For those at the competitive end of multisport, the quality of performance has always been judged by finishing positions over times.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to stop the clock in speedy fashion and, when you’re a mid to back-of-the-packer and unlikely to ever step on to the podium, those faster splits justify faith in your training and give confidence for the races to come.
To help you to a new PB (or PR if you’re of US persuasion) we’ve unearthed the following standard distance events in the UK that have historically produced some blistering times.
Please note, terrain and distances differ and while all are billed as standard or Olympic distance, it’s not guaranteed that each race is exactly a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run.
Shropshire Triathlon, Ellesmere
Location: Ellesmere, Shropshere
The quiet town on the Welsh border turns into a haven for triathlon at the end of May and is often used as a qualifier for the British Age-Group teams.
This means a fast time doesn’t always guarantee a high finishing position, although you could count yourself unlucky to come up against someone quite as nippy as two-time Olympian Andrew Johns, who clocked 1:46:49 here in 1998.
Racing through the North Wales countryside, there are three short, sharp climbs accounting for 282m of elevation on the bike, plus another 42m on the run, so it’s not the flattest course you’ll find, but the intimate setting means spectators can view from close quarters and provide an extra boost.
It’s also notable as the race won by relative novice triathlete Chrissie Wellington in 2006 before she went on to become world age-group champion in Lausanne, Switzerland and then undefeated four-time Ironman world champion.
Location: Dorney Lake, Berkshire
It doesn’t get any flatter than whizzing round the tarmac of the purpose-built rowing venue of Dorney Lake, the setting for four gold medals from Team GB at the 2012 Olympic Games. Not only is it the perfect beginner tri venue, but it’s tailor-made for fast times – provided the wind doesn’t blow.
This race is the “perfect event to try for a personal best,” says Nick Rusling, chief executive of organisers Human Race.
“The venue is set around the beautiful Eton Dorney Lake and the fast, tarmac closed-road bike and run course make it a great environment at an iconic venue.”
Eight laps on the bike make it a touch over distance at 42.4km but also mean that should you run into mechanical strife help is never far away. Just pray those gusts stay away.
The London Triathlon
Location: Docklands, East London
The UK’s largest triathlon with over 13,000 competitors provides a whirligig of human exertion over a frenetic weekend.
After a wetsuit swim in the Royal Victoria Dock (try not to focus on the Thames’ water you might be swallowing), any time lost in the gigantic transition area in the Excel exhibition centre can be made up on the course… provided you do not completely lose your bike first!
There are many different race options but the most favoured bike course takes you from Docklands alongside the Thames on a closed-roads out and back to Westminster where you can grab a quick time check from Big Ben.
It provides a good road surface, decent views of the capital and a couple of fast-paced underpasses. The four-lap run is a generous/short “10km” with plenty of crowd support, and given the number of bodies looping the course, there are plenty of targets to catch.
Many people take part as their introduction to triathlon, but maybe it’s time to consider a return and a PB?
Bala Standard Distance Triathlon
Location: Bala, Wales
If you’ve still something to give after a summer of racing then a late season trip to Bala in North Wales could be in the offing.
“The swim allows triathletes to stretch across the lake and find their own space very quickly. On a calm day times can be very fast,” says Wrecsam club president Julian Hunter.
“The cycle section is 20km out and 20km back along the valley. It’s slightly uphill on the way out, but easily achievable on the big chain ring. Once at the turn point it’s a fast return with leading athletes hitting speeds well in excess of 40mph.
“The run uses the same road as the bike and again producing slightly faster times on the return leg and allowing sight of the chasing athletes.”
Bournemouth International Triathlon
Location: Bournemouth, Dorset
Finish your season on a high with a trip to this south coast tourist magnet. Don’t be fazed by the sea swim, its location is an award-winning blue flag beach and this is an event that has been given the seal of approval as both the Army Triathlon national champs and a British age-grouper qualifier in the past.
The fast bike course takes you to the town of Ringwood on the edge of the New Forest and the run, described by the organisers as “PB-busting”, is on the seafront promenade and heads towards Boscombe Pier, where views of the Isle Of Wight and The Purbecks will do their best to ease your lactic woes.
It was certainly to the liking of speedy local Greg Shrosbree in 2014, the off-road specialist was over eight minutes ahead of his nearest competitor when he stopped the clock in 1:53:42.
Grab yourself a starting slot before it sells out and you’ll have a PB licked like a 99 Flake on the prom.
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