What is a triathlon?

A triathlon is one, demanding, race composed of three different elements to it; swim, bike and run. We explain how it works

Windsor Triathlon

Triathlon is a demanding sport that tests an athlete’s skill and speed at swimming, cycling and running. A triathlon is a continuous, non-stop race that starts with the swim (usually in open water), which is followed by a bike leg and then a run. There are also off-road triathlons where the bike and run legs take place off-road.

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To take part in a triathlon you need a wetsuit (if it has an open-water swim in the UK), goggles, a road-worthy bike, helmet, tri-suit, run shoes.

How long is a triathlon?

There are a number of different triathlon distances, from the shortest triathlon, the super sprint (400m swim, 10km bike and a2.5km run), to Ironman, which has a 3.8km swim, 180km bike leg and 42km run. For those who really love a challenge there are also ultra triathlons.

 How is the sport of triathlon organised?

On a professional level, there are short course triathlons (sprint and standard distance), which are run by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) and has a World Triathlon Series, the second tier World Cup and European Cup every year. For the longer distance pros there are 70.3 (half Ironman) world championships)and full Ironman world Championships, which are organised by the World Triathlon Corporation every year

Amateurs race in different age groups, and if they’re one of the best in their age group, they can represent their country in international championships, and qualify for the Ironman World Championships.

What’s a good triathlon time?

When did triathlon start?

Triathlon’s roots started in the early 1970s with the San Diego Track Club, who used to encourage their athletes to train over the three sports to lessen the rigours of track training. The club’s first triathlon event, which took place in 1974, consisted of a 10km run, an 8km cycle and a 500m swim.

When did triathlon appear in the Olympics?

Triathlon first made the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when Simon Whitfield won the gold medal in the men’s race and Brigitte McMahon won gold in the women’s. Alistair Brownlee is the only triathlete who has successfully defended his Olympic gold medal (he won gold in 2012 and 2016). Can he make it three in a row at Tokyo?

The Olympic race is raced over the standard distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run), which is now also known, predictably, as an Olympic distance. From 2020 there will also be an Olympic relay event.

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