Defining a Sprint Triathlon

author : McFuzz
comments : 4

Looking to do your first triathlon? Here is a look beyond the distances.

What is a Sprint Triathlon?

This is a question that shows up frequently here at Usually, the question comes from someone who wants to know how long each leg of the event is, and the answer to that is, “It depends on the race.” I’m here to tell you differently.

A sprint triathlon is a siren! Step back into Greek mythology and the story of Jason and the Argonauts. The sirens were creatures whose irresistible song lured unsuspecting sailors into treacherous waters.

It will start innocently enough, maybe as a challenge from a friend or a flyer about a local event. You begin to think, “Yeah, I can swim 600 yards (or at least I could when I was a kid), I can bike 12—15 miles, and I can run a 5K (or at least run/walk...).” Add it all up, and figure on an hour or big deal! So you go splash around in the pool a few times, drag your ancient Schwinn out of the basement, and start jogging (but only at night, when nobody can see you run...)

You then register, and on that fateful day, you bring all of your gear to the race site where you find...

  • Some competitors have already swum a 600 yard “warm-up.”

  • Others are more scared of the swim than you are.

  • Some will have “You paid HOW MUCH for that?!?” bikes.

  • Others will ride bikes older and rustier than yours.

  • Some will look like they haven’t eaten in weeks.

  • Others will look like they could go weeks without eating.

So you fumble around setting up your gear while trying hard to not show how nervous you are. You get final race instructions and head down to the start. Maybe now you realize that everyone is anxious rather than nervous. The gun goes off and the details of the race get blurry (don’t worry, your goggles won’t get knocked off EVERY race), but you realize that the race volunteers are cheering for you, and that makes you feel good! The other competitors are cheering for you, too! What? Yeah, these triathletes give you a reassuring smile, or maybe a few encouraging words, even though they’ve never met you before. That makes you feel GREAT!

You’ll realize that some of the people that you thought would surely be fast—aren’t. Some of the people will be surprisingly fast. Pretty much everyone will have a smile on their face at the end! Even more amazing is that many finishers are crowded around the finish line, cheering for you as you reach the end of your first race! You are now a TRIATHLETE!

You start talking to the other competitors and spectators and they are as friendly as they were during the race. They will try to answer your questions, and probably show you their really cool gear if you ask. You start looking at training plans, heart-rate-monitors, a spiffy tri-suit, and a “faster” (more expensive) bike so you can do another race. Maybe an Olympic distance race? You start looking for excuses to travel to triathlons. All of a sudden, you’re scheming about HIM’s and dreaming about Hawaii and logging your training including important notes about how you react to various sports drinks or gels.

So what are you waiting for? You know it’s going to happen, and you won’t be able to stop it…You might as well get started!

Postscript: This is my story. My first triathlon was 7/29/2005 (I’d registered about two weeks earlier) and had 66 participants. I’d seen Ironman highlights on television and knew those people were dedicated, but I didn’t expect any of them to show up at this little race...but they were there with their best race gear!


I remember the encouragement of other riders as I was lugging up the hills on my mountain bike and the cheers from volunteers at every turn on the bike and run. I remember everyone cheering and clapping at my middle-to-back-of-pack finish and how everyone stayed to cheer the last finisher!


I conned convinced a buddy to join me for another sprint six weeks later. My wife and I spent that fall discussing which Half-Ironman (HIM) to do and how to build some family vacations around a race schedule. I completed my HIM on 8/5/2006. Kona? Who knows what my future holds...


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date: February 19, 2007


Triathlon, Scouting, hiking, camping, enjoying the great outdoors.


Triathlon, Scouting, hiking, camping, enjoying the great outdoors.

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