A triathlon is a multi-sport race that consists of three different legs back-to-back from three separate disciplines; swimming, cycling and running. The first triathlon race started in France in 1920 to answer the long debated question; who is the fittest athlete, the cyclist, swimmer or runner? The first triathlon consisted of a 3km run, 12km cycle and a swim across the Marne. Much different to the triathlons we know and love today...
How long is a triathlon?
When asking the question ‘how long is a triathlon’, there isn’t a one size fits all answer. The questions that often crop up include ‘what is a Sprint Triathlon?’, ‘what is an Ironman Triathlon?’ and ‘what is the difference between the two?’. The Sprint Triathlon and the Ironman Triathlon are referring to triathlons of different lengths and varying degrees of difficulty. Whilst all Triathlons consist of a run, swim and cycle, the distances of each leg of the race and terrain all vary greatly with the Super Sprint Triathlon, Sprint Triathlon, Olympic Triathlon, Half Ironman Triathlon and Ironman Triathlon different distances. As a result each triathlon is very different from the next, making this a sport that can be accessible to most levels of experience. Luckily for the average Joe and Jane, there are Triathlons that are much shorter than the standard or ‘Olympic Triathlon’ to get you started…
The first leg of a triathlon is the swim. This is usually the shortest leg but arguably the one that triathletes find the hardest. The swimming leg of the race can also vary greatly, from a short distance in a swimming pool, to swimming in a lake or an open water sea swim. However, the swim can be undertaken in whichever stroke works best for you; front crawl, back stroke or even breast stroke.
The second leg of a triathlon is the cycle, the longest part of the race. This part of the triathlon, like the swim, also varies greatly in difficulty, from flat road cycling to grassy hill climbs. So come prepared, knowing your route, with a working bicycle and the must-have helmet!
Switching from cycling to running is a difficult transition, with your body changing rhythm, using different muscles and an altering of pace. This is definitely a transition to practice before race day! A comfortable pair of running shoes is essential, the last thing you need is to be battling sore feet and blisters as you approach the finish line.
What is a Super Sprint Triathlon?
A Super Sprint Triathlon is the shortest triathlon distance, perfect for a practice race in the run up to your longer triathlon races. Super Sprint triathlons are also a good option if you are just dipping your toes into the world of triathlons, competing with friends or trying it out for charity. The distances for a Super Sprint Triathlon are:
- 0.3 mile (400m) swim
- 6.2 mile (10km) bike
- 1.6 mile (2.5km) run
What is a Sprint Triathlon?
The Super Sprint Triathlon is the second shortest triathlon race, one step down from the Olympic distances. The distances for a Sprint Triathlon are:
- 0.46 mile (750m) swim
- 12.5 mile (20km) bike
- 3.1 mile (5km) run
What is an Olympic or Standard Triathlon?
The Standard Triathlon distance is also known as the Olympic Triathlon, and one of the most famous triathlons there is worldwide. The distances for an Olympic Triathlon are:
- 0.93 mile (1.5km) swim
- 25 mile (40km) bike
- 6.2 mile (10km) run
What is a Half-Ironman or 70.3 Triathlon?
Exactly half the distance of the Ironman Triathlon, this triathlon is still not a race for the faint hearted, still a much farther distance than the Olympic distance. The distances for a Half-Ironman Triathlon are:
- 1.2 mile (1.9km) swim
- 56 mile (90km) bike
- 13.1 mile (21.1km) run
What is an Ironman Triathlon?
The Ironman Triathlon is known to be one of the hardest races there is to complete. The first Ironman Triathlon started out as a 140.6 mile race around the Hawaiian island of Oahu in 1977. The race was brought into fruition in the hopes of answering the long-standing question, who are the fittest athletes? The Ironman Triathlon is not a race to be taken on lightly! The distances of an Ironman Triathlon are:
- 2.4 mile (3.8km) swim
- 112 mile (180.2km) bike
- 26.2 mile (42.2km) run