What characteristics for a good iron run course?

From the race thread asking about Cascais, since answering I’ve been wondering what characteristics a good run course has?

Totally flat is probably boring, but fast. Hilly is going to really hurt, but maybe more interesting.

Tenby. It’s horrible but so satisfying to get over the finish line


Lanza is pretty much flat, but hot, trainer melting hot some years.


So you want mountainous and rainy. Interesting :laughing:

@GRamsay I’m starting to think every pro has a con, so it basically doesn’t matter.

Amended OP, it was what characteristics are most desirable rather than which is the best run course that I meant.




I loved the Ironman Italy run course. Flat, but interesting - round the harbour packed with supporters/restaurants, through town (wide leafy streets, through a historic square, lots of shade, loads of cafes etc open with folk watching), then a section through a park, quieter, cool and shady.

Tenby is good too - misery uphill slog 2 miles, collect band and barrel downhill looking at everyone dying coming up 2 miles, round town with epic support 2 miles. Repeat x 4. It just works, mainly because you feel each slog uphill gives you the nice downhill and the glory run round town.

Death runs: that slog past the airport (Lanza), that godawful road when you leave the beach (Barcelona), the lap and half of Holme Pierrpont after the two out and backs (Outlaw).


That bit past the beach at Barca is miserable, heat radiating up off the road and the fields, utterly desolate!

I thought Hamburg was a decent course despite my misery :joy:

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Those laps of the 5km concrete path rowing lake with zero shade whilst being heckled by geese is something else :heart_eyes:

ForrestMan run course was incredible, trail run on ridges and through forests in the New Forest. I saw a Wild boar just munching on the undergrowth one year :dizzy_face:

I’d probably say, if I wanted a perfect run course:
10km LOOPS, not out and back
Plenty of support
Fully shaded
Slight breeze from the side (I.e. never a headwind)
By a river / canal / seafront


Elsinore in Denmark, bridges to run over, cobbles through the town section, exposed elements around the harbour and a castle thrown in for good measure

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This basically; having loops means more support by it’s nature. Although a lot of canal/river routes don’t actually have any shade along them.v

Those that did the ‘classic’ Roth run course will know that it was actually pretty lonely apart from a few hotspots. Hamburg & Austria are the two best run courses I’ve done. Regensburg was also pretty good.

For me a good course is 3 or 4 loops, lots of support, shade and varying scenery. I like to break the run into sections, so if there is variety it makes it much easier. 21k along a canal tow path is pretty boring

Hamburg, 4 loops (I think), well supported, some of loop along lake, some in town, some through park. Lots of support. Mainly Flat, but a couple of short inclines, plenty of shade

Lanza was nice, except for airport, luckily only had to to this once. Lots of support on the course


Agreed … however, this is a wish list, no?
I do like a few slight inclines to get some different muscles being used, plus a little bit of grass/trail mix.
That hard packed yellow stuff is best.


Yes, agree that 100% flat is too relentless. A lot of the courses I’ve done have been mixed surface, especially a mix of tarmac & gravel path. The 226 was a little too mixed though, and horrendously narrow in places…PLUS THAT LOG 5 TIMES :rage: (it was a different loop to the 113, but borrowed heavily).


Lap 1 - step over
Lap 2 - step over
Lap 3 - Oh that guy in front made it look real easy to hurdle; lets try th…CRAMP F**K B*STARD!


:joy: on the 226 on the 3rd or 4th time it was like someone passed 240v through my hamstring. I yelped so loud one of the helpers looked around.

I loved the Bala middle run course.
1km across the “dam” wall, 9km of some back tarmac road, which was shaded, then 500m up some steep hill.
Turn around, come back.

Vitruvian run course is awful, so is anything in Chester - just running around Grosvenor Park in confusing directions, criss-crossing all of the time, plus that damn bridge!! ha ha ha.

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You’re reminding me of Zurich, that too was around town/water/park, some shade some exposed, a few bridges so not totally flat. Busy with support and tourists.
I think it was four 10k loops.
Maybe that’s the key.


I’m gonna say no on that, a trail marathon might sound appealing but no, just no! Need to switch off and plug away not worry about trip hazards and directions.

Half distance, sure.

I’ll check but I think they had shorter run loops this year, maybe avoided that?

Still won’t have shade, but it’s generally nice isn’t it?

Maybe I’m mad. I hate the Bolton run. So simply running around town isn’t enough, it needs to be a nice town and basically flat.

I think Wales is a good run course, in that it’s quite a challenge. You go from crazy noise in town, then a two mile hill with pockets of support, some hard to deal with sections (the two out and backs) some descent and then back into town.

It’s like a test for the sensory challenged and almost like you’ve landed in a different race, 4 times. Plus in my case, you’re going from bright lights and warmth to relative darkness and cold, lots of times. Crowd is ‘enthusiastic’ :joy:

Outlaw is ok but I don’t think great (unless it’s changed?) the bit by the river is ok but quite narrow for people coming at you, and that bloody lake! You look over the other side each lap and just think ‘why have i got to go all the way around just to get over there?’ :upside_down_face:

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