My first Super Sprint race where my husband caught me on the bike section.
Ironman distance is probably the most famous distance, but fortunately for us triathletes, it is far from being the only one. Only 3% of all races in the world are actually full-distance triathlons.
To make triathlon races more comparable, they are generally categorized by their distance.
ROAD TRIATHLON DISTANCES:
|Name||Swim||Bike||Run||Also Known As|
|Super Sprint||0.25 mi||6.2 mi||1.6 mi||XS|
|Sprint||0.5 mi||12.4 mi||3.4 mi||S|
|Olympic||0.93 mi||24.8 mi||6.2 mi||Standard, M|
|Half Ironman||1.2 mi||56 mi||13.1 mi||70.3, L|
|Ironman||2.4 mi||112 mi||26.2 mi||140.6, XXL|
|Ultra||Full x 2-10||Double, Triple, Deca|
It doesn’t mean that all races will follow exactly those measures, but they will last approximately the same amount of time.
CROSS TRIATHLON DISTANCES:
Contrary to road races, cross triathlon distances can vary greatly from one race organizer to another. They consist of open water swim, mountain bike, and trail run. Here are two popular distances.
|Sprint||0.3 mi||6.8 mi||2.5 mi|
|Standard||0.6 mi||13.7 mi||5 mi|
DISTANCE OF A SUPER SPRINT TRIATHLON
The distance of a Super Sprint triathlon is 0.25 mi swim, 6.2 mi bike, and 1.6 mi run. A beginner triathlete can expect to complete this distance in about 45 minutes to an hour.
If you think about starting triathlon, I highly suggest registering for one Super Sprint as soon as possible. The faster you are doing one, the less pressure you will have. Many of those are in pools, which can help as well if you have some fear of open water swimming.
I personally was training for my first triathlon (a Sprint event) when I had the opportunity to register spontaneously for a Super Sprint triathlon the next day. It didn’t let me too much time to think about it 🙂
DISTANCE OF A SPRINT TRIATHLON
The distance of a Sprint Triathlon is 0.5 mi swim, 12.4 mi bike, and 3.4 mi run. A beginner triathlete can expect the event to last 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours.
Roughly double the distance of a Super Sprint, a Sprint triathlon takes the elites around 1h-1h10 to complete. A beginner triathlete can expect the event to last 1h45 to 2h.
If you look at some pro triathlons on TV, you can expect to see faster times (around 50 min). The big difference is that those events include drafting in the bike portion (athletes can save energy by being near each other).
DISTANCE OF AN OLYMPIC TRIATHLON
The distance of an Olympic triathlon is 0.93 mi swim, 24.8 mi bike, and 6.2 mi run (or 1,5km swim, 40km bike, and 10km run). Taking a beginner triathlete about 3 to 3.5 hours to complete, an Olympic distance is already a big test of endurance.
If you have ever watched the Olympic Games, this is the distance the pro athletes are doing. The men finish it generally in under 2h and the women slightly above this 2 hours mark. As for the Sprint distance, the pros are doing the bike portion with drafting. In most amateurs Olympic distance races, drafting is illegal.
As for every other distance, the time you will need will differ a lot depending on the exact distance and the course’s elevation.
Two races stand out of the competition here: Escape from Alcatraz is famous for its swim, which starts off Alcatraz Island, and the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon, forces you to climb the Alpe d’Huez during the bike section. Easy, right? 🙂 Here is a short clip of this race if you are interested to learn more:
DISTANCE OF A HALF IRONMAN TRIATHLON (a.k.a 70.3)
The distance of a Half Ironman triathlon (or other brands) is 1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, and 13.1 mi run. A triathlete in his first few years of triathlon can expect to complete a half Ironman event in about 6 to 6h30 (with a flat course).
Being the first distance considered as a long course triathlon, the half distance is a real challenge. In case you wonder what the nickname 70.3 means, it is simply the total number of miles of this race.
Plan your event well in advance. You will not only be better prepared, but you will also save a significant amount of money.
The vast majority of races are increasing the price of the event as the days pass by, so register early. You might also want to book your hotel or camping place as soon as you are registered. It can become quite tricky to find something available otherwise.
Before registering for one of the events, check if there is a maximum time allowed for the race (= cut-off time). If you feel that time would be too challenging for you this year, take more time to train and register another year to avoid disappointment.
DISTANCE OF AN IRONMAN TRIATHLON
The distance of an Ironman triathlon (or other brands) is 2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, and 26.2 mi run. A triathlete with a few years of training can expect to finish an event of this distance in 13-15 hours (flat course).
An Ironman triathlon is a branded full-distance triathlon, as is Challenge Family or hundreds of other brands.
The Ironman World Championship is held annually in Kona, Hawaii. It is considered the holy grail for some triathletes. The entrance to this world championship event is done through qualification, which happens at other Ironman races during the year.
Apart from the high price tag of some entry fees (can be well north of 500€), you need to check the cut-off times carefully. You might get disqualified if you need more than 15h or 17h to finish.
The fastest full distance course on the planet is currently Challenge Roth, which is also famous for the number of spectators along the course (+260,000). Jan Frodeno covered the entire distance in 7 hours 35 min and 39 seconds in 2016 and Chrissie Wellington in 8 hours 18 min and 13 seconds in 2011.
If you would like to register, you will need to be blazing fast. The event is sold out within seconds after the opening of the registration period.
If you want to learn more about the Ironman time, have a look at this article from my husband: “Average Ironman Time Per Age Group And Gender“
DISTANCE OF AN ULTRA TRIATHLON
For the triathletes who think that a full distance triathlon is not challenging enough, well, there are also Ultra triathlons. They are generally either a multiple of a full distance triathlon: double (2x Full), triple (3x Full), and Deca (10x Full) or something completely crazy like our first example below 🙂
Here are two examples:
The Monster Triathlon in the UK features a 5km swim in Loch Ness, 1000 km biking, and 50 km running.
The Florida Double Anvil is a double full distance that can be completed solo or in a team.
As you can see, there are enough distances in triathlon sport – sure, there is one for you!