What order are the events in the triathlon, and has it always been that way?

The order of events in a standard triathlon is as follows:

  1. Swim: The triathlon begins with the swim leg, where participants cover a specified distance in open water, such as a lake or ocean. The swim is typically the first event to prevent fatigue from affecting safety in the water.
  2. Bike: After completing the swim, participants transition to the bike leg. During this phase, athletes cover a designated distance on a road bike or a triathlon-specific bike. The cycling portion allows competitors to recover somewhat from the swim before taking on the final leg.
  3. Run: The last leg of the triathlon is the run, where athletes complete a certain distance on foot. This stage is known for being physically demanding, as participants’ muscles may already be fatigued from the previous two disciplines.

Has it always been that way?

The order of events in the triathlon has not always been the same. In the early years of the sport, there was some variation in the order of the disciplines. For example, during the 1920s and 1930s, triathlons were occasionally held with the run segment first, followed by the bike and then the swim.

However, the modern standard triathlon format with the swim-bike-run order was solidified in the 1970s. The first known event that followed this sequence was the San Diego Track Club’s Mission Bay Triathlon, organized in 1974. From that point on, the swim-bike-run order gained popularity and became the standard for most triathlons worldwide.

Today, the consistent order of events is used in various triathlon distances, from Sprint and Olympic distances to the more challenging Half-Ironman and Ironman races. This standardization ensures uniformity and fairness for all participants across different events and competitions.