With lockdown restrictions easing, it’s time to set yourself a challenge and maybe even raise some money for charity! We’ve rounded up 10 of the best UK sports challenges 2021 has to offer, plus expert advice on how to ace your training…
By Emma Lewis
Hands up if you’re excited that real-life events might just happen this year! Online challenges have their place to help keep you motivated, but nothing beats the buzz and camaraderie that surrounds an event in the real world among the masses. These events bring the fun factor, as well as the commitment factor. It’s all too easy to swerve an online challenge last-minute, but you feel a lot more accountable when you’ve signed up with friends for a real-world team triathlon on the other side of the country.
UK sports challenges: the training begins!
We all know how hard it can be to keep motivated for something when it’s weeks away, so how should you choose your event and ensure you don’t slack off training? ‘Pick a tummy-twisting goal,’ suggests Josephine Perry, sports psychologist at Performance in Mind. ‘You need a goal that excites you enough to focus on it, that is enough of a stretch that you’ll be willing to invest time and effort in it, but is not too hard to reach that you feel it’s too much pressure, making you give up entirely.’
In fact, performance coaches swear by an acronym called ‘SMART’ when talking about goals. It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, and you should check your challenge ticks all of these boxes before you commit. The good thing about organised events is that, by nature, they’re specific and time-bound. You just have to make sure the one you choose is realistic for you to achieve and that you measure your progress along the way.
For example, a 26-mile hike at Hadrian’s Wall on 14 August could work for you if you’ve been doing some regular walking during lockdown, but you may need a structured plan to build up to walking that distance. The internet is full of programmes to help you train for popular distances, so have a look for one that works for you.
Staying motivated for your upcoming UK sports challenge
Acknowledging and celebrating your efforts as you go will help keep you motivated. ‘Use the progress principle,’ says Perry. ‘Break your goal into much smaller goals so you get to tick off achievements along the way. This stimulates the reward system in your brain.’ So with your hiking training, break the 26 miles into quarters, for example. Roo Davies, TheMojo Coach, agrees with this strategy. ‘Reward yourself, ideally with something linked to your ultimate goal. New workout gear is always a winner!’ she says.
Need more support? Hire a personal trainer or look for training groups in your area. The tips, camaraderie and incentive to push yourself harder are invaluable. And don’t forget friends and family are there to support you, too, so share your programme with them and get them to nudge you out for that run when it’s raining!
Dealing with training setbacks and bouncing back stronger
What if you get injured, ill or a busy week at work scuppers your training plans for your upcoming UK sports challenge? Or maybe you procrastinate about harder sessions. ‘Think about where and when you’re likely to struggle and create a “what if?” plan,’ says Perry. ‘On this, brain dump all the things that could go wrong or you tend to struggle with. Next to each point, write an “if, then” plan to help you cope with the situation. Struggle to get out of bed for morning sessions? Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you can’t hit snooze. Have an accountability buddy you have to admit your lie-in to!’
If you miss a week of training, it’s a good idea to repeat the last week of training that you did, rather than progressing to the next level. This will help you to avoid injury. If an injury stopped you training, get expert advice about when to resume. And be kind to yourself, says The Curation Coach, Kathryn McAuley: ‘Know that there are things in the world you can’t control and setbacks will always come your way. Don’t let your inner negative dialogue get in the way. Think about what you’ve already achieved and what you know you’re capable of.’ Good luck!
10 of the best UK sports challenges 2021: sign up now!
If you’re ready to set yourself a challenge but you need a little inspiration, check out these events below! Be sure to reserve your space soon to avoid disappointment…
Get your team together this summer, for a safe and memorable 24-mile hike and climb over 5,000 feet across a fully supported route.
When: Sunday 18 July, 2021
Where: Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire
How to enter: visit bhf.org.uk/y3p. Entries cost £35, plus a pledge to raise at least £350 each. Note: registration is closed for the Saturday Three Peaks event.
Try not to get distracted by the amazing scenery as you do a 1K, 2K or 2.4 mile swim. Or, try a Sprint or Standard-distance duathlon (run, bike, run). Or, ‘the toughest multi-terrain triathlon in the UK’ (choose from a Sprint to a Savage two-day discipline)!
When: Saturday and Sunday July 21 – August 1, 2021
Where: Betws-y-Coed, Wales
How to enter: visit alwaysaimhighevents.com. Entry costs start at £26.
Hike a marathon along the stunning Rob Roy Way, following in the footsteps of Rob Roy MacGregor, a famous figure from Scottish folklore.
When: Sunday August 28, 2021
Where: Callander to Killin, central Scotland
How to enter: visit mightyhikes.macmillan.org.uk. £25 registration fee plus minimum £250 pledge.
There’s everything from a Starter Tri (200m swim/15K bike/2.5K run) to a Half Ironman, plus kids events, running events, a duathlon (run/bike/run), an aquabike (swim/bike), and an aquarun (swim/run) at this scenic and historic venue!
When: Saturday and Sunday, September 25-26, 2021.
Where: Hever Castle, near Edenbridge, Kent
How to enter: visit castletriathlonseries.co.uk. Entry fees start at £23.
Want something fun? Bounce, crawl, slide, and climb your way around 15 gigantic obstacles in the biggest inflatable 5K obstacle race ever! Events range from 2.5K to 15K in this family-friendly event.
When: Saturday August 7, 2021
Where: Bicester, Oxfordshire
How to enter: visit ukrunningevents.co.uk. Entry fees start at £20.
Walk or run this 100k route with friends all in one go or stop somewhere overnight. Half and quarter-distance options are also available.
When: Saturday and Sunday September 11-12, 2021
Where: Putney Bridge to Henley
How to enter: visit macmillan.org.uk. Entry fees start from £3.75, plus £245 fundraising.
Catering for a large range of cyclists, Dragon Ride offers a range of routes with varying distances and difficulties. From the Dragon Devil, an intense 304km cycle, to the Macmillan 100, a shorter 100km cycle around Brecon Beacons.
When: Sunday, 26 September, 2021
Where: Neath Port Talbot, Wales
How to enter: visit macmillan.org.uk. Entry fees start at £10, plus a £150 sponsorship pledge.
If cycling’s your thing, you could tackle this two-day, 155-mile bike ride, camping overnight in Ascot on this fully supported loop around London to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
When: Saturday and Sunday, September 25-26, 2021
Where: Lee Valley, Greater London
How to enter: visit macmillan.org.uk/get-involved. Entries cost £64 plus a sponsorship pledge of £450.
Part of the Epic Lakes Open Water Swim Series, this event will see you swim 500m, 1 mile, or 3.8k. Purist, experienced cold-water swimmers can swim without a wetsuit in the longer distances.
When: Sunday, August 15, 2021
Where: Coniston, Cumbria
How to enter: visit epicevents.co.uk. Entry fees start at £20.
Run through the night as part of a team of 10 (or five!) in this 24-hour relay challenge. you’ll cover 170 miles on roads and trails, passing through Dover on the way. Standard team members run three legs of three to 11 miles.
When: Saturday and Sunday, September 18-19, 2021
Where: Sittingbourne to Brighton
How to enter: visit runragnar.com/uk. Entries cost £95 per person for a team of 10.