Triathlon distances explained: From sprint and Olympic to Ironman

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:

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

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.

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.

What are the different triathlon distances?

Supersprint triathlon distance

Supersprint triathlon swim distance: 400m
Supersprint triathlon bike distance: 10km
Supersprint triathlon run distance: 2.5km

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!

Sprint triathlon distance

Sprint triathlon swim distance: 750m
Sprint triathlon bike distance: 20km
Sprint triathlon run distance: 5km

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.

Olympic triathlon distance

Olympic triathlon swim distance: 1.5km
Olympic triathlon bike distance: 40km
Olympic triathlon run distance: 10km

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.

Half-Ironman distance

Half-Ironman swim distance: 1.9km
Half Ironman bike distance: 90km
Half-Ironman run distance: 21.1km

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.

Ironman distance

Ironman swim distance: 3.8km
Ironman bike distance: 180km
Ironman run distance: 42.2km

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!