What is Triathlon?

The sport of Triathlon has been around since the mid 70s, and is increasing in popularity every year and now is of the fastest growing sports in the world. It’s a sport most people can take part in regardless of age, gender or shape. There are a wide variety of race distances and types of events, from sprint to Ironman, from pool based to open water events and now the ever growing woman only events; together this is what makes triathlons so popular.

Competing in your first triathlon is exciting, but can be overwhelming but fear not you don't have to be 'super fit' to take part, in fact you don't even have to excel at any of the 3 sports individually and that's the beauty of it.  It's also the perfect sport for developing all round health and fitness as training across the disciplines strengthens and tones your body, it also keeps the boredom at bay by the variety in the sessions.

Variety and inclusiveness are key to the appeal of triathlon. Firstly you get a mixture of environments, perhaps a lake or pool swim, followed by a cycle through the countryside, followed by an off-road run.  It can require some careful planning to get the balance right, but it is both invigorating and motivating, and the mixture of training sessions reduces the risk of injury. Many races are run in age groups, meaning that you compete directly against athletes of the same age and sex. There are many beginner and novice triathlon races out there and with over 150 new races every year you will easy find one that fits your abilities. Good advice for your first triathlon would be to start with a sprint or super sprint triathlon.

Tri it on-Cool  gear is the great part of starting out in triathlons but for your first triathlon it does not need to be a costly affair.  Here’s what you need to get started.


1. Swimsuit/trunks (close fitting rather than loose fitting as loose fitting will cause drag)


2. Goggles (if required) as most people will aim to swim front crawl 


3. Towel - for drying off before putting any cycle or run clothing on. Tip- use the brightest colour one you can find, so your transition area will be easy to spot.


4. Swim hat (mandatory when swimming in open water so you can be seen easily). Many race organisers will provide you with a swim hat which you must wear for identification.


5. wetsuit- this is compulsory at all open water triathlons to a certain temperature. You must buy a triathlon specific suit that is design to give you maximum freedom of movement and aid buoyancy.  


1. Bike which is in good working order-  have your bike serviced would be a good start. Whilst the majority of triathletes use "road/ tri" bikes, it is optional for most triathlons and some of the novice/ beginner triathlons allow the use of a mountain bikes. You may wish to have a water bottle and bike computer  attached to your bike.


2. Helmet - you will not be allowed to race without one and must meet safety standards.


3. T-shirt and shorts, again you are advised for them to be tight fitting to aid drag resistance.


  • Running shoes - worn with or without socks if you want to save time when competing , but remember to train without socks too, as you may end up with blisters!

As you progress in your triathlon racing, you may also find the following  items useful.

  • 1. Trisuit- all-in-one suit with a padded short that you can swim, run and bike in without having to take off or add any layers!
  • 2. Race belt - this is elastic, quick to put on and enables you to easily attach your number, it also means that you can spin it round to your back for the bike and to your front for the run.
  • 3. Elastic laces - we all know what a pain it is to tie up you laces in a hurry, so these will take this worry away and speed up your transition.
  • 4. Triathlon specific running shoes– these types of trainers have elastic laces built in, friction-free lining for sock free running and drainage holes to let water out.

What are the distances?

  • Super Sprint - 400m swim, 10km cycle, 2.5km run. These are the shortest distance.
  • Sprint - 750m swim (400m if a pool sprint), 20km cycle, 5km run. Probably the most the most common triathlon events, and are an achievable goal for a beginner to aim for. Maximum training time for sprint would be 5 hours per week. Beginner races generally always take place in a pool and it is a good idea to gain your confidence here before progressing to open water.
  • Olympic - 1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run. This distance is ideal for newcomers with good endurance in one of the three disciplines, or someone who has stepped up from sprint distance events. Expect the race to take anything from two to three hours to complete, and typically you need to train for 6 to 12 hours a week.
  • Middle Distance/Half-Iron Man/70.3- 1900m swim, 80km cycle, 13.1mile run. A good endurance event for most seasoned triathletes. This is an excellent stepping stone for moving up to Ironman, and should feature as part of your ironman training schedule. Races generally take 5-7 hours, and you could expect to be training for 8-15 hours per week.
  • Long Distance/Ironman - 2.4mile swim, 112m cycle, 26.2mile run. The ultimate endurance challenge! This should only be attempted by very experienced triathletes or endurance athlete, with significant time to invest in training. Typical weekly training hours for ironman would be between 13-25 for age-groupers.

Other Related Events

Duathlon - Run/Bike/Run. Generally take place in the autumn and early spring when the weather is too cold for swimming

Aquathlon- Swim/Run. Take place in summer months, great  events for everyone to take part.