What is triathlon?

Triathlon and its history

Challenge Denmark is part of a sport with a long history; a sport which has grown larger in the previous years and continue to grow. In Denmark triathlon has become a sport for the people, were people of all ages and professional background compete against each other. Some compete to be the best and win, but most of the competitors in Denmark compete against themselves with a single goal of becoming a better version of who they were before.

But where does the sport that engages so many people in sport come from? We will try to answer this question in the following.

The beginning of triathlon and ITU triathlon

Triathlon may be dated back to the 1920’s and an event called “Le trois sports” in France. Here athletes would run 3 kilometres, bike 12 kilometres and swim across the Marne. It was first later, in the second half of 20th century, that the modern form of triathlon with an organized structure and an established rulebook came to be. The first event to be called a triathlon was held in 1974 in Mission Bay, San Diego, USA. This was the first time that the name “triathlon” was used to describe a distinctive sport. The name “triathlon” also made the sport comparable to other Olympic disciplines such as hepathlon and decathlon.

In 1989, 15 years after the event in Mission Bay, ITU, the International Triathlon Union, was established with a main goal of getting triathlon into the olympic programme and succeeded at the summer olympics in Sydney, 2000. Today ITU is the organization which sanctions and organize the Triathlon World Cup and the Triathlon World Series. Also, ITU and the national triathlon federations, play a central role in sanctioning the many local triathlon races all over the world.

Within the framework of ITU there are a number of different distances. Most of these distances are non-draft distances, and at the amateur-level, all races held are non-draft. The only draft-legal distances are super-sprint (400 m swim, 10 km bike, 2.5 km run), sprint (750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run) and the olympic distance (1500 m swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run) at the pro-level.

In addition to these “short” distances, ITU also has a ITU-specific long-distance with 4 km swim, 120 km bike, and 30 km run. This distance deviate from more popular long-distance triathlons (described below) to try to make the distances equal in toughness.

In addition to ITU there are also a number of private operators of different triathlon events, where the Challenge Family is one of the oldest still active ones.

The Birth of long-distance Triathlon

Long-distance triathlon began its history as a competition between a swimmer, a cyclist, and a runner, who wanted to know, which disciplin gave the athlete the best fitness level. They sought the answer by combining three competitions, the Waikiki Rough Water swim (3.86 km), the Around-Oahu bike race (185.07 km), and the Honolulu Marathon (42.195 km), into one race. This race became the birth of the legendary full distance triathlon, which today consists of 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42.195 km run.

This distance has also become the reference point for many shorter distances such as Middle Distance (1.9 km swim, 90 km bike, and 21.1 km run), and Short Distance (950 m swim, 45 km bike, and 10.5 km run), as well as some smaller distances. All of these distances are categorized as non-draft distances, where athletes are required to stay at least 12 meters behind the bike in front of them. In 2017, Challenge Family introduced a 20 meter drafting rule, as opposed to the earlier 12 meter rule, at The Championship to combat drafting at the pro-level.

The iconic full distance triathlon is the distance from which Challenge Family triathlon was born.

The Birth of Challenge Family

Challenge Family and their many races across the world is one of the largest triathlon operators. The story started at Challenge Roth, which is the world’s largest full distance triathlon race. In Roth more than 5.000 athletes compete against the clock, closely followed by around 200.000 spectators. But the Challenge Family is much more than Challenge Roth with many of the oldest triathlon races in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

Challenge Family is the fastest growing triathlon series and cover 44 full and half distance races in 26 different countries all over the globe. Therefore no Challenge Family race is like the others. The focus of Challenge Family races are solely to deliver the race of a lifetime to all athletes regardless of ambition, as well as creating a spectacular experience for the spectators that capture the excitement and emotions of triathlon.

The Challenge Family philosophy

The difference between Challenge Family races and other race organizers lies in the name. For Challenge Family “family” is more than just a word. When you arrange a triathlon event, you can only do so much as an organizer, but making the event great, that depends on the contribution of a lot of other people. The name Challenge Family therefore include every person who contribute to make every Challenge Family event a great event: athletes, volunteers, sponsors, supporters, spectators, cities, and everyone who contribute to the event.

The slogan “We Are Triathlon!” refers to every person, because only “WE” can make a great event. Therefore the Challenge Family is about making a great event for spectators, athletes, and partners alike. This is what sets Challenge Family apart. At a Challenge Family event we work hard to ensure a great event for everyone, whether you are a first timer, the world champion or anyone in between. To do this we rely on you, the athletes, as well as everyone around you, therefore it is essential to us that you are satisfied and left with the best feeling when you have finished a Challenge Family event.

The Championship

Challenge Family has also started The Championship, which sets a new standard in triathlon. The Championship is a qualification-race where age-group and pro-athletes alike qualify to compete and become the Champion. Read more about The Championship.

Notable triathlon records

Olympic distance:

  • Herre: Alistair Brownlee (UK): 1:45:01 (Rio 2016)
  • Dame: Gwen Jorgensen (USA): 1:56:16 (Rio 2016)

Full distance:

  • Herre: Jan Frodeno (DE): 7:35:39 (Challenge Roth 2016)
  • Dame: Chrissie Wellington (UK): 8:18:13 (Challenge Roth 2011)