What is triathlon

What is triathlon? Distances and versions

Hello, my dear readers! Today’s article is about triathlon. From this article, you will learn what type of sports is a triathlon and other important things you need to know about this unusual sport.

Based on its name, you already have an idea that it includes three kinds of sport.

The classical triathlon is a summer sport that includes the following sports disciplines: swimming, running, and cycling. Depending on the distance in each of the listed disciplines determine the format of triathlon competition.

In this article, we will go into detail about the various options for a triathlon. But first, we will begin on how it all started.

The content of the article:


Triathlon’s considered homeland or origin is France. Around the twentieth century, there were accounts taken that competitions similar to the format of modern triathlon take place in this European country.

The competitions looked like the following: athletes ran a 3 kilometers distance, cycled 12 kilometers, and then swam across the 200 meters wide water channel.

This new and fun sport was not only liked by the people of France. Triathlon also gradually earned popularity in Europe and North America. It was in Hawaii that the first official competitions were held at the distances later to become classic in the triathlon.


The distances in this all-around sport can be divided into two conditional groups: short, which is also the distance included in the program of the Summer Olympic Games, and long distances.

Competitions at long distances are held with certain restrictions connected with the ban to break away at bicycle stages. Do not forget that at competitions in a triathlon of any level, a certain sequence of stages is maintained: swimming, cycling, and running.

So, we will sort in more detail the most common distances:


Includes 1.5 kilometers in water, 40 kilometers by bicycle, and ends with a 10-kilometer running distance. This format is applied at the Olympic Games, World Cups, and also at all competitions which are taking place under the auspices of the international federation of triathlon.


Unlike Olympic, the distances are cut by half: 0.75 kilometers swimming, 20 kilometers cycling, and 5 kilometers running. In the international format, competitions for this distance are usually held for younger ages.


The distances are twice reduced: 0.375 kilometers swimming, 10 kilometers cycling, and 2.5 kilometers running. This is usually used for an amateur level or for beginners to be engaged in triathlon.


Swimming of 3.86 kilometers, cycling of 180 kilometers, and running at a distance of 42.2 kilometers. Ironman triathlon competitions are the most special and popular in the world. To overcome its distances, an athlete must have excellent physical shape. Participating in Ironman triathlon is highly recognized in the world of sports, and the prize winners forever remain in the history of triathlon.

Competition process

At the initial stage of the triathlon competition, each athlete is allocated on an individual seat in the so-called transit zone. There, athletes store their equipment and inventory, in this case, a bicycle.

After the distribution of the individual zones, athletes are invited to start the first stage of triathlon: swimming in open water.

Taking into account that all athletes start at the same time, it is important to appear on the first meters of distance in the leading group, otherwise, it will be rather difficult to overtake leaders in the course of the race.

The distance by tradition is triangular. The standard style of swimming done by athletes to pass the swimming stage is the front crawl or freestyle. With the proper floating technique, it is possible to gather the largest speed. But after all, it is necessary to consider that competitions in water are not based on who is fast or slow. The main task of athletes at the first stage is to simply finish the lap while still reserving their energy for the following stages.

After the swimming stage, the athlete takes away the bicycle from the transit place, puts on the helmet, and goes to exit from the transit zone. Right after an athlete left the transit zone, the athlete has the right to begin the cycling stage.

The cycling stage can be the key to win the victory. There are various strategies for maintaining cycling speed. Everything will just depend on the athlete’s training and his current physical condition in the competition.

Someone tries to shoot ahead during this stage while others reserve themselves and go all-out on the running stage. The athlete tries to save as much energy as possible for the running stage, so they just want to finish the second stage in the general group.

The second stage also comes to an end in the transit zone where the athletes leave their bicycle, change their shoes, and go running the distance. In the running stage, the strongest athlete can be defined. The winner is proclaimed by reaching the last meter of the finish line. And we finally have now the overall winner of the race.

Kinds of triathlon

As often happens in popular sports disciplines, many similar kinds are formed based on one sport, but with certain differences. The triathlon, which served as a basis for several related sports, was no exception. Here are some of them:

  1. Cross triathlon/Off-road triathlon. Almost similar to the traditional triathlon the difference is cycling and running on challenging terrains like unpaved, rough, and hilly roads.
  2. Duathlon. An event where you run, cycle, and run again. It has also a similar format to a traditional triathlon.
  3. Aquathlon. A race with continuous swimming and running on certain distances.

Independently, there is winter triathlon where swimming is replaced with cross-country skiing. This discipline seriously applies for inclusion in the program of the Winter Olympic Games. It is impossible to exclude opportunities that the winter triathlon in popularity will compete over time with the summer fellow.

Things beginners must know first before they try

For those who want to triathlon for the first time, training and preparation are crucial. You need to learn how to transition properly from swimming to cycling to running for you to finish the entire race. Make your own technique of transitioning and be sure you are comfortable in doing it.

To practice your running, it is advisable to do it on the sand. We all know it’s a difficult terrain to run on. If you can manage to run on the sand, whether wet or dry, you can run at ease on any type of ground.

Also, practice your swimming skills by mastering side strokes. A side stroke is not hard to learn compared to other swimming techniques. It also helps you maintain a good speed on the water.

Another important thing is to invest in quality equipment and materials like the bicycle you will use and the shoes you will wear. A good bike won’t fail you, much also if you understand its entire features and capacities.

In terms of clothing, wear compression clothing since it’s best for all the three stages and you won’t need to change. After all, there is actually no place for you to change outfits during the race. Please make sure that it is also comfortable for you to wear, so you can move freely.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of working out and a healthy diet. With the right exercise and a balanced meal, you can increase your stamina and finish the triathlon race on your first try.

Here’s all the basic information you need to know about triathlon. If you have any questions and comments, please feel free to share it. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates. Please look forward to the next blog post!


  1. What do you think is the hardest part of triathlon. I want to know, so I can focus more on which stage should I train more.

Compared to running and cycling, swimming is more challenging. Since we can’t move normally in the water, we need more training and practice to get used to it. Swimming is not just physically challenging but also mentally. Some athletes find it hard to swim on open water or cold dark waters, so they exert extra effort to prepare before the race.

2. I wonder, do you happen to know why the order of triathlon is set that way? Swimming first, then cycling, and lastly running?

The order of a triathlon race is based on safety issues and smooth transitions. To avoid putting an athlete’s life and health at stake, swimming came first. It is more dangerous for an already exhausted athlete since it can cause drowning.

3. Do you think triathlon is the hardest sport?

Triathlon, specifically the Ironman triathlon, can be considered as one of the toughest sports in the world.