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Thu 24th Jan 2019
© Hillingdon Triathletes
How to succeed at: Hillingdon
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 21st May 2008

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The Hillingdon Sprint Triathlons are actually based at Harefield - something that has been known to cause confusion in the past - and the fact that the event goes Swim then Run then Bike is another of this long-running series' charming features. Even if you only ever do one of these in your entire triathlon career we bet that you'll remember it -- and we also bet that you'll keep on coming back!

Vital facts

Race dates May 16, May 30, July 18 (2010)
Future dates 2010 TBC
Race distances (advertised): 600m lake swim, 6km run, 25km cycle (Swim-Run-Bike format) plus Duathlon (Run-Bike) option on same course
Series / Qualification / Championship Status The three events make up the Hillingdon Triathlon Series (must complete all three to be eligible). Race 3 (July 18th) is also part of the Triathlon London League for 2010.


The lake at HarefieldThe events based at Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre, are probably the longest running triathlon series in the country, and have been taking place for over 20 years. The events are definitely at the grass roots end of the spectrum – one mass start, fields capped at around 100 athletes and a friendly atmosphere characterise the races.

Bespoke bike racking, timing chips and designer race t-shirts are all things you won’t find at these events, but don’t be fooled, race organiser Dave Wardle has been in charge for all of the 20+ years and, with his small band of volunteers, Hillingdon Triathletes put on excellent races – they have had plenty of practice! The number of entrants that come back year on year proves that.

Don’t think that the racing is easy because it’s a Sprint – it is a surprisingly lumpy course, and the unusual swim-run-bike format present a challenge whether novice or veteran. That said, this is a perfect event for open water virgins to try as a starter before their bigger goals later in the season. At the other end of the scale, World Champions, Ironman winners and Olympians such as Spencer Smith, Tim Don, Chuckie V and Andrea Whitcombe have all raced (but not all have won!) at Hillingdon in years past, and the event continues to attract many top Age Group athletes.

The swim

The swim takes place in a lake at the Harefield Outdoor Centre, a facility more commonly used for sailing and wind surfing. Wetsuits are advised, but are not essential or compulsory – that said, most people racing will be wearing them. Swim hats are not provided, so please remember to bring your own (brightly coloured) hat.

The swim uses a fairly simple triangular course, which will be explained at the race briefing, so there are no course complexities to remember. The course is marshaled with canoeists; to both keep you on course and safe, and begins with an ‘in water’ start. The water is shallow, so there is no need to tread water at the start. It is a mass start, however given the relatively small field this doesn’t tend to cause too many problems in terms of bumping. However, if you know you are a poor swimmer, don’t start at the front...

Before the swim, do make the effort to take a look at where you will be swimming back to – the sun will often be in your eyes on the return to shore, so it’s always useful to have a mental image of the buildings ‘silhouette’ that you should be aiming for. Relying on the person in front knowing where they are going is not a good tactic!

Your swim time will be taken just after you exit the water, so in order to get your split recorded correctly, you will need to shout your number to the timekeepers.

The run

The run course is an out and back (with a twist…) course of approximately 6km. The out leg is all on road or footpath. The run starts by going back up the road you came down to get to the centre and then turns left onto the main road (Harvill Road). Continue to a small parade of shops by a mini-roundabout and then turn left into Moorhall Road. You continue along Moorhall Road to the (marshaled) turn-around point, and then retrace your steps.

On the return leg you will take a detour; this is when you get to do some off-road running across a field and over a stile (take care…), before arriving back into transition, to prepare for the bike leg.

When you start the bike ride, your number will be taken for your split time (this is the run split which includes both T1 and T2) so don’t be surprised if a timekeeper shouts, “Number please!”

The bike

The bike leg can best be described as rolling – it’s certainly not an easy drag strip of a course. You start the bike ride by cycling up the lane to Harvill Road (where you ran previously) and, again, turning left. The lane is quite narrow, is slightly uphill, and has a number of speed bumps, so choose an easy gear to begin with.

Take care when joining the road as there is the potential for fast traffic approaching from your right. You may be required to either ‘foot down’, or stay within a coned area, depending on the safety approach taken by the referee on race day. Don’t take silly risks here.

Continue up Harvill Road and at the mini-roundabout (approx 1 mile) circle back on yourself retracing your initial ride out. You are now about to start the first of two full laps, which make up the cycle route. Each full lap is almost exactly 11km, so with the initial ‘out-and-back’ this makes up the race distance.

A full profile / map of the course is available thanks to Garmin on this link – check out the Map Player function to see the course ‘in motion’.

Along Breakspear Road you will have to ride up a steep (but thankfully short…) hill into Harefield village – for all but the best this is definitely a small chain-ring climb, so be prepared for it at the bottom of the hill, rather than getting stuck half-way up.

Once you enter Harefield, you turn left at the cross roads in the centre of the village, and you are now at the highest point of the course. The descent from Harefield back towards the start of lap two / finish line needs care. As well as being fast, the road surface is not perfect and there is also a speed limit of 30 mph in place – if a car slows you down, don’t get angry or abusive. Apart from impacting on the goodwill from local residents, the drivers are only obeying the rules of the road!

At the bottom of the hill, you will need to go straight across the mini-roundabout mentioned previously (take care), and the start of lap two / finish line is approximately half a mile away. When you pass the finish line at the completion of your first lap, you DON’T need to call your number. However, at the completion of lap two, PLEASE shout your number clearly, to ensure your position and time are recorded correctly.

When you have finished the race please DO NOT come to an immediate stop as there will almost certainly be someone right behind you! Instead, coast down the road for a bit keeping well to the left and check for cars and bikes IN BOTH DIRECTIONS before turning and coming back. DEFINITELY do not pull across to the wrong side of the road after the finish line as this will almost inevitably cause an accident.


The swim-to-run (T1) and the run-to-bike (T2) transitions are separate. T1 is on the tarmac immediately around the swim exit. Remember, you will likely only need your run shoes, number belt and sunglasses at this point.

When you have removed your wetsuit and start the run, you should place your wetsuit/goggles in the back of the van provided (which will be locked until after the event). So, best make sure you have your name in your suit to make sure you get the right one back!

T2 (“Steve’s Bike Park!”) is not too far away and is on tarmac. Entry to and exit from transition is from one direction and, to ensure it’s fair, at the end of the run EVERYONE has to run to the far end of transition and around a cone/chair, to ensure they cover the same distance.

There is no bike racking provided, but transition is narrow, and so bikes can easily be rested against the fence or hedge on both sides.

Given that the events are relatively small, there is no huge benefit in undertaking your transition in the shoe-already-attached-to-bike manner, so don’t worry if you find this difficult (I know I do…).

Other information

There is plenty of free, on-site parking available for competitors and spectators. You park in the field where registration takes place, and therefore there are no problems of long walks to the race site. You will be provided with one race number – please wear this on your BACK, as this allows the number to be seen more easily when you finish the bike section. Souvenirs are provided at each event, so make sure you collect yours at registration.

Toilets, changing and showers are also available in the Activities Centre building.

Presentations will be made as soon as possible after the event (which includes an Olympic-style podium!), so you won’t have to hang around for long. Stick around and tuck in to the now traditional free doughnuts and drinks provided. Full results will be posted on the Hillingdon Triathletes website and on as soon as possible after the race.

Historically, entries-on-the-day have often been available. However, with the surge in interest in triathlon events, entries received are well ahead of previous years, so don’t wait until race day and expect to enter for 2009, as entries are expected to close well in advance. There are definitely no entries on the day for race two.

For 2009, race start time has been brought forward by another 15 minutes to 7:30 am in order to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads while racing – don’t arrive late.

The Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre has its own website at, though all enquires in relation to the triathlons should be directed via Hillingdon Triathletes, NOT the Activities Centre.

Last updated by John Levison (May 2008)

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