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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Triathlon?

A triathlon is a race comprised of multiple sports that are undertaken as three continuous and sequential races. The word itself has a Greek origin, with ‘treis’ meaning three, and ‘athlos’ meaning competition.

Although there are a number of variations within the sport, triathlons typically consist of running, swimming and cycling. Competitors aim to achieve the quickest overall finish time, which includes timed transitions between the three parts of the race.

What Equipment Is Required for Each of the Three Elements?

The swimming element of the race is often completed in open water, such as the sea or in a lake – or alternatively, it may be held in a swimming pool. A wetsuit will be necessary for those who are racing in open water.

A road-worthy and recently serviced bike is essential, as is a helmet, and the running element requires sturdy, comfortable running shoes, as well as breathable, flexible clothing.

How Do Athletes Transition Between Races?

A triathlon will set up a transition area for participants, where they can change into the three different types of sports gear. The transition area is where the triathletes make the switch between running, swimming and cycling; this area is also used as a storage facility for bikes, apparel and accessories.

The transition is often referred to as the ‘fourth discipline in triathlon’ – however, this is only really applicable to those competing at a very high level. There are several rules that govern the transition period, including that safety helmets must be fastened before setting off on the bike race and they cannot be removed until the bike is secured in the rack again.

What Is the History of the Triathlon?

The earliest recorded three-sport event was held in Joinville-le-Pont, Val-de-Marne in 1901. Titled ‘Les trois sports’, it consisted of running, cycling and canoe segments. By 1921 the race at Joinville-le-Pont had swapped the canoe element of the race for swimming – meaning that the race now included a 3-kilometre run, a 12-kilometre bike ride and a crossing of the river Marne. The 1920s saw a number of other triathlons establish themselves across France, in cities including Marseilles and Poissy; however, the first contemporary swim/bike/run competition was held in 1974 at Mission Bay, San Diego.