Triathlon Types and Distances: A Complete Guide

Since its origin in the 1970s, triathlons have been gaining popularity and have expanded with different distances and even other sports. We are going to analyze all of them in this guide on the types and distances of triathlon.

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What is a triathlon?

A triathlon is a multidisciplinary sport that, in its classic version, combines events from the three most popular endurance sports: swimming, cycling and running.

It shares a similar origin with MTB, as it was also born in California in the restless decade of the 1970s. While the pioneers of the newly invented discipline of mountain biking were taking their first steps with handmade bikes, a group of athletes organized the first triathlon event in the city of San Diego in 1974. It included a 10 km run, an bike 8 km bike leg and an 800 m swim in San Diego Bay. Since then, triathlons have grown in popularity, with thousands of triathletes around the world and a significant media coverage of events. Especially when it comes to the Ironman triathlon distances, the most famous type, among which the Kona Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii, which held its first edition in 1989, stands out.

Types of Triathlon

Although in the following chapter we will see new variants with other combinations of sports, distances and order of competition, the classic triathlon consists of three legs: swimming, cycling and running, performed in this order. The swimming is done in open water, the cycling section with road bikes and the running on asphalt, mainly in urban circuits. The competition is individual, although there are also relay events, usually over short distances. With this scheme, there are different modalities of triathlon, according to the distances of the races, i.e.,the kilometers of triathlon.

There are many amateurs who hesitate when choosing their triathlons and distances or, even, who do not know how long a triathlon is in terms of distance and difficulty. To clarify all these doubts and to help those who want to start or those who want to improve their level in their choice, we gather in this article all the different types of triathlon. Below, we extract the triathlon distances included in the Rules of the Spanish Triathlon Federation (FETRI) for the 2023 season:

Triathlon Types and Distances
Swimming Cycling Running
Relay 250 to 300 m 5 to 8 km 1.5 to 2 km
Super-sprint Distance 250 to 500 m 6.5 to 13 km 1.7 to 3.5 km
Sprint Distance 750 m 20 km 5 km
Standard Distance 1.5 km 40 km 10 km
Half Distance 1.9 to 2.99 km 80 to 90 km 20 to 21 km
Long Distance 3 to 4 km 91 to 200 km 22 to 42.2 km

Super-sprint Triathlon

The distances of the Super-sprint Triathlon are the shortest and most affordable type for all levels of amateur riders and perfect for beginners. As shown in the table, you will swim between 250 and 500 meters, cycle between 6.5 and 13 kilometers, and run between 1.7 and 3.5 kilometers.

Although not included in the rules, we can also find the flash triathlon events even shorter and very explosive, with 150 m swim, 4 km bike and 1 km run.

Sprint Triathlon

The sprint triathlon distance is just half that of the standard triathlon: 750 meters swimming, 20 km cycling and 5 km running. This distance, with a moderate volume of kilometers of triathlon, is widely practiced by amateur athletes.

Olympic Triathlon

Olympic distance is considered the standard distance. It is the best known and most popular type and the one that is done in the Olympic Games, since it was incorporated in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
The Olympic triathlon distances are no longer easily accessible for all amateurs and require a good level of training and preparation. It consists of a 1.5 kilometer swim, a 40 kilometer bike ride and a 10 kilometer run.

Medium Distance Triathlon

The half distance triathlon includes the swimming event with a distance of between 1.9 and 3 kilometers. The cycling event becomes more important, with lengths of between 80 and 90 kilometers, and ends with a half marathon of between 20 and 21 kilometers. These races alone are already very demanding and are challenges only suitable for athletes with a high level of preparation.

Long Distance Triathlon

It is the longest and most demanding type of triathlon and the one with the fewest races held, due to the difficulties involved, both for the athletes and for the organizers. Swimming distance range is 3 to 4 km. The cycling section can vary from 91 to 200 km, and the running section ranges from 22 to 42.2 km.

Its most famous and mediatic variant is the Ironman, a test for iron men and women, indeed. The Ironman triathlon distances are as follows:

  • 3.8 km of open water swimming.
  • 180 km of cycling.
  • 42,195 meters of running.

These Ironman distances are a real feat that ends with running a marathon race, after the demanding swimming and cycling events. Facing these challenges is only within the reach of athletes with many years of physical and mental training.

Triathlon Relay

The regulations also include relay races, although they are limited to short distances within these ranges: 250 to 300 m swimming, 5 to 8 km cycling and 1.5 to 2 km running on foot. These races are highly recommended for beginners and for those who want to share the experience as a team.

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Other Types of Triathlon

From the classic triathlon, other variants have been developed combining the same sports in different ways or adding new ones, such as skiing, canoeing, mountain biking or the recent and booming Gravel cycling modality. These variants have considerably expanded the number of tests, especially for amateur athletes. We are going to resort again to the Regulations of the Spanish Triathlon Federation (FETRI) to offer you the complete list of all the modalities.


It combines running and cycling, with a first running test, an intermediate cycling section and a final running section, with these modalities and distances.

Running Cycling Running
Relay 1.5 to 2 km 5 to 8 km 750 m to 1 km
Super-sprint Distance 1.7 to 3.5 km 6.5 to 13 km 0.85 to 1.75 km
Sprint Distance Up to 5 km Up to 20 km Up to 2.5 km
Standard Distance 5 km
10 km
30 km
40 km
5 km
5 km
Half Distance 10 to 15 km 60 to 89.9 km 10 km
Long Distance 10 km
20 km
120 km
150 km
20 km
30 km

Cross Triathlon

These are the same sports as triathlon, but substituting road cycling for mountain biking, and these are their distances.

Swimming Mountain Biking Running
Triathlon Cross Super-sprint 250 to 500 m 5 to 10 km 1.5 to 3 km
Cross-sprint Triathlon 500 m 10 to 15 km 3 to 4 km
Cross Triathlon 1 km 20 to 30 km 6 to 10 km
Cross Triathlon Long Distance 1.5 km 30 to 40 km 10 to 15 km

Duathlon Cross

Variant of the duathlon, but with mountain biking, with these distances.

Running Mountain Biking Running
Duathlon Cross Super-sprint 2 to 3 km 5 to 10 km 1 to 1.5 km
Duathlon Cross Sprint 3 to 5 km 10 to 15 km 1.5 to 3 km
Cross-Country Duathlon 6 to 8 km 20 to 30 km 3 to 4 km
Duathlon Cross Long Distance 12 to 16 km 25 to 40 km 6 to 8 km

Gravel Triathlon and Gravel Duathlon

Variant of the duathlon and cros triathlon, with gravel bikes as the protagonist of the cycling segment. These are the distances set forth in the Regulations.

Swimming Mountain Biking Running
Gravel Triathlon 1.5 km 30 to 40 km 5 to 10 km
Triathlon Gravel Med. Dist. 1.9 to 2.99 km 80 to 90 km 15 to 21 km
Running Mountain Biking Running
Gravel Duathlon 5 to 10 km 30 to 40 km 5 to 10 km
Gravel Half Distance Distance 10 to 20 km 60 to 80 km 10 to 20 km

Winter Triathlon

It consists of running, cycling and cross-country skiing, and in the Sprint and Standard distances, there are options with two laps of the full circuit.

Running Mountain Biking Cross-country Skiing
Relay 2 to 3 km 4 to 5 km 3 to 4 km
Sprint Distance 3 to 4 km 7 to 8 km 5 to 6 km
Sprint Distance (Two Laps) 2 km 3 km 3 km
Standard Distance 7 to 9 km 12 to 14 km 10 to 12 km
Standard Distance (x2) 4 km 6 km 6 km

Winter Duathlon

Combines running with cross-country skiing and in the Sprint and Standard distances, it has versions with three laps of the same circuit.

Running Cross-country Skiing
Relay 2 to 3 km 3 to 4 km
Sprint Distance 6 km 9 km
Sprint Distance (Two Laps) 2 km 3 km
Standard Distance 12 km 18 km
Standard Distance (x3) 4 km 6 km
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Combines: running, swimming and running, with the modalities and distances shown in the following table. There is a variant called cross-country aquathlon that combines the same sports, but in the outdoors, with similar distances and segments.

Running Swimming Running
Relay 1.25 km 500 m 1.25 km
Sprint Distance 1.25 km 500 m 1.25 km
Standard Distance 2.5 km 1 km 2.5 km
Long Distance 5 km 2 km 5 km
Swimming Running
Relay 500 m 2.5 km
Sprint Distance 500 m 2.5 km
Standard Distance 1 km 5 km
Long Distance 2 km 10 km


This variant of the classic triathlon adds canoeing, after the cycling segment, which is the longest distance, with a maximum of 40 km.

Swimming Cycling Canoeing Running
Sprint Quadriathlon 500 m 12 to 20 km 2 to 4 km 3 to 5 km
Quadriathlon 1 to 1.5 km 20 to 40 km 4 to 8 km 6 to 10 km

Final Tips

As you have seen, there are many options to practice and compete in combined sports and triathlon and all the types derived from it have reached a great popularity around the world, with countless events to compete at all levels. We hope this information will be helpful for those of you who want to start in triathlon and for those of you who already practice it, but want to continue to improve your level and face more demanding challenges.

For beginners, we finish with some initiation tips, which will help you to take your first steps.

  • Start with short distances and progressively increase the intensity and duration of both your training and the events in which you participate when you start to do so.
  • Plan your training specifically, dividing the time for each of the sports that combine the chosen type.
  • At the beginning, forget about comparisons with other athletes' times, and focus on your personal progress.
  • It is highly recommended that you seek the help of a trainer to optimize the time spent and the results. These professionals help athletes of all kinds and the means and technical advances at their disposal today allow them to apply really economical rates for amateurs and popular athletes.
  • Look for information on the regulations that affect the chosen distance, which you will find in the Federation that corresponds to you. In these regulations, the rules governing the different races are set, from the categories and minimum ages to participate in each of the distances, to the clothes you should wear or how to make the transitions, for example.

At the Mammoth stores and Mammoth online, you will find everything you need to practice this sport: triathlon bikes, shoes and specific clothing and accessories. Do not hesitate to contact us.

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