What triathlon distance is best for you

If you are new to triathlon chances are you won’t know what triathlon distance is best for you.

You might be anxious to just go for it but sometimes it pays to carefully consider what triathlon distance is best for you if you are new to the sport.

In the early days when very few people had any idea what a triathlon was there were very few options as far as triathlon distances and it really came down to two choices.

It was do the full Ironman distance or stay home.

In the early 1980’s that meant packing your bags and going to Kona to take on Ironman Hawaii.

That didn’t change much until other Ironman races were formed. One of the earliest of these was Ironman Canada in Penticton when it was formed in the mid 1980’s.

The Ironman distance was so daunting that many people did stay home and their triathlon career never got off the ground.

What triathlon distance is best for you

Ironman Canada Penticton transition area at dawn.

Just the thought of swimming 3.8k, biking 180k, and following it up with a 42k marathon bordered on the seemingly impossible and was enough to deter all but a few crazies who just went for it.

Do you know that there were many years in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when you could’ve entered Ironman Canada in Penticton a week before the race if you wanted to?

It was many years before the race began to sell out.


It took some time for shorter races to spring up but once triathlon got rolling it became(and still is)one of the biggest main-stream sports in the world and shorter distance triathlons were springing up everywhere. If you are new to triathlon these days you have more choices when it comes to choosing what triathlon distance is best for you.

Triathlon was for everyone and it just made sense there should be a triathlon distance to suit people of different levels of ability.

New triathletes who hear the call of the Iron Gods and just know they want to tackle the Ironman distance now have the option of working their way up to the full Ironman distance.


If you have never been an athlete and are just learning how to swim but really have a desire to make triathlon part of your life and perhaps one day take on the Ironman distance, it’s a simple enough matter to decide what triathlon distance is best for you when you first start out.

Now you have many options from the shortest Try-a-Tri all the way up to the Ironman distance.

A Try-A-Tri may go by different names in different parts of the world, but basically it’s normally a very short race that features a pool swim of a few hundred meters, a short bike, and a short run.

It’s ideal for those who are not quite ready to swim in the open water or have to work on their biking skills and is a great way to learn what the transitions are all about.

The next step would be the Sprint Triathlon distance.

This might also be a pool swim but it would be a longer swim of 750 meters, a bike of 20k, and a 5k run.

These are half the triathlon distances of the official Olympic Distance Triathlon which features a 1500m swim, a 40k bike, and a 10k run. Once you get to the Olympic Distance you will most likely graduate to an open water swim.


The half Ironman distance or 70.3 Ironman is normally the final stepping stone toward the full Ironman Triathlon distance.

The official Ironman 70.3 is a WTC brand and races of this distance are springing up all over the world and there is sure to be one near you.

The official 70.3 Ironman distances are a 1.9k swim, a 90k bike, and a 21k run…..exactly half of the full Ironman distance.

So if you are just starting out in the sport it really pays to consider what triathlon distance is best for you.

It should be determined by several factors.

Of course your level of fitness is important as well as you current swimming ability and biking skills.

It’s not to say that you can’t go straight into the Ironman Triathlon distance. After all, that was the only option at one time and there were hardy souls who did it. It stands to reason that what triathlon distance is best for you is not necessarily best for someone else.

Those who took on the Ironman right away learned how to swim specifically for the Ironman, learned how to ride on the open highway and simply threw caution to the wind and entered the race.

If that sounds like something you can do then there’s no reason you shouldn’t go for it, but at least in this day and age there is an option if you want to ease yourself into the sport.

Here are some articles you might enjoy…

First Ironman doubts

Beginner triathlon

Beginner triathlon training

Beginner triathlete

Low budget Ironman


Be sure to visit Ironman.com for training tips and race schedules.

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