Some of the best iron-distance races in the UK aren’t Ironman events. Whether you want to race the distance before a foreign M-dot event or don’t fancy the Ironman price tag, here are five of the UK’s best long-course triathlons.

The New Forest is a beautiful setting for a gruelling run

THE FORESTMAN

3.8km Swim
180km Bike
42.2km Run

When: June 24, 2012

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This Iron-distance triathlon based at the Sandy Balls Holiday Centre is set in the beautiful scenery of the New Forest and begins with a 3.8km three-lap, mass start swim around the Ellingham water-ski lake near Ringwood. There’s plenty of time to dry off during the 180km undulating cycle route, which is also three laps and takes in Linwood, Ringwood and Bransgore, connected by scenic, quiet roads. While competitors are shielded from the elements in the forest itself, once out of the tree line, the winds can really start hammering against you – great for preparing you for races like Ironman Lanzarote. The run is a hilly 42.2km that will test the toughest legs and is a mix of on-road and gravel track surfaces.

THE BIG WOODY

3.8km Swim
180km Bike
42 km Run

2012 date not yet available

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Situated in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley, this iron-distance triathlon offers athletes plenty of challenging terrain and beautiful scenery starting with a standard 3.8km open-water swim leg in the calm waters of The National Diving and Activity Centre near Chepstow. The bike is 180km best described as undulating to hilly but not extreme, which takes in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley, making for a route that’s both scenic and testing. After a quick change of gear, the final leg is a four-lap out-and-back trail run of 42km.

The first Challenge Henley was a huge success

CHALLENGE HENLEY-ON-THAMES

3.8km Swim

180km Bike
42.2km Run

When: September 16, 2012

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The Challenge family of events burst onto the UK scene last month with the inaugural Challenge Henley-On-Thames race. The swim is an out-and-back up the River Thames on the Royal Regatta course, against the current for the first 1.9km. The three-lap, 180km bike course sweeps up into the Chiltern Hills and rolls through some picturesque villages in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With 1800m of climbing, it’s certainly one for strong climbers and good descenders. Following transition the 42.2km marathon is a four-lap course great for spectators and takes in more villages and the Thames path.

THE OUTLAW

2.4mile Swim
112mile Bike
26.2mile Run

When: July 01, 2012

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This new event launched in 2010 to immediately become one of the top non-M-dot events on the triathlon calendar, garnering acclaim about the excellent race organisation, stunning course and it’s great value price. July 24 saw this year’s crop of Outlaws descend upon Nottingham for another fantastic race. The standard iron-distance 2.4mile out-and-back swim takes place in the crystal clear man-made lake at the National Watersports Centre. The bike course has plenty of sharp climbs over its three laps in the Nottinghamshire countryside including a 300m 12.5% leg-sapper. The run is thankfully a completely flat affair along the lake and the River Trent, making for a fast finish if your legs are still hanging in and obeying your commands.

The Brutal is sure to test your limits on the bike

THE BRUTAL

2.4mile Swim
112mile Bike
26.2mile Run

When: September 22, 2012

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Based in the seriously hilly scenery of northwest Wales, The Brutal claims to be one of the hardest triathlons in the world, and looking at the route, it’s hard to argue. The swim in the beautiful glass-like Lake Padarn is the only flat section of the race there is. With thousands of metres of climbing, the 112 miles of cycling are extremely tough in their own right, let alone after the swim and proceeded by a marathon that goes up Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. With no mobile signal on 80 per cent of the bike course and many competitors hitting the slopes of Snowdon in darkness, The Brutal is so tough event that racers require support crews to help athletes reach the finish safely.

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