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24 Aug 2024
Tallinn
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Estonia

Let’s race… IRONMAN Tallinn

From the best spots for your taper week training sessions, to the key things you need to know about the course. And the must-see places to visit for your post-race celebrations. Our IRONMAN Tallinn race guide tells you everything you need to know about racing this popular Nordic full distance triathlon.
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Jenny Lucas-Hill

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Thinking of adding IRONMAN Tallinn to your race calendar? Long course age-group triathlete Jenny Lucas-Hill explores everything this Nordic favourite has to offer, from the course's PB potential, to the city sights you can't miss. With some inside tips from pro triathlete Kat Matthews (who is set to race at the 2024 70.3 event) and two IRONMAN Tallinn age-group finishers, our race guide tells you everything you need to know to have your best race yet in Estonia.

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Estonia has the largest number of triathletes per capita in the world. So it’s perhaps no surprise that IRONMAN Tallinn is known as a race created by triathletes, for triathletes. Set against the stunning background of impressive medieval architecture, blending the old with the new. This compact, coastal city sets the scene for fast times and offers an epic festival of triathlon atmosphere, with an IRONKIDS event and a charity ‘Move for Ukrainian Triathletes’ providing opportunities for your whole family/support crew to get active over race weekend.

Offering up 40 slots for the 2025 IRONMAN World Championships in Nice for men and Kona for women, Tallinn is a strong contender for your end of summer race choice.

A triathlon festival awaits. Start your journey to the IRONMAN Tallinn start line.

Location - History, culture and beach vibes packed into a green, compact city

Old meets new. Coastal charm meets cosmopolitan bustle. Estonia’s capital of Tallinn is a compact city filled with culture, contrasts and heritage. Head to the Old Town and you’ll be met with traditional medieval architecture, lively cafes and cobbled streets. Wander just a stone’s throw away and you’ll find the business district, with modern skyscapes, luxury hotels and shopping centres. And just a short trip out of the city centre and you’ll find yourself enjoying sandy beaches and abundant green spaces with a stunning view of the city skyline – and the sunset – over the sea.

The race itself starts with a swim in Lake Harku – a relief for any triathletes put off at the prospect of swimming in the Baltic sea. While the bike course takes you on a tour of the surrounding countryside, before you return to the city for an incredibly fast run course along Tallinn Bay.

Easy to travel to, whether you’re arriving by plane, train or boat. And easy to get around thanks to the city’s compact nature – and free public transport for athletes over the race weekend. IRONMAN Tallinn is an ideal race, whether you’re looking for a super-fast time or a city break race-cation.

Athlete & spectator accessibility

IRONMAN Tallinn welcomes athletes with disabilities, though it is worth knowing there is a specific entry process so you might need to contact the organiser via tallin@ironman.com with any questions.

For spectators, the triathlon festival competition centre in Rocca al Mare is accessible. But the swim start area features a sandy beach which is worth taking into consideration. Spectators with disabilities may contact the race organiser in advance to arrange assistance if they would like to watch the swim start.

Why race... IRONMAN Tallinn

Fast, flat courses. Smooth roads. Plus a great atmosphere and scenery to boot. We caught up with some previous IRONMAN Tallin age-group finishers to find out why you should be adding a trip to Estonia to your summer to-race list.

1
Stunning scenery with coast, countryside and city views
2
Next-level on course support from crowds, volunteers and locals
3
A race for athletes, by athletes with superb organisation

Course - Fast roads and beautiful scenery

From the waters of Lake Harku to the peaceful greenery of the forest and the energy of the city centre. The course at IRONMAN Tallinn gives you a flavour of everything this city has to offer. With smooth road surfaces and a fast, flat course profile. A trip to Estonia could see you coming home with a new PR time, as well as the usual finishers’ shirt and bragging rights.

Swim - 3.8km

Start your day with a two-lap swim course in the waters of Lake Harku, broken up by an Aussie exit at Tallinna Veemotoklubi. The water temperature is typically around 18-20 degrees Celsius, meaning you’re more than likely to be allowed to wear a wetsuit. While there are plenty of buoys in the water to keep you on course, it’s still worth doing lots of open water prep in your training says top PRO IRONMAN triathlete Kat Matthews: “I would really advise planning and committing to the extra time and effort to do one of your swims every week in open water, aim for at least 3 OW practice sessions before the race, with wetsuit or without, covering the race distance/time.”

BIke - 180km

“The bike is in the forest of the country and it’s like cycling in a fairytale” says multiple IRONMAN Tallin age-group finisher, Jenny Boulmeti. After leaving T1 at Lake Harku, you’ll head off on a three-lap course taking you through the countryside of Tallin’s southerly villages before heading back towards the city. With just 190m of elevation gain on each lap, a fast bike split will be within reach – as long as the weather plays ball.

Run - 42.2km

Tallinn features a split transition, so you’ll dismount your bike back in the city. The run course is “one of the fastest in the world” according to the race organisers and it’s easy to see why. The 4-lap course takes you on a fairly straight out and back, from Rocca al Mare to the Stroomi Beach. Stunning views of Tallinn Bay and a buzzing atmosphere from the spectators will keep you motivated all the way to the finish line. “You can tell it’s a race for athletes, by athletes,” says AG finisher Chris Wild. “The volunteers and locals really get behind the events too.”

Qualification

IRONMAN Tallinn will offer up 40 slots for the 2025 IRONMAN World Championships in Nice for men and Kona for women. If you're wondering what finish time you might need to aim for to get your qualification slot, we've taken a look at the fastest and slowest times in each age group that would have secured IRONMAN World Championship qualification places at last year's event, before any slots were rolled down. Where an age group is missing from the list, no athletes in that AG participated in the race.

Age Group
places
Fastest time
slowest time
18-24
1
09:43:50
25-29
1
08:59:17
30-34
2
08:47:11
09:10:41
35-39
2
09:16:46
09:41:53
40-44
2
08:42:45
09:21:48
45-49
2
08:52:16
09:43:55
50-54
2
09:32:41
09:46:27
55-59
1
10:35:55
60-64
1
11:09:26
65-69
1
14:20:05
Age Group
places
Fastest time
slowest time
18-24
1
13:10:02
25-29
2
10:39:32
11:39:33
30-34
3
10:43:10
12:12:20
35-39
4
09:45:34
11:19:44
40-44
3
09:50:48
10:59:21
45-49
5
10:46:47
11:56:11
50-54
3
10:59:48
11:20:18
55-59
1
11:41:53
60-64
1
12:24:37
65-69
1
16:08:17

Race training & prep

As you build up your training for IRONMAN Tallinn, a key thing to focus on is dialling in your aero position on the bike. Pro triathlete Kat Matthews, who took the win at IRONMAN 70.3 Tallinn in 2020 and will be returning to race again in 2024, says: “The bike course is very fast so really considering your aerodynamics is important and will save you “free” time, many minutes!”

When it comes to ticking off those final sessions to sharpen up during race week, Tallinn provides tapering triathletes with plenty of opportunities for stress-free swimming, cycling and running. The city has a number of pedestrian routes and cycle paths which connect different parts of the city. You’ll also find bicycle repair stations, public water taps and smart bicycle racks are a regular feature in this forward-thinking city.

Take a short trip south of the city and you’ll find Männiku – a popular open water swimming spot. Head to Kadrioru Park for a run and you can also explore the stunning gardens and Baroque architecture – a great way to forget about those pre-race nerves. Or run along the Pirita Promenade for amazing beach views. If the cycle paths of the city are a little too crowded for tuning up your TT bike legs, head to Reidi Road.

You can also join the “IRONMAN Estonia Athletes” Facebook group to connect with fellow competitors and support each other in the build-up to race day.

Travel & accommodation

While Estonia might feel like a slightly road-less-travelled destination compared to other European races on the circuit. It’s surprisingly easy to travel to – whether you’re coming by plane, or by boat. The airport is only a couple of miles away from the city centre. And during race week, registered athletes participating in the race will also get a free pass for the extensive public transport network. The city itself is compact enough that it’s also easy to explore on foot.

It’s also worth knowing that IRONMAN Tallin provide shuttle buses from Tallinn City centre to get to check-in/registration pre-race. And to the swim start on race morning.

Accommodation options are plentiful in Tallinn with a huge range of hotels to suit every taste and budget. Athletes can also get special discounted rates at the Tallink City Hotel, Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel and Tallink Express Hotel, or the Original Sokos Hotel Viru (discount codes available on the IRONMAN Tallin race website).

If you prefer to self-cater, you’ll also find a large number of stylish Air BnB apartments to rent out for a home-from-home pre-race build up.

Spectators - Be part of the race day party

IRONMAN Tallinn offers up plenty of opportunities for spectators to soak up the race day atmosphere and be part of the action. The day before the full IRONMAN race, kids and grown-up support crews alike have the opportunity to get active with the IRONKIDS event, and for the second year in a row a family-friendly charity event: “Move for Ukrainian Triathletes.” Participants can run or walk to show their support for young Ukrainian triathletes.

The city’s compact nature makes it easy for spectators to get around on race day to support their athlete – and catch a glimpse of the PROs in action. Head down to Lake Harku to watch the swim and see your athlete heading out on the bike. The Rocca al Mare race centre will be a real focal point throughout the day. From here you’ll see athletes on each of the bike laps – and as they come in for the finish. You’ll also have a prime spot for the finish line party. There’s also plenty of restaurants and shops close by, plus the Tallinn Zoo across the street to help pass the time.

For a more relaxed vibe, take a picnic up to Stroomi Beach. You’ll see the athletes around the halfway mark of each lap, so it’s a great family-friendly spot to chill out and support the runners as they pass by.

Race-cation - A compact city, bursting with things to see and do

Tallinn might be a compact city, but it’s packed full of things to see and do. So it’s well worth staying an extra few days to recover from your race and make the most of everything this city has to offer.

The Old Town is UNESCO World Heritage-listed, and if you take the time to wander the winding cobblestoned streets you’ll see why. Gothic spires, medieval architecture and grand churches set the background for lively café culture – including Maiasmokk, the city’s oldest café which opened in 1864. Head up to the viewing platforms at Toompea Hill and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the city.

For a modern contrast, head to the Noblessner seafront quarter. Formerly closed to the public for ship building, this area has undergone rapid redevelopment. These days you’ll find a vibrant scene, with everything ranging from the Kai Art Center and the taproom of Estonia’s most popular brewery, Põhjala. To restaurant 180°, founded by Michelin starred chef Matthias Diether.

It’s also worth visiting Telliskivi Creative City, where repurposed industrial buildings are now home to indoor shopping streets and packed with independent stores, restaurants, art exhibitions, alternative theatre and the popular Balti Jaama Market – a must-visit for foodies. By day it’s a family-friendly hub of Bohemia. And by night the clubs and bars come alive, making it a great place for those post-race celebrations.

For a spot of relaxation after all that sight-seeing, head to Pirita where you can kick back at the beach, enjoy the adventure park or rent a paddle boat. A few kilometres further out of the city and you’ll discover Viimsi ‘the peninsula of contrasts’ – with islands, old fisherman’s cottages next to modern buildings and an abundance of trails, rocky beaches and forests to explore.

A triathlon festival awaits. Start your journey to the IRONMAN Tallinn start line.

Be part of a celebration in this stunning Nordic country, bringing together the historic and the modern. Experience fast courses and an incredible atmosphere at a race created by triathletes, for triathletes.

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