Triathlon Distances And The Times Needed

The distance of triathlons varies greatly from only 16 miles (25.7 km) in total for traditional sprint distances to 140 miles 225.3 km) or more for the Ironman triathlon. The majority of beginners tend to start with sprint distance triathlons due to the shorter distance.

As triathletes progress, some bold, very determined individuals opt for Olympic distance or even long-course triathlons. 

Triathlon Distances And The Times Needed

The most famous triathlon and most arduous is widely considered to be the Ironman. However, there are many more to choose from with only 3% making up full-distance triathlons in the world. 

Today, we will be looking at the average distance of triathlons in various types of races. We will also study the average triathlon times for different age groups and professional triathletes.

If you’re training for a triathlon, we also have some useful training insights so you can understand what to expect when tackling different distances in triathlons. 

Road Triathlon Distances (Miles and Kilometers)

Super Sprint Triathlon (XS)

Swim: 0.25 miles (402m)
Bike: 6.2 miles (9.9km)
Run: 1.6 miles (2.6km)

Sprint Triathlon (S)

Swim: 0.5 miles (750m)
Bike: 12.4 miles (20km)
Run: 3.1 miles (5km)

Olympic Triathlon (Standard, M)

Swim: 0.93 miles (1.5km)
Bike: 24.8 miles (40km)
Run: 6.2 miles (10km)

ITU Long Course Triathlon 

Swim: 1.86 miles (3km)
Bike: 49.6 miles (80km)
Run: 12.4 miles (20km)

Half Ironman Triathlon (70.3, L)

Swim: 1.2 miles (1.9km)
Bike: 56 miles (90.1km)
Run: 13.1 miles (21.1km)

Ironman Triathlon (140.6, XXL)

Swim: 2.4 miles (3.9km)
Bike: 112 miles (180.2km)
Run: 26.2 miles (42.2km)

This doesn’t mean that all of these races follow the exact same measures as above. However, they will generally last the approximate distance of each race. 

Cross Triathlon 

As well as road triathlons, there are cross triathlons. These can vary significantly from one race to the next depending on the organizer. 

These triathlons consist of open water swimming, mountain biking, and trail runs.

The two most common and popular distances are:

Sprint

Swim: 0.3 miles (482m)
Bike: 6.8 miles (10.9km)
Run: 2.5 miles (4km)

Standard

Swim: 0.6 miles (965m)
Bike: 13.7 miles (22km)
Run: 5 miles (8km)

Again, these distances can vary depending on where the race is being held.

The Length Of Triathlons 

How long a triathlon is depends on the type of triathlon it is. Below is a list of distances for each type of triathlon as well as the average times associated with the races. 

Super Sprint Triathlon Distance And Time  

The full distance of a Super Sprint triathlon averages out at 0.25 miles (swim), 6.2 miles (bike), and 1.8 miles (run). For beginner athletes, this should be expected to be completed in around 45 minutes to one hour. 

Super Sprints are the most recommended triathlons to begin with. Furthermore, the swimming leg of this race tends to be held in a pool so it is a great starter, especially for those afraid of open water swimming. 

Try not to think about signing up for a Super Sprint too much. The quicker you do it, the more prepared you will be for the next triathlon! 

Sprint Triathlon Distance And Time 

Sprint Triathlon Distance And Time 

As well as Super Sprint triathlons, the Sprint is usually the most common place to start for beginner triathletes. These triathlon distances are generally 0.5 miles (swim), 12.4 miles (bike), and 3.1 miles (run).

You may think that a “sprint” would be over quickly but these events can take 2 or more hours to complete but professional athletes may be able to cut this time dramatically.

Depending on the conditions, elevation, and terrain, a pro athlete can expect to complete a Sprint triathlon in around 1 hour or less. 

The length of a Sprint triathlon is ideal for entry-level athletes. It is also an adequate distance for athletes of all levels who are aiming to improve their transitions between triathlons and gain additional experience. 

Olympic Triathlon Distance And Time 

Olympic triathlon distances are for the more experienced. They are generally 0.93 miles (swim), 24.8 miles (bike). And 6.2 miles (run). Or, in other terms, they are exactly double the length of a sprint triathlon. 

For the best of the best professionals, a finishing time of around 2 hours or less can be expected. The men’s record currently stands at 1 hour and 46 minutes which is incredible. For top age groups, an Olympic triathlon time generally ranges between 2 and 2 ½ hours. 

Olympic triathlons require thoughtful pacing. Energy management and high levels of stamina are required to complete such a race. Just watch this type of triathlon on TV and you will soon see the high level of intensity required even by pro athletes.

Although pacing is needed, the overall speed of competitors is typically very fast at around a mile every 5 minutes. 

Half And Full Ironman Distances And Times

Also known as a “long course triathlon” or “Iron-distance,” both Ironman and Half-Ironman races are not for the faint-hearted.

A Half-Ironman triathlon is also called “70.3” based on the combined mileage of all three races (swimming, cycling, and running). The full Ironman triathlon is known as “140.6” because of the combined miles in the race. 

A Half-Ironman race involves 1.2 miles (swim), 56 miles (bike), and 13.1 miles (run). For the running stage, this can also be a half marathon. 

Just as the Olympic triathlon is double that of a Sprint triathlon, a full Ironman race is double the distance of each leg in the Half-Ironman triathlon. So, the distances for the full Ironman are 2.4 miles (swim), 112 miles (bike), and 26.2 miles (run).

The fastest recorded completion of a Half-Ironman was 3 hours 36 minutes and 30 seconds in 2018 by Jan Frandeno. This tends to equal the times matched by some other top-performing athletes in the full Ironman, such as Tim Don. He recorded a time of 7 hours 40 minutes, and 23 seconds in 2017. 

Ironman distances are seven times that of sprint triathlons. Therefore, the intensity and amount of training required are vastly different and more demanding. 

Average professional times for the Half-Ironman are usually between 4 to 5 hours. For a full Ironman triathlon, the average times are between 8 and 10 hours. As you can imagine, age groupers spend a lot more time completing the races.

For those in the top age group, a good time on a slightly difficult course tends to range between 5 and 6 hours in Half-Ironmans. For the full Ironman, this is typically between 10 and 12 hours. 

For athletes who do not spend as much time training, a time of 6 to 7 hours plus for the Half-Ironman should be expected and 13 plus hours for the full Ironman. 

The 70.3 triathlon is generally better suited for amateurs and age-grouper athletes. This is because the level of training and commitment is a lot less than the full Ironman.

Training to complete over 2 miles when swimming, over 100 miles when cycling, and then running a marathon is no small or easy feat.

The preparation required is huge. To train successfully for Ironman, you need to find the right balance between family, work, life, and other demands so you can fit in training to the best of your ability. 

Ultra Triathlon 

There is actually another form of Triathlon known as the Ultra Triathlon. This is held back for extremely fit and professional athletes who find a full distance triathlon just doesn’t challenge them enough.

Ultra triathlons can either be a multiple of a full triathlon such as double (x2), triple (x3), and Deca (x3) or it can be something even some of the best athletes in the world would think twice about competing in.

There are two examples of extreme Ultra triathlons:

  • Monster Triathlon
  • Florida Double Anvil Triathlon 

The Monster triathlon in the UK involves a 5 km (3.1 miles) swim in Loch Ness, Scotland, 1000 km 621 miles) on a bike, and a 50 km (31 miles) run.

The Florida Double Anvil is a little different. It is a double full distance triathlon that can be done solo or as part of a team. Good luck finding friends who want to join you, though!

In Summary 

As you can see, there are multiple distances with different triathlons to suit everyone. Whether it’s your first time or you’re an experienced triathlete, there is a course that will suit your level. Just always make sure you are completely ready for any kind of triathlon and prepared in the best way possible. 

Matt Williams