Located in the buzzing seaside town of Southend-on-sea in Essex, this new sprint distance triathlon sees racers tackle a 750m swim in the Thames Estuary, a 20k cycle along the seafront promenade, and finishing with a 5k run around the local park used for Parkrun.
When: June (since 2017)
Where: Southend-on-sea, Essex
Size: 600 competitors
Official race website here.
Don’t skip on your open water swimming training. The swim takes place in a tidal estuary, and although the route is an out-and-back along the shoreline, you need to be confident in these types of conditions.
Hire a wetsuit beforehand. Although by June the water temperature is warm enough for wetsuits to be optional, they really help with buoyancy so it’s worth wearing one.
Get a lie in because registration doesn’t open until midday. The timings of the race rely entirely upon the tides, so you can enjoy a relaxed morning before your big race.
Don’t go out too fast on the bike. It’s a completely flat, fast course on closed roads, so don’t be too tempted to go out with all guns blazing and leave nothing in the tank for the run.
Take it easy upon entering the run. It starts on a gravel path which soon gives way to pavements. Don’t end up slipping or tripping on the gravel and ending up with a DNF after your hard work on the swim and bike.
The bike course consists of quite a few laps. Use strips of tape on your handlebars to keep track of the number of laps you’ve done
What’s the organisation and set up like?
This race is organised and sponsored by Sundried activewear and triathlon sportswear, a brand local to the race town of Southend. The organisers are all triathletes themselves and although relatively new to organising events, they know the sport inside out.
There is a mini-expo in the morning with stalls from local organisations like a running shop giving expert advice on gait, and local gyms providing warm ups on spin bikes.
The 600 competitors are split into 12 waves of 50 to avoid over-crowding on the route. There’s plenty to do at the expo for those who have to wait until the later waves. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere with live music providing a great buzz and lots of help from stewards. The transition area is nice and big and there is a separate registration tent and free bag drop.
You can wear flip flops to the swim start which are then taken back to the transition area for you by the staff so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Swim caps are provided by the organisers with your race number on and every swimmer is accounted for using a hat counting system, which means no one gets left behind in the water.
What’s the course like?
The swim takes place in the open waters of the Thames Estuary on Southend seafront. The water is fairly calm in the summer and the water is fairly clean due to it being salt water. Watch out for floating seaweed though! The swim is an out-and-back close to the shoreline and you can follow buoys so that you don’t get too disorientated.
The bike section takes place on closed roads and is a very fast, flat route. It is laps of the seafront promenade and is lined with crowds to cheer you on. The turnaround point is on a roundabout and the number of bikes allowed on the road at one time is limited so there is reduced risk of crashes and incidents.
The run route then takes you into a park so still no traffic to worry about, although excitable dogs might get in the way! It’s a 2 lap route round the park, which is used for the local Parkrun, and then back to the finishers funnel for a well-deserved reception by the cheering crowds and a medal for every competitor. The entire route is paved with no potholes or other such hazards so you can enjoy a speedy race.
How’s the atmosphere?
One word: buzzing! It’s anticipated that over 5,000 spectators come out to watch the race and there is live music with a DJ and PA keeping the energy flowing. The stands from local businesses give it a festival-feel and means there’s plenty to do for everyone. The course stays largely in one place so you’ve always got lots of crowds around cheering you on.
There is a real feeling of local community spirit as the sport scene in Southend is quite tight-knit and most competitors are locals. There were over a hundred first-time triathletes meaning that the supportive vibe was fantastic. It’s all about getting out there and enjoying the sport of triathlon!
How difficult is Southend Triathlon?
As with the local 10k and half marathon, this is the race to aim for a PB due to the flat nature of the course. The closed roads for the bike route mean you can really gun it with no worries of getting stuck at traffic lights or behind cars, and the 2-lap run round a paved park also allows you to really go for your best race ever. The open-water tidal swim may well slow you down, but that’s why training is important!
The swim is certainly tougher than a pool-based or lake-based swim, but it all adds to the charm of the race, and once it’s over and done with you can go out all guns blazing to the finish.
What is there to do after the race?
There is food and drink on offer and you get given a great goody bag when you finish with food and drink inside. The race finishes quite late depending on when you started so if you’re one of the last to finish you’ll probably want to just go straight home! For those who finish before the last wave even starts, you can stay on to cheer on other competitors and enjoy the music and atmosphere.
For more information on the race check out their website here.