In the conventional five-member triathlon family, the mini, or sprint, triathlon is the baby of the bunch. It's by far the shortest race of the group, and it's designed to accommodate beginner and aspiring triathletes who aren't sure whether they're ready to tackle the longer distances of a conventional Olympic-length competition or more. For some triathletes, mini-triathlons are merely a stepping stone. For others, they're the preferred circuit of competition.
Mini or sprint triathlons vary race to race and course by course. On the low end, super sprints consist of a quarter-mile swim, a 6.2-mile bicycle ride and a 1.5-mile run. Full sprints typically feature a half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike and 3.1-mile run. This is slightly less than half of a full, or Olympic, triathlon.
Eight Weeks to Train
While most athletes will never tackle the Ironman, many do aspire to call themselves triathletes. That's where mini-triathlons come in. Even "moderately fit" individuals can be ready in compete in a sprint triathlon in eight weeks — just be sure that you're capable of 20 minutes of continuous cycling, 10 minutes of running and 100 yards of freestyle swimming.
A sprint triathlon training plan consists of five days of training per week. At first, you swim two days a week, and alternate one run and two cycling workouts one week with two runs and one cycling workout the next.
After you're comfortable with that, up your training to two swims, two bike runs and two runs each week, with one of those runs occurring immediately after a bike ride. You want to get used to doing these activities in succession.
The sprints and mini-sprints are only the start of the many triathletes' journey. The Olympic or standard-course triathlons are the next step. These races feature more consistent distances and consist of a 0.93-mile swim — 1.5 km — a 24.3-mile biking course and a 6.2-mile run. At double the distance of Olympic triathlons and geared more toward professional triathletes, International Triathlon Union races are a circuit of World Cup events that feature a 1.86-mile swim, a 49.6-mile bike ride and a 12.4-mile run.
From their modest U.S. beginnings in the early 1970s, triathlons quickly grew in popularity. Seeking to catch the wave, the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon was founded in 1978. The Ironman combined several existing Hawaiian race events to form what is now recognized as the sport's ultimate challenge: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile biking course and a full-marathon 26.2-mile run. Half Ironman events are exactly half the three distance legs of the Ironman.