What Is a Triathlon?

What Is a Triathlon?
A triathlon is a sporting event that combines running, biking and swimming into a single competition. The Olympic triathlon consists of a 1.5 km swim, 40 km cycle and 10 km run. Transition between the elements is usually included in race time.

International Organization

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) is the international governing body for triathlon and other multi-sport events. The ITU is associated with more than 120 national federations.

Race Distances

Triathlon events may vary in distance ranging from the Super Sprint--440 m swim, 10 km bike and a 2.5 km run--to the Ironman--3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42 km run. The Olympic distance is considered the standard.


The ITU recommends athletes train at a minimum once per week in running, once per week in biking and one to two times per week in swimming. Improvement in the sport requires more frequent training sessions while maintaining a rest period between training days.

Triathlon in the Olympics

The triathlon was incorporated into the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, during the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. The Olympics holds separate men's and women's events.

World Championship Series

The ITU holds a World Championship Series consisting of triathlons across the globe. In 2010, the events will be held in Sydney, Seoul, Madrid, Hamburg, London, Kitzbuehel (Austria), and Budapest. Each event has a $150,000 prize pool, and the final championship has a $500,000 prize pool.

Article Written By David Chandler

David Chandler has been a freelance writer since 2006 whose work has appeared in various print and online publications. A former reconnaissance Marine, he is an active hiker, diver, kayaker, sailor and angler. He has traveled extensively and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida where he was educated in international studies and microbiology.

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