Triathlon distances: Every race format explained

We explain the five recognised triathlon distances you can race, from the shortest, the supersprint, to the full distance Ironman

Which triathlon distance should you race?

If you’re new to triathlon or are thinking about your first race, you may be confused by the different triathlon distances. There are five recognised triathlon distances in the sport. These are:

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How many different triathlon distances are there?

There are five traditional triathlon distances that are recognised by most people that take part in the sport. These are:

  • Supersprint triathlon distance
  • Sprint triathlon distance
  • Olympic triathlon distance
  • Half-Ironman triathlon distance
  • Full Ironman triathlon distance

What are the different triathlon distances?

How long is a supersprint triathlon?

  • 400m swim
  • 10km bike
  • 2.5km run

The supersprint is the shortest triathlon distance and a great entry point to triathlon, giving you the chance to experience the three disciplines together without having to put in hours of training. Finish one and you’ll be a triathlete!

What’s a good time for this triathlon distance? Anything under 1hr and you’re flying. Plenty of beginners just aim to have fun at this triathlon distance, and aim to complete rather than compete, so enjoy!

How long is a sprint triathlon?

  • 750m swim
  • 20km bike
  • 5km run

Often the shortest triathlon distance option at many events, but still a decent race to get under your belt. This triathlon distance gives you the chance to really experience triathlon, so you’ll need to incorporate tri-specific skills such as brick sessions into your training.

What is a good time for a sprint triathlon? Come in under 90mins and you should feel chuffed.

How long is an Olympic triathlon?

  • 1.5km swim
  • 40km bike
  • 10km run

Triathlon made its Olympic debut at the Sydney Games in 2000, and this distance is now accepted as the ‘standard’ distance for World Series racing.

What is a good time for an Olympic triathlon distance? Under 3hrs is a really solid time. At the elite level, Alistair Brownlee famously triumphed at the London Olympics with a time of 1:46:25 at this distance.

How long is a half-Ironman triathlon?

  • 1.9km swim
  • 90km bike
  • 21.1km run

You might also hear the half-Ironman distance referred to as ‘middle-distance triathlon’ or a ‘70.3’. The half-Ironman distance triathlon is a gruelling step-up from Olympic distance triathlon and a decent challenge that more triathletes are taking on.

What is a good half -Ironman time? Race times are very individual and the course can play a big part. But, for the 35-39 group, a good men’s time is approx 6hrs, 7hrs for women.

How long is an Ironman triathlon?

  • 3.8km swim
  • 180km bike
  • 42.2km run

Also referred to as long-course triathlon or a 140.6, Ironman races typically represent the longest triathlon distance around. Complete one of these and you’d be justified in spending the rest of the year sat in the pub, telling anyone who’ll listen about your chafing.

What’s a good time for this triathlon distance? Just completing the distance within the 17hr cut-off is a massive accomplishment! But anything around the 13hr mark for men (30-35) is a solid time; 14hrs for women. Getting under the 11hr mark deserves serious respect!

Which triathlon distance should you race?

The good news about triathlon is whichever distance you decide on, you’ll still be taking on a decent challenge, and whether you come first or last the sense of accomplishment will stay with you forever.

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There are also many varied races out there, but with just six hours a week to train you can comfortably complete a triathlon. See our guide to the different triathlon distances and times below.