What Are the Types of Triathlons?
Kathryn Kempton Amaral February 28th, 2019 Posted In: Articles Tags: Triathlon
Types of Triathlons
Athletes of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds share a common characteristic: they are always looking for their next challenge. This search for something new has led many people to comete in a triathlon. The back-to-back combination of swimming, cycling, and running is a test of both physical endurance and mental stamina. And it’s not just the athletic accomplishment that gets people hooked on triathlons! The tri community is welcoming and friendly, and races are often weekend-long events held in beautiful locations. So, are you ready to learn about the types of triathlons?
Whether you’re a couch potato in need of some motivation or an experienced athlete looking to push your limits, you want to know what you’re signing up for. How long does a triathlon last? The short answer is, it depends! There are several race options that appeal to different fitness levels and abilities. In choosing your first tri, you should also consider how much time you have to devote to training.
There are four common types of triathlons, and the distances covered get longer as you progress from one to the next.
The sprint distance is great for those new to triathlons. Sprint races involve a 750 meter (0.465 mile) swim, a 20 kilometer (12.5 mile) bike, and 5 km (3.1 mile) run. Many triathletes start with a sprint race and are quickly pulled into the tri lifestyle. If that happens to you, you may want to move on to the next distance, but you can also stick to sprints. You can work towards a goal like improving your time, or finishing in the top five of your age group!
If you are interested in a longer race, look for an Olympic triathlon, also known as the “international distance”, “standard course”, or “short course”. The distances are double that of a sprint tri: a 1.5 kilometer (0.93 mile) swim, a 40km (25 mile) bike, and 10 km (6.2 mile) run. Fun fact: although races of this distance have been done since the 1970s, triathlon only became a recognized Olympic sport at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia (Source: Olympic.org).
Next is the Half triathlon. This is sometimes called a 70.3 triathlon for the total mileage covered during the race. The Half involves a 1.9 kilometer (1.2 mile) swim, a 90 km (56 mile) bike, and 21.1 km (13.1 mile) run.
Go Big or Go Home – Full Triathlon
The final step in the triathlon journey is the Full triathlon. This epic event requires participants to complete a 3.8 kilometer (2.4 mile) swim, a 180.2 km (112 mile) bike, and a full marathon of 42.2 km (26.2 mile). You may hear people refer to both the Half and the Full distances as “Half-Ironman” or “Ironman” triathlons. Keep in mind that Ironman is a brand, and official Ironman races are those organized by the World Triathlon Corporation. There are many other Half and Full triathlons offered around the world, and completing any race at those distances is a great accomplishment, whether “Ironman” is in the name or not!
If you’re exhausted just reading about a Full triathlon, don’t give up hope! There is a new tri trend that may be right for you. Recently, “mini sprint” triathlons have become more popular as introductory races for people new to the sport. There is no official distance for these races; the only requirement is that they are shorter than a traditional sprint tri. In general, mini sprints feature swims of less than one mile, cycling courses of less than 15 miles, and runs under 3.1 miles (Source: Livestrong.com).
With all of the race options available, there’s no excuse NOT to consider a triathlon for your next challenge!
What are the types of triathlons where a different person completes a single disciine….essentially a 3 man team. Each person on the team does the part at which they excell.
Hey Evon! I believe you are thinking of triathlon relays, where a team of three athletes completes a leg of the race each. These might be organized locally for you to partake in! There’s even the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships, though in those races a team of four (two women and two men) complete a super-sprint distance triathlon each. Cheers!
How do you recommend someone train for a sprint or mini sprint triathlon? If I can compete this will be my very first race. I’m not even sure where to start or where I can compete. I’d love to hear any advice you have. By the way, I’m in the USA. 🙂
Hi Amber! Congrats on taking on the challenge of a triathlon. Check out https://www.mytimetotri.com/ to learn more about triathlons, how to get started on a training plan, find races in your area, and connect with a coach and/or community to help you along the journey. Best of luck!
This post really isn’t accurate. An Olympic distance triathlon is a “full” triathlon. The Ironman distance is non-standard and is no more the “final step in a triathlon journey” than a 50 or 100 mile ultra marathon is the final step in a running journey. A 70.3 is not half of a triathlon, it is a full 70.3 mile ultra distance race. And a sprint is not merely a “beginner” triathlon. Elite, professional Olympic athletes race these in the WTS circuit on multiple occasions all season. It is certainly easier for humans to go longer than it is to go faster, but ultra distance events like Ironman are not the primary triathlon events that many American amateur athletes believe they are. Consider that a 10k is a long distance running event (100m is a sprint, and 800m is “middle distance”) and takes the elite athletes less than 30 minutes to complete. You don’t need to race for 8 to 17 hours to do a “full” race.
Hi TJM! That is some good perspective to this article. Thanks for sharing!