Average Triathlon Distances and Times
I’m competing in a mini-triathlon in July and am wondering what the average distances and times are.
Jen B. from Oregon
Thank you for contacting TriathaNewbie.com!
This is a really tough question to answer, probably the toughest of all. Let’s get the easy part out of the way, the typical distance for a sprint or mini triathlon is a 1/2 mile swim, a 15-16 mile bike, and a 5K (3.1 mile) run. Those distances are often modified to accommodate the demographic, course limitations, or other factor. It is very common to see a short course triathlon with a swim of .25 to .33 miles, and a bike of anywhere from 12 to 15 miles. The run is almost always around 3 miles.
As for times, that is where it gets harder to answer. Times vary from age group to age group and within that, it varies on gender. From there, every single triathlon course is different, and every race day is different — a windy day will result in slower times than a perfectly still day, a dry day will have faster times than one with precip. Very few sprint triathlons are exactly the same distance and the terrain differs vastly between races.
For example, ocean swims tend to be the longest due to currents and waves. Lake and pond swims have fewer obstacles and swim much more smoothly. The biking and running depends on whether the course has many hills, few hills, intense hills, rolling hills or no hills. It also depends on whether the race is on-road or off-road.
Mentioned briefly above, another factor that can play a huge part in your finish-time is weather. You can actually participate in the same mini-triathlon several times, have different weather conditions and get very different times. We have seen swim courses that one year turn in blazing fast times, and the next year with the right (or wrong) wind, nobody turns in a swim time anywhere close to the year before.
We realize you probably want an answer, though. Most sprint or mini triathlon courses will have people racing for a total duration of anywhere from about 75 minutes to 2 hours. For a mid-pack age-grouper in a standard distance range, that might mean a 20 minute swim, a 55 minute bike, and a 25 minute run.
Our suggestion is that you research the the times from the race by going to race website and looking at the previous year’s results. Find your gender and age group and get a range of times, but be kind to yourself and run your own race — don’t compare. Triathlons are an individual sport and should be based on the individual. Remember, only one person comes in first, then there is the rest of us.
The second thing you can do is, if the race is local, go out and do a test run. If it is an open water swim, be sure you have a friend or someone else with you to make sure you stay safe. Remember that the bike and run close will likely be partially closed off and marked on race day, but on your practice day you might be in traffic or other hazards, so just be careful. Doing this, though, will give you an idea of what you might be able to expect on race day.
Finally, don’t get too hung up on your times or pace. Just ask yourself throughout the race if you are giving 100%, given your training up to that point. If you can say “yes” the whole way, then you will have run a great race!
TriathaNewbie.com Recommended Resources: