Triathlon races come in many different sizes and competing in a multi-discipline event is daunting enough without navigating through which type of event you should start with.  This blog is intended to help you understand the different distances and what they will mean in terms of amount of training needed to get you over the finish line.  So triathlon distances explained & how much training you really need to do.

Triathlon-swim-start
Triathlon-swim-start

Super Sprint Triathlon

This type of race is the entry level to triathlon with the swim generally conducted in a pool so avoiding the added uncertainty of an open water event.

Triathlon DistanceSwimBikeRunFinish timeTraining
Super Sprint Triathlon400m10km2.5kmSub 1 hour1-3 months
Super Sprint Triathlon Distances and training

What are the distances for a Super Sprint Triathlon?

Distances for a Super Sprint triathlon are usually a 400m swim, 10km bike & a 2.5km run.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Super Sprint Triathlon?

Finishing times vary with experience but you should be thinking of completing it in under an hour.

How Long do you need to train for a Super Sprint Triathlon?

Training for a Super Sprint depends on your base level of fitness but most active people should be able to get themselves into suitable shape in under 1 – 3 months.

Our Favourite Super Sprint Triathlon

My favourite Super Sprint Triathlon is the Dorney Lake Super Sprint Triathlon which happens over a number of weekends from May through to August.  Why do I love it?  Beautiful Olympic rowing venue dripping in history and inspiring for everyone racing here.  Super flat bike and run course around the lake with the bike closed road and no cars to dodge. Perfect beginner course.

>>> 9 of the Best Triathlon Bags 

Sprint Triathlon

This type of race is often the first opportunity for triathletes to try their hand at an open water event.

Triathlon DistanceSwimBikeRunFinish timeTraining
Sprint Triathlon750m20km5kmSub 2 hours3-6 months
Sprint Triathlon Distances and training

What are the distances for a Sprint Triathlon?

Distances for a Sprint Triathlon are usually a 750m swim, 20km bike & 5km run.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Sprint Triathlon?

Finishing times vary but the key differentiator tends to be your performance on the bike.  For your first attempt you should certainly be aiming for under 2 hours.

How long should you train for a Sprint Triathlon?

Training for a Sprint triathlon varies and will depend on which discipline is your strength but you should be able to get round with 3 – 6 months training.

Our Favourite Sprint Triathlon

My favourite Sprint Triathlon is the Blenheim Palace Sprint Triathlon which happens in May each year.  Why do I love it?  The transition area is in the grounds of the Palace with spectators able to sit across the grounds to get the best view.  Swim is a straight line without any bunching corners to worry beginners or less confident swimmers.  The bike course is closed road and challenging with plenty of bends and tight sections to navigate.  Watch for people not used to cycling in groups here.  Run is a loop course with a small set of hills to demolish.

Blenheim Palace Triathlon
Blenheim Palace Triathlon

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Olympic Triathlon

Sensibly named distance which refers to the same distances as competed every 4 years at the Olympics.  Having seen the Brownlee Brothers making this look easy it is your chance to feel like an Olympian.

Triathlon DistanceSwimBikeRunFinish timeTraining
Olympic Triathlon1500m40km10kmSub 3 hours6 months
Olympic Triathlon Distances and training

What are the distances for an Olympic Triathlon?

An Olympic Triathlon Distances are a 1500m swim, 40km bike & 10km run.  Some events have been created with Olympic plus distances to most commonly increase the bike and/or run distance.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Olympic Triathlon?

You could be talking about 3 hours of punishment here to complete an Olympic Triathlon so not something to attempt if your only exercise experience has been dashing to the toilets in the pub.

How long should you train for an Olympic Triathlon?

Training for an Olympic triathlon is certainly something you can achieve on your own but you might it more structured and simpler by joining your local triathlon club.  From a standing start of zero fitness you should probably be allowing about 6 months of training to enjoy your race.

Our Favourite Olympic Triathlon

My favourite Olympic Triathlon is the Croyde Ocean Triathlon which happens in the Summer each year on the North coast of Devon.  Why do I love it?  Aside from Croyde being one of my favourite places in the world the course is spectacular.  The swim is a super challenging Ocean open water encounter that sees you swim back from the Woolacombe bay end towards Putsborough, a challenging swim for anyone.  The bike course is a hilly out and back, arguably more suited to an aero bike than a triathlon bike.   Challenging and tiring in equal measure.  The run is 8 miles of pain.  Extending the usual 6.2 mile distance the run leg is an epic amount of climbing and descending including a beach mile in the middle to completely load the legs with lactic acid.  The only run course that I have ever walked any section of!

Read our Croyde Ocean Triathlon review from 2019 for a full brief on everything you need to know about the Croyde Ocean Triathlon.

Croyde Ocean Triathlon Race Review
Croyde Ocean Triathlon Race

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Middle Distance Triathlon – 70.3

Otherwise dubbed the half-ironman distance triathlon certainly a serious challenge to any athlete possibly undersold with the label “Middle Distance”.

Triathlon DistanceSwimBikeRunFinish timeTraining
Half Ironman Triathlon1.2m56m13.1m5-7 hours6-9 months
Half Ironman Triathlon Distances and training

What are the distances for a middle distance Triathlon?

The distances for a middle distance triathlon crank it up to a total of 70.3 miles or 113 km in total.  The swim comes in at 1.2 miles, 56 miles to get through on the bike followed by a full half-marathon run of 13.1 miles.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a middle distance Triathlon?

Time to complete a middle distance triathlon can vary depending on the type of swim, sea, river or lake & the difficulty of the bike & run course.  All in a 70.3 distance triathlon could be over 6 hours of intense exercise to complete.

How long should you train for an middle distance Triathlon?

Training for something like this really needs a plan and an understanding family!  Certainly you could preparing for a race of this distance for 6 – 9 months.

Our Favourite middle distance Triathlon

My favourite middle distance Triathlon is the Cotswolds 113 Triathlon which happens early in the season so a perfect training event for anyone stepping to full Ironman Triathlon.  Why do I love it?  The swim is a lake swim so mild water temperatures and no waves to speak of.  Plenty of corners but only a single loop.  The bike is the gem here.  Country roads and near bowling green flat.  It is a course built for PBs.  The run is a loop back around the lake and a mix of cross country and road running.  A beautiful setting for a very quick course and the perfect introduction for anyone going longer distances.

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Ironman Distance Triathlon

The Daddy of triathlons that refers to the brand “Ironman” but includes all long distance triathlons whether they are official Ironman events or  not.

Triathlon DistanceSwimBikeRunFinish timeTraining
Ironman Triathlon2.4m112m26.2m10-17 hoursUp to a year
Ironman Triathlon Distances and training

What are the distances for a Ironman Triathlon?

The distance of each discipline in Ironman Triathlon is enough to worry any normal individual attempting just one of them.  Completing an Ironman triathlon means swimming 2.4 miles (3.86km), then cycling 112 miles (180.25km) finishing off with a marathon running 26.2 miles (42.2km).

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Ironman Triathlon?

An Ironman triathlon is completed all in one day, no breaks and time for recovery.  Most races have a cut off time of 17 hours with cut off times after each discipline, so you could get to the end of the bike after 12 hours of exercise to be told your race was over and not allowed to attempt the marathon.

How long should you train for a Ironman Triathlon?

You should be thinking about training time for an Ironman Triathlon in terms of a years worth of planning and effort.  And not just the longevity of the training.  Consider building up to a training schedule where you are putting in more than 15 hours of training each week.  Think long and hard about that one if you work full time and have a young family.  Six hour bike rides with four hour runs are not easy to just squeeze into a lunch hour.

Our Favourite Ironman Triathlon

My favourite Ironman Triathlon can only be the iconic Ironman World Championship Kona event.  The first and the Godfather of Ironman triathlons.  Open water swim around the bays of Hawaii with a baking bike and run course that has been graced by the greats such as Dave Scott and Mark Allen.  In our offices Scott would contest that Ironman Wales is harder and his choice having beaten the dragon on three occasions but Kona has to the ultimate.

We hope this has answered your questions with triathlon distances explained & how much training you really need to do.

List of triathlon distances

DistanceSwimBikeRun
SuperSprint Triathlon400m / 0.25m10km / 6.2m2.5km / 1.5m
Sprint Triathlon750m / 0.5m20km / 20km5km / 3.1m
Olympic Triathlon1500m / 0.93m40km / 24.8m10km / 6.2m
Middle Distance Triathlon (70.3)1900m / 1.2m90km / 56m21.1km / 13.1m
Ironman Triathlon (140.6)3800m / 2.4m180km / 112m42.km / 26.2m
Table of Triathlon Distances

Buy Our Favourite Triathlon Products

With such a wealth of products to consider when buying triathlon kit we are often asked for our Top 3 best buys.  Being honest this varies from month to month but at the time of writing the following are my Top Tips for buying triathlon kit.  These are pretty big budget and we also help with our various guides on lower cost options in pretty much every area of triathlon.  Happy racing.

2XU Propel Pro Triathlon Wetsuit – £479 from Wiggle

Garmin Forerunner 945 Multisport GPS watch – £459.99 from Wiggle

Ribble Ultra Tri Disc Sport – £3499 from Ribble

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Billy Ferguson

Founder of Trivelo

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