Updated: Apr 13, 2021
So you're thinking about signing up to a triathlon but you're not sure what distance a triathlon is.
Triathlons come in a number of different distances, so I have complied a quick summary of the commonly available distances.
Super-Sprint / Tri-a-tri
Swim: around 400m
Bike: around 10km
Run: around 3km
This can vary by race
If you are completely new to triathlon and feel a little nervous, a super sprint triathlon could be the perfect place to start! It will give you the opportunity to experience the three disciplines together whilst not having to put in tonnes of time for training and not having to complete a distance that you might not be ready for/feel confident completing just yet. Not all races will have a super-sprint option, however as the popularity of triathlons increases, the number of events that are offering this race distance has started to increase.
Most first-time triathletes will start with a sprint triathlon. It’s enough of a challenge whilst still remaining accessible. This is also a great race distance for people with busy lives who cannot allocate large amounts of time to train, but who also have an ambition to complete a triathlon.
This race is not just for the newbies though! Many regular triathletes will also take part in these races too, especially those that prefer faster paced and less endurance focused races.
Olympic / Standard
The Olympic distance, also known as the standard distance triathlon, is usually the race that people graduate to once they start to dream of doing longer, more endurance based, races. It gives you the best of both worlds – it’s intense enough to allow you to push in each discipline, but long enough that you also need to consider your endurance and nutrition to ensure you perform to the best of your ability and avoid burnout or hitting the wall.
Middle Distance / Half Ironman
Run: 21.1km (Half Marathon)
The middle-distance race, also referred to as a half ironman distance, or a 70.3 (because of the number of miles covered in this race) is quickly becoming more and more popular in the triathlon world. A significant amount of time will be required to train for this race, however, is shouldn’t take up all of your free time and it should allow you to still balance family time alongside training.
Full Distance / Ironman Distance
Run: 42.2km (Full Marathon)
The big one! The 140.6. The IRONMAN! This is a whole day endurance event. Unlike the sprint triathlon, you will need to pace yourself as you will be drawing on your aerobic capacity and little to no anaerobic capacity.
Do not underestimate the amount of training required for this. This is a commitment and it’s useful to have a chat with you significant other before you embark on an Ironman journey. For this race, you will need to focus on both training and nutrition.
But once you complete an Ironman event, you can officially call yourself an Ironman, and continue to tell anyone that is willing to listen that they are officially in the presence of an Ironman!
There are also ultra-distance triathlons. Essentially, they are anything longer than an Ironman distance triathlon. They can sometimes roll onto several days, sometimes with disciplines split day by day.