I get a lot of questions from friends and clients who are thinking about doing a triathlon, but don’t think they can do one. Of course you can! Anyone can do a triathlon!
First, let’s back up and start from the beginning. The sport of triathlon is actually a multisport competition of three consecutive sports: swimming, biking, and running. There are a few variations of the sport though, such as duathlons (run-bike-run), aquabike (swim-bike), and Xterra [swim (sometimes kayak)-mountain bike-trail run].
There are several triathlon race distances:
- Sprint – 750 meters (~0.5 miles; can vary) swim, 20km (~10 miles; can vary) bike, 5k (3.1 miles) run
- Olympic – 1.5km (0.93 mile) swim, 40km (25 miles) bike, 10km (6.2 miles) run
- Half-Ironman or 70.3 – 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
- Ironman 0r 140.6 – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
The first modern-day triathlon event was held in Mission Bay, San Diego, California, on September 25, 1974. The race was sponsored by the San Diego Track Club and had 46 participants. The first modern-day long course event, later named Ironman, was the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon. The idea of the Ironman was conceived shortly after the 1977 Oahu Perimeter Relay race with many participants from the Mid-Pacific Road Runners and Waikiki Swim Club, whose members would often debate if swimmers or runners were the most “fittest” athletes. US Navy Commander would sometimes argue that cyclists were the fittest because recently Sports Illustrated declared Belgian cyclist, Eddy Merckx, had the highest maximum oxygen uptake. Collins, who participated with his wife in several of the Mission Bay triathlons in San Diego, suggested they settle the fittest athlete debate through a race combining three exisiting long-distance competitions: the Waikiki Roughwater 2.4 mile swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race (115 miles), and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles).
On February 18, 1978 fifteen men started the first Ironman race and only 12 men finished. Gordon Haller became the first Ironman by finishing the race in 11 hours, 46 minutes, and 58 seconds. The first woman competed in 1979. Ironman and the sport of triathlon really became big after Julie Moss crawled across the 1982 finish line on national television to take 2nd place.
Triathlon debuted in the 2000 Olympics at the Sydney Games. Simon Whitefield of Canada and Brigitte McMahon of Switzerland were the first man and woman to win a gold medal in the sport of triathlon. Paratriathlon will debut at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The sport of triathlon has boomed in recent years and will continue to grow in future years. Just this past fall, triathlon became an official NCAA sport for women!
Next post: Equipment
~ Happy Training!