Wacky Races: 7 weird, wild and wonderful events in Wales

We love a weird, wacky and wonderful race here in Wales. Blessed with breathtaking natural race courses from lakes to coasts, rivers and mountains, our awe-inspiring country lends itself to high-adrenaline challenges from the crazy to the cool.

Steam train vs paddleboard race: Bala 

Paddleboarders on Bala lake.

Bala Lake Railway 'Race the Train' event by Green Dragon Activities Ltd
April

Combining two ways to drink in the incredible scenery of the Snowdonia National Park, this four-mile race along Llyn Tegid / Bala Lake sees the paddleboarders puffing to race the vintage steam train which runs alongside the lake. 

Paddleboarders are grouped into mens, ladies and novices and set off at three-minute intervals, with the male group setting off at the same time as the train. Bala Lake, the largest natural lake in Wales, regularly plays host to other water sports including sailing, kayaking and canoeing. 

If paddle boarding seems too strenuous for a spring day out, visitors can follow the race from the train itself, which departs from Llanuwchllyn at 5:30 pm on race day. 

Whole Earth Man vs Horse, Llanwrtyd Wells

A man running in front of horses.

Whole Earth Man vs Horse event, Llanwrtyd Wells, Brecon Beacons by Whole Earth
Saturday 9 June 2018 

Like all the best ideas, this one started over a pint in a pub. Back in 1980, the then landlord of the Neuadd Arms Hotel overheard two customers debating whether men or horses would fare better running over the local mountainous terrain - and the Man vs Horse race was born. 

The race starts from the town centre and winds its way through the incredible scenery of the Cambrian Mountains, with steep inclines, mud and water crossings making the race even more of a challenge. Not just for men, there are categories for female runners and trophies for horse and rider entrants too. 

It took 25 years for a runner to finally beat all the horses, and it has only been achieved twice in the race’s 38-year history. As an incentive, there’s a cash prize of £2500 for the next hardy runner who does it. 

The Wales Swim, Tenby

Swimmers starting the Swim Wales event.

Wales Swim, Tenby, Pembrokeshire by Activity Wales
Friday 13 July 2018
 
If you’re going to throw yourself in the sea, you may as well make it this sea. The annual Wales Swim takes place in the summer months; when the Pembrokeshire coast is at its sparkling, freshest and finest. 

The race is open to all who feel able and is made up of two events- a 1.2 mile and a 2.4 mile swim starting on North Beach, Tenby. An exhilarating event, with Tenby’s iconic harbour as a colourful backdrop, you won’t be short of places to have a celebratory bite to eat or drink after the race, with a host of cafes, pubs and restaurants right on the shore.

Race the Train, Tywyn

Runners taking a selfie as a train goes by.
Race the Train, Talyllyn Railway, Snowdonia by Doris O'Keefe
Saturday 18 August 2018 
 
No equipment needed – just you, your trainers and a hunger to beat the historic steam hauled train on the Talyllyn Railway. The Tywyn Rotary Club's annual Race the Train takes place alongside the train on its journey to Abergynolwyn and back, past streams and waterfalls and through a remote and beautiful valley in the Meirionydd mountains. The terrain for runners varies throughout the course and includes a mixture of public roads, lanes, tracks, agricultural land and rough grazing pastures; so prepare to get wet and muddy. There are several races to chose from, from the Toddler's Trot to the main 14 mile Rotary Challenge race.
 
Ask your family and friends to jump on the train and the course is so close to the railway line they will be able to shout out encouragement from the window (or anything else!). 
 
The Talyllyn Railway was the first railway to be rescued by a preservation society and is now one of the Great Little Trains of Wales - perfect for a family day out after the event if you want to show off your achievements. 

Battle of the Bog (Snorkelling): Llanwrtyd Wells

A person in a pink hat bog snorkelling.

Bog snorkelling, Llanwrtyd Wells, Mid Wales by Peter Barnett
Sunday 26 August 2018 

For a muddy race with a Welsh twist; head to Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys for the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in August. Contestants don a snorkel and flippers and take to the Waen Rhydd bog on the outskirts of the town to swim lengths through a peat bog trench. Fancy dress is encouraged; and peaty participants must get through the race without using traditional swimming strokes. The event has become so popular Lonely Planet described it as one of the 50 must-do events in the world. The weekend’s festivities also include the World Bog Snorkelling Triathlons – a 13km run followed by a 60m bog snorkel, finishing with a 19km mountain bike ride. 

World Bathtubbing Championships, Abersoch

Participants in a bathtubbing race.

World Bathtubbing Championships by Green Dragon Activities
2018 date TBC 

The premise for this race is simple: all you need is a bathtub, an open water location and a paddle. Once you’re up and tubbing, the race is open to groups or individuals and is just 100m long, so bring along a rubber duck as your mascot and take your chance to become a World Champion. 

Organisers Green Dragon Activities will be publishing the event details soon. 

IRONMAN Wales, Tenby 

Cyclists and runners in Tenby.

IRONMAN Wales, Tenby, Pembrokeshire by IRONMAN Wales
Sunday 9 September 2018

Regarded as one of the toughest events of its kind, IRONMAN Wales more than makes up for its brutal nature with some of the best scenery in the world to distract its tough participants. Taking in a two-lap swim from North Beach Tenby out into Carmarthen Bay, followed by a bike course through the scenic countryside of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the running leg ends the race through the medieval walled town. The winner of a host of awards in 2017 including Best Host City Experience and Best Race Venue, IRONMAN Wales is a bucket-list experience for any keen athlete.