Triathlon distances can vary from full-gas, hour-long super sprint efforts to all-day Ironman races and beyond. Here’s the lowdown on all the different triathlon distances.
All triathlons are multisport events consisting of swim, bike and run but one of the things that makes it so exciting and dynamic to be a part of is all the different triathlon distances available to you. Races vary from less than an hour’s effort right up to 17-hours for an Ironman or longer if you want to go to ultra-distances. All this means you can pick a race type best suited to your strengths or keep things interesting with different distance challenges.
We’ve listed the five main distances on offer below, although you’re still likely to find variations on these, perhaps due to pool-based events necessitating shorter swims, race directors wanting to offer something different or simply down to the courses available on local roads. Plus a wild card for those who are inclined towards the biggest challenges the sport has to offer.
If you want to learn more about triathlon including its history, swim bike run breakdown and more, check out our What Is A Triathlon guide.
Super Sprint Triathlons
400m swim, 10km bike, 2.5km run
The shortest triathlon distance in adult competition, super sprint triathlons, usually consist of a 400m swim, 10km bike and 2.5km run. Super sprint is fast and furious but also the ideal distance for first-time triathletes to try their hand at the sport. If you’re looking to compete rather than complete, you’re in for a world of lung-busting high-intensity, lactic building pain. The good thing is that it’s all over pretty quickly.
Best for: those dipping their toes into the sport or fast-twitch athletes able to produce plenty of power over short distances.
What’s a good super sprint triathlon finishing time?
Given that super sprint is usually an entry point to the sport, coming in under an hour is a great time for any age-grouper.
Sprint Distance Triathlons
750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
Sprint distance triathlons are the starting point for many athletes getting into the sport but are also popular with athletes racing at a high level. With a 750m swim (usually shorter if it’s a pool-based event), 20km bike and 5km run, sprint distance triathlons are more of an endurance event than the name suggests, requiring good strength, speed and pacing.
For athletes looking to represent their country, sprint distance is the shortest event with qualifying events for the ITU age-group world championships, which are held at the grand final of the ITU World Triathlon Series at the end of each season.
Best for: athletes who favour speed over endurance but have strong legs to keep up the sustained effort needed to complete the distance.
What’s a good sprint distance triathlon finishing time?
The best professional athletes will polish off a sprint-distance race in around 55 minutes for the men and an hour for the women. In the age-group field, breaking an hour and a half is a great result, while qualification for the ITU World Championships would require a time of around 1:10 for men and 1:20 for females depending on the course.
Standard / Olympic / 5150 Distance Triathlons
1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run
Standard distance triathlon features a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km, the same distance used at the sport’s highest level during the Olympic games. There’s something exciting about emulating Olympic heroes such as Simon Whitfield, Jan Frodeno and Alistair Brownlee – even if it’s just by testing yourself over the same triathlon distance and comparing times.
Expect a hammering heart, sore legs and A massive feeling of elation at the end
The longest triathlon distance in ‘short course’ ITU racing, standard distance races are a serious effort requiring speed, strength and an excellent awareness of pacing to complete the race at an intensity that’s sustainable just long enough to get you to the finish line. Expect a hammering heart, sore legs and a massive feeling of elation at the end.
In the early season, you’re likely to find pool-based events with a shorter swim but with the typical bike and run distances, which are an ideal stepping stone to a full Olympic-distance race, where you’ll have to take on an open water swim.
As with sprint distance, the fastest athletes have the opportunity to take part in qualifying events to earn the chance to represent their country at the ITU World Championships.
Best for: strong all-around athletes or those coming to the sport with plenty of experience in the individual sports and aren’t phased by the 1500m swim, 40km bike or 10km run.
What’s a good Olympic-distance triathlon time?
Professional male athletes will usually complete a standard/Olympic distance triathlon in around 1:45 with female pros coming in around 1:55. For age-groupers, breaking 3:00 is a good goal to aim for while getting under 2:30 is a great finish.
To qualify for world champs events, men will be going just under 2:00 with women around 2:15 depending on the difficulty of the course.
Launched by the PTO, the 100km distance balances the discipline distances a little while also hitting that sweet spot for race duration, intensity and training needed.
At 2km, the swim is actually longer than an Ironman 70.3 (below), giving the opportunity to put all that swim training into practice. The 80km bike is double the Olympic distance and while it’s certainly a test of endurance, there’s also the opportunity to push harder and faster than longer distances. Part of that is due to the fact that the run stands at 18km – 3km shy of a half marathon – meaning you can really bump up against the red zone with less worry about making the finish before exhaustion!
Best for: everyone looking for a challenge of speed and endurance as well as those building towards 70.3 races.
Ironman 70.3 / Half Ironman Distance Triathlons
1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run
With a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km half marathon run, Ironman 70.3, named for its total distance in miles, is one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding triathlon race formats out there.
As a long-course race, it’s the ideal preparation on the way to a full Ironman but a serious distance to take on in itself. While the swim is only 400m longer than that of an Olympic distance race, the bike and run make this a real endurance undertaking that requires careful consideration of pacing and nutrition strategy.
one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding triathlon race formats out there
As well as official Ironman 70.3 events, which offer qualifications to the age-group Ironman 70.3 World Championships each year, there are a wide range of grassroots half-ironman distance triathlon races to test yourself against.
Best for: experienced triathletes – especially stronger bikers and runners – progressing beyond standard-distance events and perhaps on the way to a full Ironman event.
What’s a good Ironman 70.3 finish time?
On flatter courses, professional athletes will be crossing the tape in around 3:45 for the men and 4:00 for the women. For age groupers, cracking 6:00 is a great day out while hitting 4:45 is a real achievement. Athletes looking to reach the Ironman 70.3 World Championships are likely to be posting time of around 4:15-4:30 for the men and 4:40-5:00 for the women.
Read our guide to Ironman 70.3 to find out more.
3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run
The iconic Ironman triathlon distance has been an aspirational draw for athletes since its first edition in Hawaii in 1978. With 3.8km of open-water swimming, a 180km bike leg and a full marathon to finish, it’s an incredible challenge for even the fittest athletes.
Ironman demands a keen understanding of pacing, endurance to last all day, the ability to keep nutrition flowing in and buckets of mental strength to overcome the inevitable dark patches and push to the glory of the finish line.
As with Ironman 70.3, there are plenty of unofficial Ironman-distance events out there, but only Ironman offers the strongest, fastest racers the chance to compete in Kona at the Ironman World Championships.
Best for: athletes who’ve built a strong endurance base and can cope with the day-long physical, mental and nutritional demands needed for the sport’s biggest mainstream challenge.
What’s a good Ironman finish time?
In the professional ranks, men going under 8:00 and women going under 9:00 are increasingly common times for winners. Age-groupers have 17 hours to tackle the distance. Getting under 13 hours for men and 14 hours for women is a great achievement while Kona qualifiers will likely need to hit around 8:45-9:45 for men and 9:45-10:45 for women depending on the course.
Read our guide to Ironman to find out more.
3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run
If Ironman isn’t a big enough challenge, there are a growing number of extreme iron-distance races to test even the most hardcore triathletes. Held over the same distance 3.8km/180km/42.2km Xtri events are spawned from the ethos, harsh environment and sheer difficulty of the infamous Norseman.
These tests of physical and mental prowess typically begin with a jump into a freezing lake, an astonishing amount of climbing on the bike and a leg-destroying run up a mountain to finish.
Best for: multiple Ironman finisher who are looking for a tougher challenge that’s still possible within a single day of racing.
10km swim, 421km bike, 84km run
Sometimes, even an Ironman isn’t enough and for those athletes there’s Ultraman. Held over three days, Ultraman begins with a 10km swim followed by a 145km bike ride. Day two challenges athletes to complete another 276km on the bike while day three holds an 84km double marathon in store.
With limited numbers and support teams rather than an army of volunteers, Ultraman foregoes the glitz and ceremony of Ironman in favour of a grassroots adventure for athletes who want to go really long.
Best for: multiple-Ironman finishers who want to push themselves to their limits to see what their body is capable of.