What’s a Triathlon?

Triathlon is an exciting multi-discipline sport involving a continuous race over various distances in the three disciplines of swimming, cycling and running. A standard triathlon is made up of a swim, followed by a cycle ride, followed by a run. Statistics show more than 100,000 Brits tried a Tri last year, turning out at 400 different UK events. Competitors race against the clock, which starts as they enter the swim and stops as they cross the finish line after the run. For this reason, triathlon is often reported as having a ‘fourth discipline’ known as the transition. The transition is the point in the race when competitors change from swimming to cycling, and from cycling to running. One of the many special features of Triathlon is that men and women of all ages and abilities compete at the same time in the same events. While pool swims are often “seeded” in terms of placing people of  the same ability in the same heat open water swims enable all athletes to “kick off” together. As performance is compared within one’s age and gender (eg. male 40-45 or female 30-35) the sport generates a very special ethos of “racing against myself”. This allows every performance on race day to be special and a triumph in it’s own right. In triathlon everyone really can be “a star“. You get a great sense of this at our local race where everyone is enthusiastically cheered home. Distances of individual events may vary from race to race, but there are some standard triathlon distances, quoted in terms of swim/bike/run distances:

Super Sprint 400m/10km/2.5km
Sprint 750m/20km/5km
Standard (Olympic) 1500m/40km/10km
Middle 2.5km/80km/20k
Ironman 3.8km/180km/42km

The Mid-Argyll Sprint Triathlon features a pool swim of 500m, a 20k road cycle and 6.5k run (road and canal bank).

Triathlon History

Triathlon was invented in the early 1970s by the San Diego Track club, as an alternative workout to the rigors of track training. The club’s first event consisted of a 10km run, an 8km cycle and a 500metre swim. Over the next decade, triathlon grew by leaps and bounds and soon gained recognition throughout the world. The official distance for triathlon was set at a 1500metre swim, a 40km cycle and a 10km run ­ taking from existing events in each discipline already on the Olympic programme. Since 1989, the sport has grown rapidly and now has over a hundred affiliated national federations around the world. In 1994, at the IOC Congress in Paris, France, triathlon was awarded full medal status on the Olympic programme. One athlete who raced at the first San Diego Triathlon, John Collins, was very influential in the further development of the sport. Collins, a U.S. Naval Officer, took the triathlon concept to Hawaii and used it several years later to combine three of Oahu’s endurance events – the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Ride and the Honolulu Marathon – into one race: the now iconic “Ironman“.