History of the Triathlon

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History of the triathlon and distances.

By Kelly Ehritz. 

A triathlon consists of three sports-- swimming, biking, and running.  There are several race distances:







.5 mile

.93 mile

1.2 miles

2.4 miles


13 miles

24.8 miles

56 miles

112 miles


3.2 miles

6.2 miles

13.1 miles

26.2 miles

Race distances often vary somewhat from the table above, but most races fit pretty closely with the above distances.

The race starts at the shot of a gun as athletes begin their swim.  Races can start off a dock with the athletes diving in.  They can start with the participants already in the water behind the "start line." Races can also start on the beach with triathletes running in to the lake, ocean, etc.  The swim is usually very crowded with alot of pushing and kicking to get ahead.

At the end of the swim, the athletes exit the water and start on the first transition, T1.  They run to the bike racks, put on sneakers, and hope on their bike.  Biking is the best time in the race to refuel on sports drinks and energy bars/gels. 

After the bike segment is complete, the triathlete comes back into the transition area for T2.  They drop their bike off and leave for the last leg of the race, the run.  Next comes crossing the finish line!

History of the Triathlon

Triathlon’s roots can be traced back to 1974, Mission Bay, Southern California where members of the San Diego track club trained together. Amongst them were runners, swimmers and cyclists and before long training sessions turned into informal races.  The first Mission Bay Triathlon was held on September 25th 1974 and included 46 athletes.  The race was directed by Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan. Triathlon was born!

In Hawaii, 1978, an argument arose regarding which of the three disciplines required the greatest endurance. At that time Hawaii hosted The Waikiki Rough Water Swim (2.4 miles), The Oahu Bike Race (112 miles) and The Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles). Originally events in themselves, they were rolled into one to become the ‘Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.’

The event attracted 15 athletes and of them only 12 crossed the finish line. By 1982 the Hawaii Ironman gained extensive coverage on ABC World Wide Sport and participation levels had increased to 580 competitors. Last year over 3000 athletes completed the grueling challenge. The fastest women finish the course in just under nine hours and the fastest men finishing in little over eight hours!

And today the sport of triathlon is growing at a rapid pace.  There are triathlon clubs in almost every major city and thousands of races are held every year across the globe!   Challenge yourself...sign up for one!

Learn more about the history of triathlon by visiting TriHistory.com


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date: September 10, 2004