The first thing I do after each triathlon race is to check the race results. I know that I am nowhere near the podium places, but I am really excited to know how I performed against the competition. After hearing so often: “what is a good triathlon time?” I thought I would do some research and write an entire article about it.
- One selected race per distance: As each race is unique, I thought that making averages of them doesn’t make a lot of sense, and triathletes will never relate to those times. Instead, I picked one relatively flat race per distance and analyzed it deeply. Those races are well known and might already be on your bucket list.
- “Average,” “Good,” and “1st”: To make it as simple as possible for triathletes to read and for me to collect data, the “average” time refers to the time of the first triathlete entering the TOP 50%, the “good” time is the first triathlete entering the TOP 25%, and “1st” is the top finisher.
- Best splits: For each distance, I listed the best time of each discipline.
FULL DISTANCE TRIATHLON TIME
I picked Challenge Roth (2019) mainly for the three reasons below:
- The world records for both men and women were currently recorded in Roth, so it is a fast course. You can compare it relatively easily with other races.
- An extremely popular event that sells out in a couple of minutes every year.
- It is on my bucket list 🙂
Distances: 3,8km swim, 180km bike, and 42,2km run
Swim in 2019: wetsuit allowed for age groupers.
Elevation on the bike: ~ 1200m or 4,000 feet
Elevation on the run: ~ 160m or 525 feet
A good time for a full distance triathlon is 10h28min for men and 11h25min for women. An average time is 11h17min for men and 12h14min for women. Triathletes will spend on average 51% of this time on the bike, 37% on the run, 11% on the swim, and only 1% on transitions.
You can find below the breakdown per age group. Note how constant the gap between a good and average triathlete is:
Looking at the best splits for each discipline, you can really see how small the transition time is compared to the race’s whole duration. The bike portion, as everyone knows, is by far the longest discipline of the day.
If you are interested in Ironman swim times, check my other article: “What Are Good And Average Swim Times For An Ironman?“.
HALF DISTANCE TRIATHLON TIME
I picked IM 70.3 Florida (2019) mainly for the three reasons below:
- A flat bike and running course for easier comparison with other races
- Non-wetsuit event. You can roughly deduct 2-3 min for races with a wetsuit.
- Popular US-based triathlon
A big thanks to Coach Cox, who is gathering results of all Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events. He made my life easier to gather all the data I needed for this analysis.
Distances: 1,9km swim, 90km bike, and 21,1km run
Swim in 2019: non-wetsuit
Elevation on the bike: ~ 380m or 1,250 feet
Elevation on the run: ~ 165m or 540 feet
A good time for a half distance triathlon is 5h36min for men and 6h06min for women. An average time is 6h11min for men and 6h43min for women. Triathletes will spend on average 47% of this time on the bike, 39% on the run, 12% on the swim, and only 2% on transitions.
You can find below the breakdown per age group. The age group I am in (30-34) is, unfortunately, the toughest one 🙁
Interestingly, the biggest time difference between the “average” and “good” triathlete is on the run course even though the duration is shorter than the bike one.
OLYMPIC DISTANCE TRIATHLON TIME
Before starting the analysis, it might be tempting to compare your time against the pros during Olympic distance events, but a big difference is that drafting is allowed on the bike! It changes the entire dynamic of the race: the swim becomes more important (to get a good placing for the bike), some triathletes save energy during the bike, and the run is often the determining discipline.
I highly suggest comparing your time with only non-drafting events.
I picked the Olympic distance of Noosa (2019) mainly for the three reasons below:
- One of the biggest Olympic distance races in the world. There were 4,248 finishers in 2019!
- An Oceania based triathlon.
- Non-drafting bike
Distances: 1,5km swim, 40km bike, and 10km run
Swim in 2019: non-wetsuit
Elevation on the bike: ~ 500m or 1,600 feet
Elevation on the run: ~ 90m or 300 feet
A good time for an Olympic distance triathlon is 2h29min for men and 2h47min for women. An average time is 2h42min for men and 3h03min for women. Triathletes will spend on average 45% of this time on the bike, 34% on the run, 15% on the swim, and 6% on transitions.
You can find below the breakdown per age group. A clear difference you can see on Olympic distance triathlons is that the younger triathletes are the fastest. It wasn’t the case in Half or Full distance triathlons.
The swimming and the transitions times are starting to become more and more important, as you can see in the breakdown below:
SPRINT DISTANCE TRIATHLON TIME
I picked the Sprint distance of London (2019) mainly for the three reasons below:
- One of the biggest sprint triathlon in the world
- Flat bike and run course for easier comparison with other races
- Non-drafting bike
Distances: 0,75km swim, 20km bike, and 5km run
Swim in 2019: wetsuit allowed.
Elevation on the bike: ~ flat
Elevation on the run: ~ flat
A good time for a Sprint distance triathlon is 1h27min for men and 1h36min for women. An average time is 1h35min for men and 1h44min for women. Triathletes will spend on average 47% of this time on the bike, 28% on the run, 17% on the swim, and 8% on transitions.
You can find below the breakdown per age group. As for the Olympic distance, the first places in the overall rankings will be taken by the youngest triathletes.
Here is the breakdown by discipline:
FACTORS INFLUENCING TIME
- Wetsuit vs. non-wetsuit: As I mentioned already in the article “How to improve your triathlon time,” a wetsuit will make you roughly 7% faster. If you are comparing your time against other races, consider that factor.
- The elevation profile on the bike and run portion: the more elevation gain you have, the slower the course will be.
- Temperature and humidity: depending on where you train and where the race events are, you might need to add or deduct some time for a fairer comparison
In conclusion, by collecting and analyzing all the data, I also learned a lot about the sport. As you might know, I am not the greatest swimmer – so seeing that swimming only represents a small part of a triathlon race – no matter what distance – really encouraged me. It is also interesting to see that the shorter the race, the more a fast transition matters.
I hope that with this article I could answer your question about how long it takes to complete a triathlon race and maybe even motivate you to reach that 1st place 🙂