There are several different triathlon distances, which make it possible for athletes of all skill levels to participate in the sport competitively. For instance, beginner athletes can compete in what are known as try-a-tri races or the slightly more advanced sprint races. For more skilled athletes, there are the longer Olympic triathlon races. Finally, seasoned athletes can compete in half-distance and full-distance triathlons.
Athletes looking to start competing in triathlons can compete in a try-a-tri race to determine if the sport is right for them. There are no set distances for these races, but in general, the swim tends to be about 1,000-1,300 feet (about 300-400 m) range, the run is typically about 2 miles (about 3 km), and the biking leg is generally no more than about 10 miles (about 15 km).
Sprint triathlon races have longer triathlon distances than try-a-tri races. These races are suitable for athletes who have increased their fitness level beyond what is required to compete in the try-a-tri races. There is some minor variation in distances, but sprint triathlons generally have swimming legs of about 1,600-3,200 feet (500-1,000 m), a bike ride of about 12.4 miles (20 km) and a 3.1-mile (5 km) run.
Longer triathlon distances are found in Olympic triathlon races. Olympic triathlon distances are standardized, with no variation between individual races. The swimming leg is 0.93 miles (1.5 km). Following the swim is a bike ride of 24.85 miles (40 km) and a run of 6.2 miles (10 km).
Triathlon distances are longer in the full-distance races. Full triathlons include a swim of 2.4 miles (3.8 km) swim, a bike ride of 112 miles (180.25 km) bike ride and a run that is the length of a marathon — 26.2 miles (42.2 km). These distances do not vary among individual races.
Another variation in triathlon distances can be found in the half-distance triathlon races. Half-distance triathlons are also set lengths that do not change between individual races. Each separate leg in this race is half the distance of the corresponding leg in the full triathlon races.