A multisport event composed of three continuous and sequential endurance races.
The sport was derived from Greek words ‘treis’ which means three (or trio) and ‘athlos’ which means competition, hence a competition composed of three events.
While variations of the sport exist, the most common form includes swimming, cycling, and running over various distances. Triathletes compete for fastest overall course completion, including timed transitions between the three races.
A transition area is set up where the athletes change gear for different segments of the race. This is where the switches from swimming to cycling and cycling to running occur. These areas are used to store bicycles, performance apparel, and any other accessories needed for the next stage of the race.
The transition from swim to bike is referred to as T1 and that between the bike and run is referred to as T2. The athlete's overall time for the race includes time spent in T1 and T2.
Transition areas vary in size depending on the number of participants expected. In addition, these areas provide a social headquarters before the race.
The nature of the sport focuses on persistent and often periodized training in each of the three disciplines, as well as combination workouts and general strength conditioning.
The evolution of triathlon as a distinct event is difficult to trace with precision. Many, including triathlon historian and author Scott Tinley, consider events in early twentieth century France to be the beginnings of triathlon, with many three element multisport events of differing composition appearing all called by different names.
The earliest record for an event was from 1901 in Joinville-le-Pont, Val-de-Marne it called itself "Les trois sports" (The three sports) it was advertised as an event for "The sportsmen of the time" and consisted of a run bicycle and canoe segment. By 19 June 1921 the event in Joinville-le-Pont had become more like a standard triathlon with the canoe element being replaced with a swim, newspaper L’Auto stating the race consisted of a 3km run, a 12km bike ride and the crossing of the river Marne, all staged consecutively and without a break.
Throughout the 1920s other bike, run, and swim events had appeared in different cities such as the "Course des Trois Sports” in Marseilles.
The standard distance being used in the Olympics is 1.5km for swim, 40km for bike stage and 10km for run. This was created by longtime triathlon race director Jim Curl in the mid-1980s, after he and partner Carl Thomas produced the U.S. Triathlon Series (USTS) between 1982 and 1997.
Most triathlons – there are several formats -- are individual events.
The race formats as agreed by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) and the World Triathlon Corporation are the following: Kids Steel (100-750m swim-5-15km bike - 1-5km run), Novice (300m-8km-2km), 3-9-3 New Zealand (300m swim-9km bike-3km run), Sprint (750m-20km-5km), Olympic (1.5km-40km-10km), Triathlon 70.3 (1.9km-90km-21.1km), ITU-Long Distance 02 (3km-80km-20km), Triathlon 140.6 (3.9km-181km-42.2km), and ITU-Long Distance 03 (4km-120km-30km).