Triathlon vs Ironman – UPDATED 2021 – Ultimate Guide
New people to the sport of triathlon often get confused with the difference or distance between a triathlon vs Ironman.
Because Ironman has been marketed so well over the past years the brand Ironman has become a constant conversation within the fitness community worldwide.
Many newcomers to the sport of triathlon have heard of an Ironman but don’t have an understanding of the other distance events in triathlon.
To sum this up in a single sentence, All Ironman events are classed as triathlons, but not all triathlon events are classed as an Ironman.
Triathlon vs Ironman – The Difference
A triathlon is an event that consists of three sports or disciplines put together and completed after one another. They are separated by “transitions” which allow the athlete to remove their wetsuit, pick up their bike, and put on their running shoes.
Triathlon first originated in France in the 1920s where the goal was to find who is the fittest athlete between a cyclist, runner, and a swimmer.
Since then triathlons have been split into multiple event distances:
– Sprint Distance
– Olympic Distance
– Half Ironman Distance
– Ironman Distance
– Ultra Ironman Distance
Ironman triathlon technically is a by-product of triathlon which originated in the later stages of 1978. The first triathlon started with only 15 participants. Because of the difficulty of completing the distance, the first person to cross the finish line would be called an Ironman.
Since then, the name has now been trademarked by Ironman. They have also gone on the organize other distance events such as Ironman 70.3 under their brand.
Although Ironman is one of the biggest triathlon event organizers, but there are still other Iron distance events around the world, they just aren’t run by the Ironman corporation, yet they still cover the same distance.
Ironman vs Triathlon length
The length of an Ironman vs triathlon depends on the distance you choose to race. Each distance requires relevant training and in the shorter distances, the transition can also play a major factor in the results.
The distance of an Ironman Triathlon:
2.4 mile / 3.8 km swim
112 mile / 180.2 km bike
26.2 mile / 42.2 km run
As you can see an Ironman triathlon is a fixed distance while a triathlon has multiple distances.
The distance of a Sprint Triathlon:
0.5 mile / 750m swim
12.4 mile / 20 km bike
3.1 mile / 5 km run
The distance of an Olympic Triathlon:
0.93 mile / 1.5 km swim
24.8 mile / 40 km bike
6.2 mile / 10 km run
The distance of a Half-Ironman:
1.2 mile / 1.9 km swim
56 mile / 90 km bike
13.1 mile / 21.1 km run
26.2 mile / 42.2 km run
Ironman vs Triathlon Training
Ironman vs Triathlon training can vary greatly depending on the event you have entered. The Ironman distance event covers many more miles and often can take athletes up to 16 hours to complete. This means the preparation can take upwards of 1 year to be ready compared to that of a sprint distance which can be done on just a few months of training.
It is important regardless of the event that you prepare yourself well in advance and if your goal is to complete the Ironman distance, do yourself a favor and try to complete some of the shorter events beforehand.