What is Triathlon?


Triathlon is an endurance sport focusing on the 3 disciplines of swimming, biking and then finally running. With a variety of distances to race over from Sprint to Iron Distance and many local races being held with the swim in a pool there is a race to suit every ability.

With 3 sports to master you’ll never get bored with your training, and always have something to work on.

It is also one of the leading sports for ‘Age Group’ racing, so regardless of how old you are it is never too late to be competitive against others in your field, and with some hard work and dedication you could soon find yourself racing for Team GB.


What is Triathlon?

A triathlon is a competition comprising of three disciplines:

  • Swim
  • Bike
  • Run

The typical distances are:-

  • Super Sprint (200m swim, 10k bike, 2.5k run)
  • Sprint (400m swim, 20-25k bike, 5k run)
  • Olympic (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run)
  • Half Ironman (2k swim, 90k bike, 21k run)
  • Ironman (3.8k swim, 180k bike, 42k run)

Triathlon FAQs

What equipment do I need and is it expensive?

You need something to swim in, either swimming costume or most people wear a Tri suit. This is either a one or two piece suit which you wear for all three activities. It dry quickly and also has padding in (like cycling shorts) for the bike ride. These cost from £40 to £180. It is also advisable to have a pair of swimming goggles. Most races supply a swimming cap which must be worn as it identifies which swimming wave you are in.

If you are entering a race which has the swim in open water you will also need a wetsuit. You can buy these from £150 – £400 or hire them for the race or any period of time.

For the bike part, you will need a bike, it can be be any type of bike but it has to be road legal and in good working order. You must also wear a helmet (check out the Rules Section for when you must wear your helmet)

For the run, all you need is your trainers.

There is of course lots more equipment you can use but this covers the basics for your first race. You can get more information and advice at one of our taster days or any training session.


I’m not a very good swimmer, can I still do a triathlon?

The shorter distances (super sprint and sprint) tend to be held in a swimming pool, so if your are put off by the thought of swimming in open water, this is a good way to get started. The typical distance for pool swims is 400m (16 lengths for a 25m pool). When you enter a race, you will be asked for your swim time. This is so your start time will be with other swimmers of the same ability. So you don’t have to worry about slowing down a faster swimmer. You can check out the event website and look at pass results for the swim times. This will then give you an idea of how fast you need to complete the swim. Also with a pool swim you can take a few seconds between lengths to get your breath back.

The important thing to remember is that the people you will be swimming with will be most likely as nervous as you and for most triathletes, the swim is the least liked of the disciplines.

Triathlon – The Rules

When you race you will have to comply to the same rules as the pros. Here is a summary of the main rules you need to be aware of. You can get a full copy of the British Triathlon Rules from their website http://www.britishtriathlonmedia.org

  • Bike Helmet – you must be wearing your helmet (with the strap fastened up) before you touch your bike and wear it until it is racked in transition after the bike.
  • Drafting  – (Riding close to another competitor during the bike). Most races are non-drafting so you are not allowed to ride close to another competitor unless you are overtaking. The distance you must stay behind the bike in front depends on the race distance, so make sure you are aware of this before the race. There are exceptions to this such as the exit and entrance to the transition area. There is also a time limit that you must complete your over taking, usually 30 secs, but again check the race details beforehand. If you are overtaken, then you must drop back to the allowed distance.
  • Note: Drafting is allowed during the swim (for both pool and open water) and on the run.
  • Rules of the Road – While cycling you must obey all traffic rules including speed limits, traffic lights etc.
  • Mounting/Dismounting the bike – There will be a marked mount/dismount line usually attended by marshals , which you are not allowed to get on your bike before or ride pass when completing the bike.

These are only a summary and provided for guidance only. We recommend that you download the full set of rules from British Triathlon.