than they can sometimes be.
The event starts and finishes at Gyllingvase Beach, a blue-flag-rated stretch of sand that lines an often calm and clear bay of water. Given a September date, it’s an ideal first open-water triathlon setting.
What’s more, the bike takes place on closed roads looping along the seafront promenade and round the headland, which is home to Henry VIII’s Pendennis Castle.
Once back into T2, the run will take you along that same stretch, with wide pavements and beautiful seaside views proving a welcome distraction from any aching limbs.
Available distances include the Little Seal (300m swim, 9.7km bike and 2.4km run) or Big Seal (600m swim, 18km bike, 4.8km run).
8. Hever Castle Triathlon
Location: Edenbridge, Kent
Since 2009, the Hever Castle Triathlon has established itself as an essential fixture on the UK multisport circuit.
The race hosts the biggest children’s triathlon in the world with 2,000 junior racers, the UK’s second-largest tri event and the finale of the five-date pan European Castle Triathlon Series, held at fortress locations in Ireland, England and France.
And the location has plenty of quirks for athletes and supporters, from searching for the ghost of Anne Boleyn to spotting filming locations used in the fantasy classic, The Princess Bride.
For beginners, there are countless distances to pick from, as well as the option of an aquathlon, duathlon or aquabike if you only want to do two out of three disciplines. The races commence with an open-water swim in the shallow Hever Castle Lake.
Post-T1, the bike leg is a rolling affair before the largely off-road yet light trail run circumnavigates the estate and leafy castle grounds, before making the dash down the tree-lined finishing chute and into one of UK tri’s most family-friendly and fun expos. The 11am start for the 200m/15km/2km Starter Tri is also most welcome.
9. London Triathlon
Location: ExCel Centre, London Docklands
London Triathlon is a biggy of the multisport circuit. And by biggy we mean over 13,000 triathletes competing across super sprint, sprint, Olympic and Olympic Plus distances – plus a myriad of relay options – over two days at the ExCel Centre in the London Docklands.
So big is the London Triathlon, in fact, that the race has superseded the Chicago Triathlon as the largest in the world in terms of participation.
While the Docklands-setting won’t give famed tri beauties Blenheim, Hever or Windsor any sleepless nights, the sheer scale of the event has few rivals on the triathlon circuit.
The vast army of marshalls, medics and technical officials – triathlon’s invaluable supporting cast – should take a major credit in the mammoth logistics of the operation, shepherding 13,000 athletes over the weekend in and out of the world’s largest transition area is no mean feat.
With around a third of the annual influx of over 13,000 athletes being beginners to the sport, the fast and flat London Triathlon has played host to thousands of debut triathlon experiences, becoming an important rite of passage for age-group athletes across the British Isles.
10. Castle Howard Triathlon
Location: Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
The Castles Triathlon Series began life in 2009 and has since become the host of the world’s biggest children’s tri in the world at Hever, as well as legs in Ireland and France.
The Castle Howard Triathlon, held near the North York Moors, offers the customary mix of a welcoming vibe, a multitude of race distances and gorgeous scenery. The Starter Tri boasts a swim in the castle’s Great Lake before a rolling bike and a 2km run loop in the estate.
Simon Swaffer embraced the family experience in 2018. “The was our first-ever weekend camping in a field and debut triathlons for both my wife and daughter. From start to finish, all of the helpful crew had non-stop smiles and happiness. It made for a great family weekend.”