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How Long is a Triathlon - Distances & Cut-off Times

Adam Nakada

Thinking of training for a triathlon, but afraid that you’ll be spending all of your waking hours swimming, biking and running? Well, do not fear, as there are plenty of distances out there and you are sure to find one that suits you.

The sport of triathlon originated in France in 1920. The very first one featured a 3-kilometer run, a 12-kilometer bike and a swim across the Marne.  It wasn’t until more than 50 years later that the world was introduced to Ironman, a 140.6-mile trek around the entire Hawaiian island of Oahu that was created to settle a debate about whether runners, swimmers or cyclists were the fittest athletes.

Luckily for most of us, there are many shorter, more common distances out there. Here's a breakdown of the four most common triathlon distances available:

  • Sprint Triathlon—750 meter (0.465 mile) swim / 20 kilometer (12.5 mi) bike / 5 km (3.1 mi) run
  • Standard or Olympic Triathlon—1.5 kilometer (0.93 mile) swim / 40km (25 mi) bike / 10 km (6.2 mi) run
  • Half-Ironman or 70.3 Triathlon—1.9 kilometer (1.2 mile) swim / 90 km (56 mi) bike / 21.1 km (13.1 mi) run
  • Ironman Triathlon—3.8 kilometer (2.4 mile) swim / 180.2 km (112 mi) bike / 42.2 km (26.2 mi) run

On average, it takes about 8-12 weeks for a novice to train for a sprint or an Olympic triathlon, depending on your current fitness level.  You will need to almost double that training time if you plan to train for a 70.3 or an Ironman distance triathlon. But don’t be discouraged - the rewards are plenty: setting and accomplishing goals, gaining health through cross-training workouts, enjoying the camaraderie, and the amazing feeling of empowerment you experience when you finally cross the finish line. Good luck!

How Long is a Triathlon - Distances & Cut-off Times

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