The Ironman triathlon is a major test of an athlete’s endurance. A standard Ironman is 140.6 miles long, including a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. If you’re not ready to try the Ironman distance yet, if you’re not fond of one of the Ironman events, or even if you want a greater challenge, there are plenty of alternative endurance events you can aim for.
The shortest triathlons are termed “sprint” triathlons. The distances vary, but typical sprint triathlons include a 1/2-mile swim, a 12- to 20-mile bicycle ride and a 3- to 4-mile run. Olympic distance triathlons, such as the one held during the 2012 London Olympics, feature a swim of about 9/10 of a mile, a 26 ¾-mile bike ride and a 6 ¼-mile run. Half Ironman triathlons are exactly what they say -- half of a standard Ironman in each of the three disciplines, for a total of 70.3 miles.
If you feel like 140.6 miles is just a walk in the park, you’re ready for an ultra triathlon. A double ultra event is about twice the length of an Ironman, with a 7.6-kilometer swim (4.7 miles), a 360-kilometer bike ride (223.7 miles) and an 84.4-kilometer run (52.4 miles). A triple ultra triathlon is three times the Ironman distance. Perhaps the ultimate endurance challenge is a Deca Iron triathlon, in which you compete at the full Ironman distance every day, for 10 consecutive days.
If you enjoy endurance competition but don’t like biking, you can try an aquathon, which includes running and swimming. The running may be completed in one segment, or it can be broken into two segments with the swim in the middle. Adult distances vary from 2 to 8 miles of running and 1/4 to 2/3 mile of swimming, to more than 37 miles of running and 2 miles of swimming. If swimming isn’t your thing, a duathlon combines 2 to 37-plus miles of running with 5 to more than 62 miles of biking. And if you prefer not to run, an aquabike features a swim of 1/4 to 2-plus miles and a bike ride of 5 to more than 62 miles.
An off-road triathlon includes the standard triathlon disciplines at sub-Ironman distances, but adds the challenge of biking and running off the usual paths. The event begins with a swim of about 1/2 to 1 mile, then a mountain bike ride of 12 to 18.6 miles and a trail run ranging from 3 to approximately 6.8 miles. Winter triathlons start with a run of 1 to about 18.6 miles, followed by a bike ride -- through snow -- of 5 to 62 miles, then conclude with 1.9 to 31 miles of cross-country skiing.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.