What is a triathlon?

A triathlon is a multiple-stage competition involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance disciplines.

While many variations of the sport exist, triathlon, in its most popular form, involves swimming, cycling, and running in immediate succession over various distances. Triathletes compete for fastest overall course completion time, including timed “transitions” between the individual swim, cycle, and run components.The word “triathlon” is of Greek origin from τρεις or treis (three) and αθλος or athlos (contest).

Triathlon races vary in distance. According to the International Triathlon Union, and USA Triathlon, the main international race distances are:

  • Sprint Distance; 750-meter (0.47-mile) swim,
  • 20-kilometer (12-mile) bike,
  • 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run.

Intermediate (or Standard) distance; commonly referred to as the “Olympic distance”:

  • 1.5-kilometer (0.93-mile) swim,
  • 40-kilometer (25-mile) bike,
  • 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run.

Long Course;

  • 1.9-kilometer (1.2-mile) swim,
  • 90-kilometer (56-mile) bike,
  • 21.1-kilometer (13.1-mile) run (half marathon).

Ultra Distance; commonly referred to as 140.6 (total distance in miles, equivalent to 226.2 km) or the ‘Ironman’;

  • 3.8-kilometer (2.4-mile) swim,
  • 180.2-kilometer (112.0-mile) bike,
  • 42.2-kilometer (26.2-mile) run (full marathon).

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