These are the bucket-list triathlons that we're itching to do, whether it's for the stories, the challenge, the scenery...basically, just to be able to say (smugly, probably), "I did that." If you're a triathlete...you'll get it. We all have races we dream of racing one day - they appeal for a range of reasons but for you, they're a "must-do". There's more races but we'll start with the top six in three regions of the world. We know there is no Kona - because to put it bluntly, who doesn't want to go? Also, we polled absolutely no one and this is based on no scientific research at all.
One word: legendary. It's the ultimate iconic race that the Challenge Family offers and one of the oldest triathlon events around. Billed as the world's largest long distance triathlon, Challenge Roth attracts some of the biggest names in triathlon - along with more than 5,000 age group athletes from over 60 countries. Every year, registration for Challenge Roth sells out in minutes online - often, the best chance to snag a slot is through a triathlon travel package, like Tri Travel. It's a full distance (3.8K swim, 180K bike, 42K run) renown for the thousands of enthusiastic spectathletes lining a course that takes you past rolling hills, through a forest, and a stadium finish complete with fireworks. The Bavarian village of Roth makes the event a week-long festival complete with finish-line celebrations and after-parties with plenty of beer flowing. Hard to beat!
ISKLAR NORSEMAN XTREME TRIATHLON
This is your average Ironman distance, but in Norway during the summer through some of the world's toughest terrains. Since 2003, it's quickly become one of the most coveted race opportunities in the world as the Isklar hosts less than 300 competitors annually. All athletes must have their own support crew to provide them with food and drinks. Competitors jump off of a ferry into the chilly waters of the Hardangerfjord (it even sounds dangerous) to the local town Eidfjord, at which point they begin cycling through the mountains - the first 40KM are uphill and reach 1,200 meters above sea level. At T2, they'll run 25KM of flatlands before climbing 1,880 meters up Mount Gaustatoppen. The final mountain climb requires athletes to carry a backpack containing emergency food and clothing should the weather turn. If fog or snow forces the closure of this segment, there is an alternate route to the finish line. All you get is a shirt for finishing (black for those who climbed Mount Gaustatoppen, white for those who had to take the alternate route).
ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ
San Francisco, USA
Escape from Alcatraz is truly a one-of-a-kind race. It's not a sprint but it's not quite an Olympic distance as the race involves a 2.4KM (1.5 miles) swim, 29KM (18 miles) bike, and 12.8KM (8 miles) run. First, you'll jump off a ferryboat by Alcatraz Island into the frigid and choppy waters of the San Francisco Bay, then cycle the hilly but scenic bike course on the Great Highway and through Golden Gate Park before running 8 miles through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to finish at The Marina Green. The race is limited to 2,000 competitors and entry is only by qualification through the Escape Triathlon Series or testing your luck with the two rounds of Random Drawing. Even if you qualify or are selected, the $750 registration fee will make most triathletes hesitate - you're definitely paying for the experience!
THE NATIONS TRIATHLON
Washington, D.C., USA
The Nations Triathlon takes place in early September each year in the capital city of the United States - Washington, D.C - and there's just nothing quite like doing a full triathlon in the District of Columbia amidst some of America's best known memorials and national treasures. The highlight is the USAT-sanctioned Olympic Distance triathlon which includes a 1.5KM swim in the Potomac River, a 40KM bike through the District, and a 10KM run past historical landmarks. A sprint distance and Olympic aquabike options are also available. In 2017, the Nations became a part of the Escape Series events. Unfortunately, the Nations has also seen the swim segment cancelled four times in the race's 12-year history due to unsafe water in the Potomac - high levels of E.coli bacteria.
CHALLENGE WANAKA / IRONMAN 70.3 TAUPO / IRONMAN NEW ZEALAND
Wanaka and Taupo, New Zealand
It might be cheating a little here but basically, we're dying to race in New Zealand. If we're traveling, it's nice to combine racing AND holidaying. Whether it's in nature or man-made, New Zealand has something for everyone; moreover, the Kiwi atmosphere is warm, welcoming, and second to none. Outside of Kona, Ironman New Zealand is one of the most storied triathlons and the 2nd longest-running Ironman event celebrating 34 years in 2018.
On the South Island, Challenge Wanaka offers a full and half iron distance, along with a variety of sport events and festivities associated with multi-day triathlon festivals. It's a scenic event that draws more than 1,600 athletes to the shores of Lake Wanaka and is set against the backdrop of a World Heritage Area in New Zealand's Southern Alps. That said, it's not going to be a walk in the park - it'll keep you honest as it's a tough race with approximately 75% of the run being off-road and more than 1000m of climbing over the 180KM bike course (497M for the half).
On the North Island, the city of Taupo has a long history of hosting Ironman triathlons. In 2015 and 2017, Lake Taupo has seen the addition of Ironman 70.3 Taupo in mid-December, alongside the "traditional" Ironman New Zealand, which has also combined 70.3 New Zealand on the same weekend. According to the Ironman website, Lake Taupo "is a popular tourist destination, boasting the largest freshwater lake in Australasia and mountains made internationally famous after being featured in the Lord of The Rings trilogy."
IRONMAN 70.3 BUSSELTON
Known for its fast and flat course, thousands of triathletes and supporters flock to Western Australia for Ironman 70.3 Busselton. The bike and run courses are among the flattest on the global Ironman circuit - if you're looking for a personal best, this is it. Competitors start from a pontoon at the end of the iconic Busselton Jetty, swimming the pristine water of Geographe Bay, pedal furiously through the Tuart Forest, and run along the Busselton Shore. And yes, this was the 70.3 where the swim was called off mid-race in May 2017 due to shark sightings (no one was hurt).
Of course, Busselton itself has something for everyone to enjoy, from shopping to surfing and whale watching. Though a relatively small producer of Australian wine, nearby Margaret River is a wine region home to nearly 100 cellars, vineyards, and wineries; in fact, Western Australia produces about 20% of Australia's wine. Ok, let's be honest, we're in it for the wine.