If you’re considering taking on a triathlon, you may have already done a little research about the three disciplines that make up a triathlon- swimming, cycling and running. The next step will be deciding which triathlon distance is the right challenge for you.
As we’ve mentioned in our other article about triathlons, events are typically divided into age groups. This means that you will be competing alongside other triathletes who fall into the same band for age and sex as you, with the exception of triathletes who fall into the separate elite category.
Whether you’re starting out with the shortest triathlon distance, the super sprint, or going for a full ironman, you’re guaranteed to have your fitness and endurance challenged! So, if you’re next question is “how long is each part of a triathlon?” we’ve explained all the key information for the most recognised triathlon distances below.
The Super sprint distance
The super sprint triathlon is the shortest of the different triathlon events. If you are just breaking in to triathlons, a super sprint is a great place to start. The course will be challenging for a beginner but is short enough that easing into the training won’t be an overwhelming experience. The distances for each part of a super sprint triathlon are broken down as:
Swimming – 400m (0.25 miles)
Cycling – 10km (6.2 miles)
Running – 2.5km (1.5 miles)
The Sprint distance
The sprint triathlon is the second shortest distance on our list, but at some events will be the shortest option available. A sprint triathlon offers a further challenge and step up from the super sprint distance but remains accessible to aspiring triathletes. To get your first sprint triathlon under your belt you will ned to complete the following:
Swimming – 750m (0.5 miles)
Cycling – 20km (12.3 miles)
Running – 5km (3.1 miles)
For your first race, focus initially on getting over the finish line rather than your time. A training plan that incorporates 5-6 combined hours or swimming, running and cycling per week will help you build up your fitness and prepare for your sprint.
The Olympic or standard distance triathlon
The Olympic triathlon is considered to be the standard triathlon distance event. The distances for each part of the Olympic triathlon are double that of the sprint distance above, meaning a tougher training plan is needed to ensure you can complete the swim, bike ride and run. Here are the distances you’ll need to cover:
Swimming – 1.5km (0.9 miles)
Cycling – 40km (24.8 miles)
Running – 10k (6.2 miles)
If you’ve completed a sprint triathlon already, the Olympic triathlon is probably going to be your next challenge. It’s by no means an easy race and you may face competition from triathletes who are working their way up to an Ironman or half Ironman race, so don’t feel discouraged if you can’t keep up with everyone on race day!
The Half or Middle ironman
If you’ve been looking at triathlon events to join, you’ll have seen some Ironman or Half Ironman events popping up. If you are unfamiliar with these you might be wondering what the difference between an Ironman and a triathlon is – the answer to that question is simply, the distance! A Half Ironman still follows the same structure as any other triathlon distance; swim start, cycle and running to the finish line. A longer distance again than the Olympic distance, serious training hours are needed to prepare for a Half Ironman. The total distance for a Half (or middle) Ironman is 70.3miles, which is broken down as:
Swimming – 1.9km (1.2 miles)
Cycling – 90km (56 miles)
Running – 21.1km (13.1 miles)
The Full or Long Ironman
The Full Ironman (also referred to as the Long Ironman) is the longest event on our list of triathlon distances and is not one for the faint hearted! Covering a whopping distance of 140.6 miles, it’s not difficult to see why this event is thought to be the ultimate challenge if physical fitness and endurance. An Ironman can take typically between 10 – 17 hours to complete, however elite triathletes competing at championship levels will be aiming for even more ambitious times. The men’s record for the World Championship Ironman is 7 hours 52 minutes and 39 seconds, held by Patrick Lange, and the women’s record for the same course is 8 hours 26 minutes and 18 seconds, and is held by Daniela Ryf. Here’s how the miles for one of the world’s toughest sporting events can be broken down:
Swimming – 3.8km (2.4 miles)
Cycling – 180km (112 miles)
Running – 42.2km (26.2 miles)