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Triathlon Distances

Triathlon distances vary depending on who will be competing, the organization planning the triathlon, and any number of other factors. In fact, the distances of triathlons do not need to meet any specific requirements. The main requirement for a triathlon is that it involves swimming, cycling and running, not that the race be a certain length.

However, there are certain standard distances commonly used for triathlons. Either the USA Triathlon in the United States or the International Triathlon Union for other countries sets these distances.

Distances for Kids' Events

Triathlon distances are much shorter for children than for adults. The Kids of Steel triathlon, part of the IronKids Triathlon Series, breaks down the distances by age group.

  • The junior group is comprised of kids aged six to eight. They must swim 50 yards, bike two miles, and run 500 yards.

  • The intermediate group, which consists of kids aged nine to eleven, must swim 150 yards, bike four miles and run one mile.

  • The senior group of children aged 12 to 15 swims 300 yards, bikes eight miles and runs two miles.

Beginner Distances

Novice adults also have shorter standard distances than more experienced adults.

  • A sprint triathlon is typically an 800 meter swim, 20 kilometers biking and 5 kilometers running.

For the Olympics, the standard distance is 1.5 kilometers (.93 miles) of swimming, 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) of biking and 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of running. This distance is mandated by the International Triathlon Union, and is also referred to as "international distance," "short course" or "standard distance."

The other ITU distances are called "Double Olympic Distance," which is exactly double the Olympic distance and "Triple Olympic Distance," which is 4 kilometers (2.49 miles) swimming, 120 kilometers (74.6 miles) biking and 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) running.

The Longest Distances

The "Full," "Long Distance," or "Ironman" triathlons are the longest triathlon distances. This triathlons are 3.86 kilometers (2.4 miles) swimming, 180 kilometers (112 miles) biking and 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) running. The World Triathlon Corporation is responsible for Ironman triathlons and holds the trademark for that name, so only WTC triathlons can use the Ironman name. However, "Full" and "Long Distance" triathlons are the same distance.

USA Distances

The USA Triathlon in the United States classifies their triathlon distances differently. They are broken up into short, intermediate, long and ultra.

  • Short races include swimming between .25 and .62 miles, biking between five and 18.6 miles and running between one and 3.9 miles.

  • For the intermediate group, participants must bike between .63 and 1.25 miles, bike between 18.7 and 31 miles and run between 4 and 8 miles.

  • Long triathlons are 2.1 to 3.1 miles swimming, 31.1 to 62 miles biking and 8.1 to 18.5 miles running.

  • Ultra triathlons are the longest with two or more miles swimming, 62 or more miles biking and 18.6 or more miles running.

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