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Amazing race: the local sporting events to look forward to in 2021

Whether you’re a pavement pounder, two-wheel racer or triathlon enthusiast, chances are there’s an Essex race that’s got your name (and bib number) on it this year. Here, we round up some of the best to book now.

running

You know the saying: bikini bodies are made in winter – and with so many competitions and races planned in the Essex calendar this spring/summer, now’s the time to start training. Better dust those trainers off…

Essex Cross Country 10K Series

With multiple events taking place across the county from May to September – including Hylands Park, Chelmsford (8 May), Belhus Woods Country Park, Thurrock (12 June), Thorndon Country Park, Brentwood (10 July), Hadleigh Country Park, Benfleet (14 August) and Weald Country Park, Brentwood (11 September) – this trail running series is ideal for former couch-to-5Kers who want to up the pace. Expect leafy routes and some impressive finish times – many runners sign up to all five races to compete for the series’ title. Races kick off at 9.45am and cost £16 to enter.

Essex Ride 100

cycling

Attracting more than 500 riders every year, this popular cycling event offers up three exciting rural routes through the quiet villages and farmlands surrounding Chelmsford. Setting off from historic Writtle University College on 5 September, riders can choose between a ‘Cool’ 36-mile route that’s ideal for newbies; a ‘Classic’ 64-mile path for those who want to be challenged; and a ‘Champion’ 100-miler for the real saddle sadists out there. Spots cost from £30 and you can register now. Go on, give it a spin ; )

Chelmsford Marathon

Now in its seventh year, the Chelmsford Marathon promises to be even bigger and better in 2021 after racers missed out on pushing their PBs last year. Taking place on 17 October from 9am at Shire Hall, this scenic route will take you through 26.2. miles of city landmarks, undulating countryside and surrounding rural villages, before leading you down an avenue of autumn trees in Central Park for the big finish. Bonus: there’s the option to run the Half Marathon if the full route is out of each. Plus, this event is a huge fundraiser for local charities, including Havens Hospices, so sign up early and get involved. Tickets from £28.

WaterAid Hanningfield Triathlon

triathlon

Expected to take place in May 2021 (exact date tbc), this corker organised by Essex and Suffolk Water is set in the gorgeous grounds of Hanningfield Reservoir, Billericay, and offers up the ultimate swim-cycle-run triumvirate. Ease yourself in with the Sprint distance (750m swim, 24km bike and 5km run) or go for gold with the Standard (1,500m swim, 36km bike and 10km run). Either way, you’ll be raising money for WaterAid – which delivers clean drinking water to those most in need around the world – and pushing your endurance to the limit. No doubt you’ll be needing something a little stronger than H20 afterwards… but there in lies the challenge (and reward), eh? Not quite up for all three legs? Worry not: there’s also a relay team you can jump on. Registrations cost £25 for the relay, £40 for the Sprint, and £60 for Standard.

Saltmarsh Half and Ultra Marathon

Seasoned long-distance runners will love this flat, coastal path that ribbons its way along an atmospheric stretch of the River Crouch from South Woodham Ferrers to Burnham-on-Crouch. Still relatively small-scale, the event has yet to announce its 2021 date but organisers are hopeful it will still take place at the beginning of October (as it has done in previous years), so keep checking the website for tickets. The good news? That gives you plenty of time to decide between training for the easy(ish) 13.1 miles or going flat out and attempting the ultimate 52.4-mile route. I know which one I’d be plumping for (that’s right readers, I’m no masochist). 

Maldon Mud Race

Maldon Mud Race

Want to get down and dirty while you work out? Get your mind out of the gutter, people – we’re talking about the Maldon Mud Race! Running on 23 May 2021, this world-famous event in Promenade Park gets acres of press each year because it’s totally bonkers – but also brilliant fun, so grab your mates and get registering now before all 300 spots sell out. What to expect? Well, mud – and a lot of it – as you wade through 500 metres of the stuff to cross the River Blackwater (yep, clue’s in the title). Fancy dress on the mudflats here is practically obligatory and, once you’ve done the mucky bit, there’s a wealth of entertainment lined up along the river to keep the party atmosphere going. By all accounts the race started as a pub dare in 1973. Now, people travel from all over Europe to take part. Talk about mud sticks… 

Parkrun

Touched more Topic bars than trainers since pre-lockdown 1.0? We hear you. Thankfully, Parkrun – which takes place in parks up and down the county, from Hadleigh and Harlow to Barking and Basildon – does too. Saturday morning events are currently suspended due to COVID, but once they’re up and ‘running’ again (#sorrynotsorry), get yourself registered for a joyful 5km with like-minded plodders, pace-setters and pram-pushers. What’s more, it’s completely free. Weekend vibes, much? See the website for your nearest event.

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