Which Triathlon Distance Should I Race? – 2021

In recent years triathlon participation has been at an all-time high especially in countries such as the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. With recent events preventing many events around the world we should still expect to see this growth continue in the coming years.

Since triathlon has been in heavy demand, this is great news for participants, as many new races have been added to the calendar each year. While some of these smaller races may disappear after this year’s cancellations, there are still many triathlon races for people to choose from.

While Ironman is definitely on top of the list for well know triathlon events, there are several distances to choose from and distances to suit different experience and skill levels.

The four most common triathlon distances are:

Event Swim Bike Run 
Sprint Distance  500 – 800m   10 – 20km  2.5km – 5km 
Olympic Distance  1500m  40km  10km
Half Ironman  1900m  90km  21.1km
Ironman  3800m  180km  42.2km


Which Triathlon Distance is Best For You?

If you are new to the sport of triathlon, competing across three sports to some may feel unusual and often overwhelming. Starting with one of the shorter distances may help you “dip your feet in the water” and give you a taste of the sport. The sprint distance allows newbie triathletes to be able to complete their first triathlon within a few short months. This also allows them to complete the event with basic equipment and some simple training.

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Since most sprint triathlons are geared towards more beginner triathletes you will find they offer much more beginner-friendly and sometimes offer more assistance throughout the course.

If you have a background in other endurance sports, such as running, cycling, or swimming, you may find you can skip past the sprint distance and try your hand over the Olympic distance event.

which triathlon distance should you race?

How Much Time is Needed to Complete a Triathlon?

Before making a decision on the race distance you need to know how much time you can dedicate to triathlon training. Lifestyle, background, and other things should be considered before choosing the triathlon distance you want to complete in.

As you move up in triathlon distance expect that more training and time are required. This means you often include more than one training session a day. So planning ahead with your calendar will give you an idea if a longer distance triathlon is feasible or not.

Knowing the time it takes to train for each distance is something you should know before getting into triathlon. While the time varies depending on your background and fitness, there are some general figures that can help you give an estimated idea.

Event Weeks Days Per Week Time Per Week
Sprint Distance    8 – 12 Weeks  4 – 6 Days  4 – 5 Hours Per Week
Olympic Distance  12 – 16 Weeks  4 – 6 Days  6 – 7 Hours Per Week
Half Ironman  16 – 20 Weeks  5 – 7 Days  8 – 10 Hours Per Week
Ironman  20 – 24 Weeks  6 – 7 Days  10+ Hours Per Week
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Equipment Needed For a Triathlon

Equipment Needed For a Triathlon

You may have started to follow the sport of triathlon, and all you see if flash triathlon bikes, tons of specific equipment, and wondering if the equipment is a barrier to entry? This is often no the case, you will see hybrid and mountain bikes used in the shorter distance events.

When starting out triathlon try to keep your gear as simple as possible and choose the shorter distance event before you go investing in any specific equipment.

Try to test out different bikes (road or time trial) and borrow a friend’s wetsuit. AS you progress through each distance, start looking at investing in the right triathlon equipment. this will help you become not only faster but help with comfort over the distance.

How Much Does a Triathlon Event Cost?

Triathlon is not a cheap sport. From the cost of equipment to the time needed for both training and racing, it can often put newbies off the sport.
Triathlon often requires travel to events and also a hefty registration price to go with it. Most events range from $100-$1,000 depending on the distance of the event. Longer distances such as an Ironman often cost double or even three times more than that of a sprint distance triathlon. This is because of road closures, insurance, security, and logistics.

Once you start adding up the cost of entry, equipment, and other essential things like a triathlon coach, nutrition, and equipment maintenance, triathlon becomes a pretty damn expensive sport.

Remember when you are choosing the right triathlon distance take into consideration no just the time the training takes but also the financial obligations that go with it.

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Pick a Triathlon Distance to Suit You

Remember to pick events that suit your goals and strengths. Endurance events primarily require athletes to manage the distance over speed. So try to build your triathlon distance around your goals from the beginning. Perhaps you are looking to complete your first triathlon, or maybe to complete an Ironman. If both your budget and time allow you to complete shorter distances first, it will help you grow confidence in your ability much faster.

While there is no set way in choosing the triathlon distance you should race, it is certainly important to plan ahead and consider the factors above so you can complete your distance in the best possible way.

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