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Which triathlon should I pick?

“Did you sign up to the Ironman race?”

“No, forget Ironman, it’s all about the Challenge Family triathlons!”

“The Ironman races are too long for me. I prefer the shorter races run by local triathlon clubs.”

“What race(s) have you signed up for?”

Does this type of conversation sound familiar to you?

There are so many race options so it can be overwhelming to decide which race to pick. So here is a handy guide on the things to consider when deciding on what race to sign up for.

Race Type / Length

Want to run a full Ironman distance or are you looking for a short but sharp Sprint triathlon?

Both require different types of training and different volumes of training. Consider how much time you have to allocate to your training. It is also important to consider what type of athlete you are. If you prefer exerting all your energy is a shorter time frame, a Sprint triathlon could suit you better than a mid/long distance race which would better suit an endurance-based athlete.

If you are new to triathlon, and do not have an athletic background, I would recommend that your first triathlon is either a Sprint or Super Sprint/Tri-a-Tri distance. This will give you the opportunity to challenge yourself without feeling too overwhelmed.

Local or International Race

It is important to consider where your race is based.

There is a lot of gear involved in triathlon so this would need to be transported over to any international race. If you were to bring your bike over on a plane, this could incur additional costs, which you would need to consider. If not, bike rental costs need to be considered. Food, accommodation, car rental etc. would also need to be considered.

Another thing to consider, if you do decide to do an international race is the temperature of the city for the time of year of your race. The majority of your training will probably have been completed in your home country, and thus a significant difference in temperature could really affect your performance on race day. Remember to also consider the water temperature as this will dictate whether you will need to wear a wetsuit or not or whether you would prefer a sleeveless wetsuit instead.

If you are new to triathlon, my recommendation for your first race would be to book a local race, or one based in your country. Having the support of friends and/or family can really help, especially for your first triathlon. A local race would make it much easier for family and friends to attend.

The Course Type

Do you love a hilly bike course? Are you only interested in triathlons that are pool based? Do you need a flat run? These are considerations when picking a race. It can really affect your enjoyment of the race, the likelihood of completion, and the time you take to complete the triathlon, if that is something that is important to you.

Where in the Race Season is the Triathlon?

If you have a particular distance that is your “goal” triathlon for the year, it is important to consider where in the race season it falls. If a race is later in the season, this will give you more time to train for the race and it will also give you lots of opportunity to partake in other triathlons in training for your main goal event.


Triathlons can be expensive. Some are significantly more expensive that others and it is something to keep in mind when picking a triathlon. Triathlons run by triathlon clubs generally tend to be cheaper than the branded events. There are pros and cons of both branded and club run events, such as the general atmosphere, post-race goodies, number of participants etc. so it is important to assess what is important to you, and what each race can offer.

Some races operate on a tied pricing model, where the price increases after a certain number of tickets are sold. If there is a race that you want to do, book it early. Some races also have special offers on special days, so that is also something to keep an eye out for and some races have discount codes, so it’s worth a quick Google to see if you can find one.

The Number Of Slots Of Kona

This is specific to Ironman races. Kona, Hawaii, is where the Ironman World Championships are held each year, and is a bucket list race for many triathletes! However, unlike other Ironman races, you cannot just buy a place for this race. You have to either win a slot by being one of the best in your age group, or you have to have completed a number of full Ironmans along with other criteria (I’m not going to go into the qualification criteria for this here). Focusing on the age-group slots, different Ironman events are allocated a different number of slots. It is important to take a look at the number of slots that are available to see which race will give you the best opportunity to win a slot!

In a drive to encourage more women into triathlon, a lot of races are allocated extra Kona slots for women. Have a look to make sure the Ironman race that you are thinking of doing has these slots and how many extra slots they have been allocated. This can help to increase your odds for grabbing an elusive Kona slot!

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