A triathlon is a three-stage competition wherein the participant has to finish three different endurance based activities. This most commonly consists of swimming, biking and running one after another over a range of distances. The winner is the one with the fastest over time, which includes the transition between the activities. The word originates in Greece with ‘tries’, or three and ‘athlos’ or competition. There is most certainly risk involved for the Triathlon beginner and one needs to train appropriately before going for such an event, or risk getting a possible heart-attack among other things, a good example being the recent New York Triathlon disaster, with many people needing rescue from the Hudson River at the swimming stage of the competition. There are thankfully good volunteers and race directors alike who continue to host world-class events at a steadily growing set of places. To add to this, many events also have both team and individual competition categories. Team events renew some people’s interest in the event as do solo events for the veteran team player.
The sprint distance triathlon will likely be the best way for a newcomer to have a good time for their first experience. The average sprint distance event involves swimming for around 500 yards, cycling for 12-15 miles and finally running another 3.1 miles approximately, a task that even the novice triathlete can handle with relative ease. The ‘International Distance Triathlon’ was set at 40 km of biking, 1.5 km of swimming and another 10 km of running, and so was named back in 1980 due to this breakup being accepted as the standard internationally and incorporated into the first World Triathlon Championship. This was held in France in 1989, and Mark Allen from the United States and New Zealand’s Erin Baker were the winners. The International Triathlon Union or the ITU was able to convince the International Olympic Committee to host a triathlon as part of the Olympic sports as part of the Sydney Games in 2000.
John Collins established the first original distance for an Ironman race, the first of which was held in Hawaii in 1978 and remain the same till date. The Ironman consists of swimming for 2.4 miles, biking for another 112 miles and finally running the remaining 26.2 long miles. The word ‘Ironman’ is a trademark registered with the World Triathlon Corporation. The Ironman World Championships are nowadays held in Kona. Interestingly, Ironman World Championship participants long around 4% of their total body weight during the course of the event.
There were just a handful of female triathletes back in the days. Though a few females did join the inaugural race of the modern triathlon in 1974, they dwindled in attendance following that. It wasn’t until the year 1980 that Lyn Lemaire raced in the Hawaii Ironman race, the second ever in the series. Since then, women have regularly participated in the Triathlon. Karen Smyers and Julie Moss are good examples as well as Erin Baker of New Zealand, who is well known for both her amazing performance in races as well as advocating for various laws that later on ended changing the way triathlons was staged and conducted.
Beginners attempting to better their stamina and endurance without jumping into the Ironman level category, can best get a feel of the challenge with the half-ironman triathlon. These generally consist of swimming for 1.2 miles, biking for another 56 miles and running the last 13.1 miles, not at all an easy task but something worthy of an Ironman initiation. Give this even a shot if you want more variety out of your endurance!