Triathlon Distances Demystified

Try-A-Tri / Give-it-a-Tri / Super Sprint     Sprint     Olympic     Half Ironman     Full Ironman     Swim/Bike     Duathlon

Are you new to the sport of triathlon and unsure of what all the race names above mean?  Have you done a few shorter distances and are now wondering what the next challenge is?  Read on Mettleheads for a summary of triathlon race distances and other options if you are not yet comfortable with all three sports.
To accommodate all different skill levels and the amount of time you want to spend training, there are several different distances you can choose from.  Some venues have slight modifications of these distances, but here is a general guideline of what is available.

Mettle Multisport Triathlon Club try-a-triTry-A-Tri / Give-it-a-Tri / Super Sprint

These very short races are a great way to get your feet wet in triathlon and learn the ropes.  This is also a great distance for those who want a short race where they can go all out!  The Tri-A-Tri distance is usually 350m Swim, 10km Bike, 2.5km Run.

Sprint Triathlon

Sprint distances are the most popular and for good reason – you get all the WHAM BANG and FUN without having to give up your summer training like a maniac!  And, you can do multiple sprint races in our short season because of the short distances.  The distances of Sprint Triathlons are the most variable from venue to venue.  It is generally the bike and run portion that vary.  A typical sprint race would be 750m Swim, 20km Bike, 5km Run.  A "long sprint" would be 750m Swim, 30km Bike, 7.5km Run.

Mettle Multisport Triathlon Club Ironman 5150Olympic Distance / Standard Distance / 5150

Yes you guessed it – Olympic distance races are what the athletes race at the Olympics!  If you are looking for something more challenging than a sprint race this is it.  Sometimes called a 5150 because the distance in kilometers adds up to 51.50km, Olympic distance races consist of a 1.5km Swim, 40km Bike, and 10km Run.  

Mettle Multisport Triathlon Club Ironman 70.3Half Distance / Half Iron / Ironman 70.3

Ready to buckle down and devote a serious amount of time to training all three sports?  While this distance is certainly not for everyone due to the time involved for training, it is challenging and rewarding.  The Half distance or 70.3 is a 1.9km Swim, 90km Bike and 21.1km Run, although the bike distance can vary just slightly.  Muskoka Ironman 70.3 is known for having a 94km bike instead of 90km – because who doesn't want an extra 4km of hills!  In case you're doing the math…..70.3 is derived from adding the distances in miles: 1.2 mile Swim, 56 mile Bike and 13.1 mile Run (not kilometers – gottcha!).

Mettle Multisport Triathlon Club IronmanFull Distance / Ironman / Full Ironman / 140.6

The most famous distance is the full Ironman distance and the most famous race is the Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii.  This distance is truly a test of the body and mind – it's not only the race that will test you - the training will test your commitment as you push your mind and body to and beyond the limits.  Training for this distance is very demanding so be prepared for you and your family to make sacrifices over the many months of training.  There are a few race series that offer this distance, the most well-known is the Ironman series but another well-known one is the Challenge series.  These tests of endurance consist of a 3.8km Swim, 180km Bike and 42.2km Run (140.6 miles).


For those who prefer to leave out the run!  Most, if not all of the local races offer a swim/bike option at various distances.  You usually begin the event at the same time as everyone else and just finish your race at the end of the bike.  For example, an Olympic distance swim/bike would be a 1.5km swim and a 40km bike.  This option is becoming increasingly popular.


These races are a combination of Run/Bike/Run with the first run being longer than the second run. There are Sprint distance Du's (5km run, 20km Bike, 2.5km Run), International distance Du's (10k Run, 40k Bike, 5k Run) and others, too, depending on the venue.


Relays are a great way to participate in the sport of triathlon if you cannot or don't want to do all three sports. Teams can be made of one, two or three members and be all female, all male or coed.  A great way to get many people involved!