Got the Ironman bug but worried about the entry fees, travelling costs and accommodation bills of long-distance triathlons? Then fear ye not, because here we’ve compiled our list of affordable iron-distance experiences in the UK and Europe
Yes, you read that right. Ninety four quid for an iron-distance race. Okay, the majority of you will have to travel to the middle of Poland to race, but £94 for a 226km race is remarkable. And Poland is famous for your Pound Sterling going further than other EU nations, especially that for that post-race pint and pierogi with sauerkraut.
Ocean Lava Poland offers both full and middle-distance race options, and has been held in Borówno, just north of Bydgoszcz in Central Poland, for two decades. Some 1,000 athletes entered in 2018, facing a beginner-friendly four-lap lake swim in warm waters of 20C.
There’s an out-and-back bike route that’s fast and flat, before a similarly mostly-horizontal run course around Myślęcinek Park.
The race also comes branded with the name of rising race organiser Ocean Lava and boasted qualification spots for their end-of-season championship race in Lanzarote.
The nearest large airport is Poznan, which Ryanair fly to from Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Stansted in the UK; and to nearby Bydgoszcz Airport from Birmingham, Glasgow, Luton and Stansted.
Fifty nine quid! Can anybody top that? Answers on a postcard please. The cheapest contemporary iron-distance entry fee we’ve come across is Triathlon Estonia in the gorgeous capital of Tallinn. And is some £350 cheaper than August’s Ironman Estonia, also near Tallinn.
Tallinn has long been somewhere that offers plenty of bang (and rye bread) for your buck, and this August race will see long hours of daylight just south of one of Europe’s prettiest capitals.
The race commences at the shore of Lake Tammemäe, before the 180km bike course does a number of laps alongside the Via Baltica. The concluding marathon run takes place in the town of Keila.
Held since 2011, the Hardman has been a pioneer of long-course racing in Ireland and often hosts the Irish Long Distance National Championships.
“When you’re tackling your first ironman distance, you need all the help you can get. With Hardman, you get this in spades,” says Declan Kenny, who finished 51st in 2016. “From registration to race start, and throughout the day, right through to the breakfast next morning, you’re not so much a number as part of the family.
The race features a three-lap lake swim, before a scenic and rolling bike course that features the Ring of Kenny. The looped run is set within a park, with support from marshals, aid stations and the locals.
Cork is the nearest airport, which is well-served by cheap flights from the UK, including from Ryanair and Aer Lingus.
Much-loved since its inception in 2010, this regular winner of the 220 Triathlon Award for Race of the Year offers quite possibly the friendliest atmosphere of all UK Irons and showcases all of race organiser One Step Beyond’s exhaustive race-day knowhow.
With camping available on site and plenty of accommodation offerings nearby (and a central England location for saving the petrol monies), finding somewhere to stay is easy and affordable. And registration is a breeze at the spectator-friendly Holme Pierrepont water centre.
The route consists of a two-lap lake swim, a flat-ish 180km bike course of rolling tarmac, before the run takes place on a flat and well-supported route.
Another draw of The Outlaw, not shown by the stats here, is the Outlaw Half every May, taking place on the same course as its bigger brother and offering plenty of recovery time between the two.
The Lakesman has been a massive success story since its first race in 2016 and it’s swiftly gobbled multiple awards, including a 220 Triathlon gong for ‘Race of the Year’ (under 500 entries).
The race sells out each year, but – if you find an entry – the fees are cheap and you can split the cost over multiple payments.
The race weekend itself features a slick and stress-free registration, top-notch feed stations throughout the day and one of the most post-race feeds in iron-distance triathlon. And that’s before we get to the gorgeous Lake District setting, with a 3.8km swim in Keswick’s lake, a 180km bike along the western coast of Cumbria and a run through the Cumbrian countryside.
The Lakes also have a host of accommodation types available, from guest houses to hotel and campsites.
Ballygally Beach, home to the historic Ballygally Castle, is the setting of this wallet-friendly iron-distance race in Northern Ireland, some 30mins north of Belfast.
While it’s easy on the bank balance, the White Bear Extreme doesn’t take things so gentle on the triathlete’s physiology or mindset, with a bracing 14C sea swim giving way to a relentlessly-hilly bike course (elevation gain is a bumper 3,000m) through the Glens Of Antrim.
The marathon run, meanwhile, is largely on leg-sapping trails and alone boasts one thousand metres of climbing, more than many iron-distance bike legs. Ouch!
Again, Belfast is well served by plenty of UK airports, including easyJet from Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London (Gatwick, Luton and Stansted), Manchester and Newcastle.
After a bracing swim at the northern end of Lake Windermere, the bike route follows the legendary Fred Whitton cyclosportive route and the run takes athletes up Scafell Pike and back down again.
Thankfully, the race is easier on the purse strings than it is on the quads, and entries start at £220 if you book early (max price is £295). There’s also camping and the Ambleside YHA as affordable accommodation options.
As beginner-friendly, welcoming and affordable iron-distance triathlons go, they don’t come much better than the UK Ultimate Triathlon in Whitchurch, Shropshire.
We did our first iron here in 2018 (on a kit budget of a grand) and the logistics are a big sell, with registration, T1, T2 and the finish line all at the same venue, which has ample cheap parking. The course keeps things supporter-friendly with a four lap lake swim, reasonably-flat four lap bike course and six lap run.
The organisers are attentive and inspiring (running and chatting with the athletes on the run course), the aid station volunteers relentlessly energetic and you’re even allowed to have a supporter join you on the run course.
Camping is available on site and there’s a wide range of affordable B&Bs and quest houses in the near vicinity. The bumper pre-race pasta party is an additional £15.
The Midnight Man from Bridge Events Dartford has become a regular fixture on the UK circuit, and is back for another year in 2019. The race is unique in that it takes place overnight, with a 6pm start time in Dartford Lake (a middle-distance race is also available).
Following the four lap swim, there’s a fully closed-road bike course featuring a mighty 20 laps of 9km before an eight lap marathon run.
Also saving you pennies is the fact you don’t have to book a hotel as you’ll be out racing, although you’ll have to buy your hardy race supporters one hell of an English breakfast come Sunday morning.