This iconic German race exemplifies the spirit of triathlon in a way that no other race does. Add it to your must-do list. Today.
This iconic German race exemplifies the spirit, camaraderie and excitement of triathlon in a way that no other race does. Add it to your must-do list. Today.
1. History has been made there.
The big names have raced and won Roth, including Chrissie Wellington, Chris McCormack, Mirinda Carfrae and many others. Wellington set multiple world records there during her time as a professional, including an 8:18:13 finish in 2011; the same year Andreas Raelert clocked a course-best 7:41:33 (both records still hold). Outside of Kona, not many other races have consistently played host to the sport’s heaviest hitters the way Roth has.
2. It’s one of the best iron-distance courses. Period.
There are many parameters to consider when weighing one course over another, but Roth checks a lot of boxes to make it one of the best venues at which to cover 140.6 miles. The swim, which is broken into multiple waves (no mass start), takes place in a calm canal that makes for easy sighting. There are two highlight features—the hot air balloons that surround the water and the bridges packed with enthusiastic fans whom you can hear every time you take a breath.
The bike course is the crème de la crème of bike courses: You’re either rolling through magical, quiet forests on buttery smooth roads, or you’re twisting through fan-filled Bavarian towns. It has just the right amount of climbing and descending to break up your position but still maintain a steady power output, and you get an energy boost every time a hoard of spectators appears (often).
The run course is mostly on packed gravel trail along a canal—admittedly not a scenery highlight—but it’s flat, and the last few miles take you through more screaming, beer-drinking fans in town squares. Eventually you emerge through the entrance of a massive stadium, where you run the last 200 meters in front of a roaring crowd.
3. The locals exude hospitality.
There are many events across the U.S. where locals are welcoming to athletes, but Roth is on an entirely different level. The people of the quaint town not only come out in droves to the race, they also welcome athletes into their homes and this year, 6,000 of them volunteered.
Because of the lack of hotels in the area, most athletes opt to stay with a German family in town. Homestays are an incredible way to glean a real sense of the culture and pick up a few German words. Plus home-cooked meals sure beat the typical chain-restaurant pre-race dinner you’ll get in the States.
The hospitality extends all the way up to the top of the Challenge Family: The Walchshöfers—CEO Felix, his sister Kathrin and their mom Alice—are devoted to carrying on the legacy of the late Herbert Walchshöfer, who was the original owner of the brand. You can sense the warmth from the welcoming family-photo postcard you get in your goodie bag all the way to the hugs at the finish line.
4. The activities beyond the race are better than an actual festival.
Roth is not just a one-day race. It is a whole festival of traditions that have been a part of the 31-year history of the event. The expo is massive, with multiple beer gardens and plentiful food vendors interspersed among the triathlon gear (meaning it’s actually a place you would want to hang out). On the Thursday night before the race is the Erdinger party, where you’ll spot pro athletes donning the traditional lederhosen and drindls while drinking beer. Following the Friday night pasta party (free to all 5,000-plus athletes), there’s a music festival in one of the major town squares that resembles a mini Oktoberfest. Saturday, more than 2,000 women take part in a 5K in the center of town, all wearing bright pink shirts, and there are many activities and races for the kids throughout the weekend.
5. Solarer Berg Hill will change your life …
Take the most spectator-filled hill you’ve ever seen in a race. Now add 50,000 more people—10 deep on each side—screaming and clapping in your face as you power up a long climb. That’s Solarer Berg Hill. The famous Tour de France-like incline will be the most overwhelming, joyous moment you may ever experience on a bike.
6. … And so will the finish line.
Once the sun goes down, the finish line turns into a party. Sure, you’ve seen that before, but this one is different: The atmosphere is heightened by a few factors—dads and moms crossing the finish line with their kids, a champagne celebration, top pros dancing and doling out medals to the final competitors, a ceremonious sparkler lighting for the entire stadium, a moving speech by race director Felix and the grand finale—an elaborate fireworks show with an epic soundtrack. We dare you not to cry.