What is Triathlon

As the name suggests, it is three disciplines back to back without a break. Triathlon is an exciting, non-stop multi-sport discipline which involves 3 sports: usually swimming, cycling and running, in that order. The section between the swim to bike and bike to run, where you change from one sport to the next, is known as the transition. The winner is the person who swims cycles and runs, including transition, to cross the finish line first.

There is only one winner, so for most people they may be average at all 3 or good at one discipline and weak at two. Triathlon is a fantastic sport – there is always something to learn. Triathlon is for anyone of any ability and is considered to be great to do because it is a great leveller; if you are good at one sport you may be weaker at another.

The major benefits of multi-sport activities include increased aerobic capacity, variation and more rounded development, while reducing the risk of overtraining limited muscle groups.

The first ever triathlon was held in San Diego on 25th September 1974 and the first triathlon held in the UK was at Kirtons Farm Reading in June 1983. Triathlon was first held as an Olympic sport in the Sydney Australia Olympic Games in 2000.

You do not need the best equipment or a road bike: with most triathlons you can even use a mountain bike.

Most people think of a triathlon as an Ironman distance but there are over 700 sanctioned triathlons held in the UK in 2011 – most are Olympic distance or shorter. Shorter distance triathlons usually involve swimming in a pool, while in longer events the swim takes place in open water which can be lakes, rivers or the sea. Standard race distances are listed below; however in many events the distance can vary depending on the route that is used.

Name of Event




Super Sprint Triathlon 400m 10km 2.5km
Sprint Triathlon 750m 20km 5km
Standard Olympic distance 1500m 40km 10km
Middle half distance 1900m 90km 21km
Ironman Triathlon 3.8km 180km 42.2km
Double Ironman Triathlon 7.6km 360km 84.4km
Triple Ironman Triathlon 11.4km 540km 126.6km

From juniors to people in their late 70’s – anyone can compete in a triathlon; age is no barrier.

To find out more or join the British Triathlon Federation click on the Triathlon England logo at the top right of the page.