As a beginning triathlete you may be wondering how long a triathlon is.  There are many different varieties of triathlons out there but first let’s talk about what one is made up of.

Components of a Triathlon

A triathlon will consist of three parts, thus the tri in triathlon.  The first leg of the triathlon is the swim portion.  This can vary in length from a half mile to over two miles.  The triathlon will start at the entrance of the water so participants will start the event in their swim gear.

Once leaving the water, they will go to what is called the transition area number one.  This area is a designated place for each participant to have their bike, running gear, and is basically a changing area to get ready for the next leg of the race.

The next leg will be a bike ride.  During the transition the triathlete will change over into biking gear, grab their bike and head out.  Distances can range anywhere from 10 miles to 56 miles.

Upon returning from the bike ride, the rider will go back to the transition area for what is called transition number two.  Here the triathlete will change from their biking gear to their running gear.

After leaving the transition area the participant will head out on the third portion of the triathlon for the running segment.  The run portion can be anywhere from a 5k (3.1 miles) to a full marathon (26.2 miles).  At the end of the running section of the triathlon will be the official end of the race.

Triathlon Distances

The most popular types of triathlons for the beginning triathlete includes the sprint triathlon and the Olympic triathlon.  The sprint triathlon standard is considered a 0.5 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, followed by a 3.1 mile run, however some can be longer or shorter depending on local course logistics.  There are also Olympic triathlon events which are always a standard 0.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, followed by a 6.2 mile run.  This triathlon is used in the Olympics and international events.

For the advanced triathlete there is the Ironman series.  The Ironman triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run.  The half Ironman is obviously half of that.  These events take years of practice and dedication but can be the ultimate milestone for the endurance athlete.  Make sure you are sane before you start training for one of these events!