The Top 7 Easiest Ironman 70.3 Courses
We ran the numbers and asked the pros so you can find the easiest 70.3 races in your area. Behold our list of the half iron-distance races with some of the fastest routes to the finish line!
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With 128 races on the current Ironman 70.3 calendar and more popping up all over the world, there is no shortage of opportunities to find a race that suits your strengths—the easiest 70.3 courses for you. But of course “easy” is different for every type of athlete. A former pro-cyclist-turned-triathlete can swiftly power through 56 miles of sustained climbs and technical descents, while an experienced open-water swimmer would thrive in a choppy, open-ocean 1.2-mile swim course.
A lot of factors come into play when deciding what makes one course easier than another. First off, the terrain. “Courses that have a lot of climbing or ‘slow roads’—i.e., bad road surfaces—make for tough bike courses, as does significant elevation gain on the bike,” said former pro Hillary Biscay, a 66-time Ironman finisher who now coaches with Biscay Coaching. “Swim difficulty can factor in with races that are historically non-wetsuit and/or choppy with surf.”
The second big factor to consider is weather. “While inclement weather happens intermittently on most any course, there are races that are historically hot and humid, which can make even flatter courses super tough,” Biscay said. (Looking for a flat half? A race like Eagleman 70.3 fits the bill if you’re mentally prepared for hot temps.)
Those factors aside, you could also judge a course based on finish times or DNF rates. But, as Jakob Ohlsen of endurance-data.com points out, “You could just look at the times of the best athletes, but this approach would imply the assumption of a starter field of a similar ‘quality’ for all races, and especially in times of COVID, this is not the case,” he said.
We used a combination of info from endurance-data.com, trirating.com, and Ironman.com with some subjective reasoning to choose seven of the easiest Ironman 70.3 events on the circuit—listed in no particular order.
Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City
Whether or not you’re into casinos or Jersey nightlife, it might be worth a trip to Atlantic City to bet on a 70.3 PR with one of the easiest 70.3 races in the northeast. The race starts with a salt-water loop in Atlantic City’s protected back bay. While not thrilling from a scenery perspective, the bike course takes place mostly on a closed expressway with an elevation gain of a mere 766 feet. (Note: Be prepared to slow around the turns.) If you’re happily distracted by people-watching, good news: The oceanfront run course takes places along the Atlantic City Boardwalk and you’ll only gain 47 feet during the entire half marathon.
Ironman 70.3 Bahrain
At the Middle East Championship here in 2019, now-Olympic gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt raced a 3:25 finish time en route to his victory, setting a new world record for the distance. (Holly Lawrence took the win with an impressive 3:52 on the female side.) The swim takes place in a unique lagoon location in front of The Avenues, a massive waterfront shopping center. Athletes then ride the single-loop bike course—which includes a cruise through the Bahrain International Circuit—on smoothly paved roads with less than 1000 feet of elevation. A new four-lap run course sticks close to the transition area and finish line, allowing for easy spectator viewing. While this is certainly one of the fastest and easiest 70.3 courses, bear in mind that if you don’t live in the Middle East, travel and logistics are far from simple.
Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta
First-timers and PR-seekers will both appreciate the “easy” potential of this half-Ironman near Palm Springs, California. The event launched in 2018 and has only happened twice, but so far there’s been a 70/30 male-female split and average finish time of around six hours, so beginners should feel right at home. The race kicks off with a rolling beach start into the protected reservoir of Lake Cahuilla. Expect flat desert roads with long straightaways and 180-degree turnarounds on the bike course. The spectator-friendly, two-loop run goes from the Wells Tennis Gardens to the Indian Wells Golf Resort, where some short, steep pitches amount to 420 feet of total elevation. As of press time, Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells La Quinta will happen next on December 5, 2021.
Ironman 70.3 Dubai
You could tell at the inaugural version of this event in 2016—when Jan Frodeno finished in 3:34 and Daniela Ryf in 4:01—that it was destined to be one of the fastest on the 70.3 circuit. The field is typically 80/20 male to female, but average finish times are around 5:45. A new one-loop swim course in the Arabian Gulf was announced in 2020, keeping the start and finish near the transition. The bike course, which Ironman’s website says “is considered one of the fastest courses in the world if winds don’t come into play,” only entails 720 feet of elevation gain. The 1.5-loop run, which includes just 100 feet of elevation, goes along the water—and don’t worry, one of the easiest 70.3 events is also promised to be packed with spectators to watch you fly.
Ironman 70.3 Galveston
This early-season race can serve as a cobweb-dusting or record-breaking opportunity on one of the easiest 70.3 courses in the South Central U.S.—depending on what your winter training looked like. Ironman calls the Texas event a “PR chaser’s dream course” thanks to these elements: It starts with a protected, saltwater swim in the Bay at Moody Gardens, moves on to a pancake-flat, out-and-back course along the Gulf Coast of Texas, and wraps ups with a three-loop run around Galveston that boasts a whopping 56 feet of elevation.
Ironman 70.3 Augusta
If some swim assistance is key to your PR, this Georgia course might be a good choice. Promoted as “America’s Fastest Swim,” a current makes for a speedy downriver 1.2 miles. The single-loop bike course, which includes 1761 feet of elevation gain, features some long climbs and technical, fast descents that break up long stretches in the aerobars—a good option for someone with a cycling background (but not a swimming one). You’ll get to know downtown well during the two-loop run course that traverses Augusta’s city streets.
Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast
Appropriately named for both the Australian region it’s in and the event itself, this 70.3 races up and down the sunny coastline of Mooloolaba. Since 2013, the top 10 men have finished under (or right at) 4 hours, and overall finish times average around 5:30. Could part of that equation be that historically strong Australians dominate the start list? Perhaps. But the course itself—which was the host of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2016—puts out a lot of fast results. The straightforward rectangular swim course is partially sheltered but does have the potential to be either choppy or glassy. There are a few spikes in the elevation chart on the bike, which represent a set of short, steep hills that add up to about 2700 feet of elevation. The two-loop half marathon is also not flat, as you’d discover when cresting the scenic Alexandra Headland Hill, but the majority runs along the boardwalk with the ocean at your side.