The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer


BEIJING - AUGUST 18:  Emma Snowsill of Austral...

This week - a fun series with a post each day about triathlons.

A triathlon is usually a race, where each competitor swims, bikes, and runs one continuous effort. The first person to finish all three is considered the course time-winner. The order is often swim first, then bike, then run, although order can change depending on the length and kind of course, and opinions of the officiating body.

Some triathlons are relays. One person enters each part, for example the first person swims, then their teammate continues the run. A race consisting of a run, bike, then run again is considered a duathlon, even though the competitors do three parts. "Run-bike" and other duathlons will be covered in future posts, as will summer and winter biathlons.

The first modern triathlon was possibly a race in 1920 or so, in France, called "Les Trois Sports" (the three sports). Within that decade, several more three-event races of various distances and names followed.

Triathlon at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games

In the 1980s, different big triathlons became more popular - including the several Ironman distance races and comparable races, called full triathlon and long distance, by other organizations. The "Ironman" brand and name is highly protected and can't be used by anyone else, a topic for another post. These are usually 3800 m swim (2.4 miles), 180 km bike (112 mi), and 42.2 km run (26.2 mi). In 2005, the World Triathlon Corporation started the Ironman 70.3, also known as a Half Ironman.

Triathlon became an Olympic event at the Sydney Games in 2000. Olympic Distance is considered a short triathlon - 1500 m swim (0.93 mi), 40 km bike, (24.8 mi), 10 km run (6.2 mi). The Olympic Triathlon is about half the bike and run distance, and a slightly shorter swim, of what is usually called a half-triathlon.

The many other triathlon events can vary in length and level of organization, depending what is available to the organizers. Distances may conform to standardized organizational rules, or vary with whatever length the available course allows. A kids' summer camp may use their pool or lake and a dirt road, track, or field nearby. A town may organize their waterways or harbor and roads. Sometimes the world comes together to host international events.

In some smaller-scale races, participants can show up on race day, sign up, and go. Larger races require registration and briefings before race day. Big triathlons require qualifying times in previous races and large entrance fees.

Coming Next - Ironman.


Sixteen Miles of Cold Water
Swimming and Pulmonary Edema Part I
Swimming and Pulmonary Edema Part II
Better Stretches for Swimming - Cook Strait Update
Nutrition for Endurance Swim Training

14,000 Miles on a Bike - Herniating and Fixing Discs
Stronger Pain-Free Wrists When Biking
Freed From Pain, He Rides Again
Tour De France 2008 and Increasing Aerobic Capacity


Prevent Main Factor in Back Pain After Running and Walking
Do Military Chants Help Running? - The Jody Calls
Fast Fitness - Run Faster
Does Running Ruin Your Joints?
Spotting Back Pain During Running and Walking - What Do Abs Have To Do With It?


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Photo 1 - Emma Snowsill wins in Beijing, image by Getty Images via Daylife
Photo 2 of winner at Southeast Asian Games 2005 via Wikipedia
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.