Thinking about your first Triathlon?

Firstly, brilliant, you’re going to have a great experience and you’ll find triathletes a really supportive group of people, even on race day.  Not all courses are created equal and to maximise your chances of having a great day, here are some pointers when selecting your first event.



Most events are held in the morning and start early, especially if the bike route is on open roads. Consider an event that is close to your home to minimise travel time. Alternatively plan to arrive the day before and stay the night in a hotel (check in advance that you can bring your bike into your room for peace of mind).


Play to your strengths

Nervous about an open water swim? Early and late season (May and September, UK season) events are usually pool based and would make an excellent choice for your first triathlon.  No wetsuits required, usually no tumble turns, and you can select a lane based on your pace.  If you are up for an Open Water Swim (OWS) consider your level of experience and choose lake, river or sea swims accordingly.  Ensure you have had at least a couple of familiarisation OWS in your wetsuit ahead of your event.

For the bike the main considerations are how technical the course is (tight turns, number of corners) how flat or hilly the course is and how exposed it is to the wind. Many events are on private land (as opposed to open roads) and although these can feel busy, there is no need to worry about traffic.  Some courses consist of many short laps, and others up to one large loop, the choice is yours.

Considerations for the run are similar to the bike and it really comes down to personal preference; flat, hilly, pavement, off-road. 

As with all the above make sure you can train in similar terrain/environments.



The majority of UK based triathlons are held between May and September.  Open water temperatures will be cold in May and will peak in August/September. If the water is above 11c, the swim will go ahead (wetsuit mandatory below 14c).

Consider what your level of fitness will be on the date of the triathlon.  If you have not been able to train throughout the winter, a late summer event maybe appropriate so that you have time to train from spring onwards, when the weather is generally better.


Event Distance

Triathlons come in varying distances from ‘sprint’ (and shorter) to ‘long course’ and longer! Look out for ‘Go Tri’ or ‘#trilikeme’ events which are created especially for first timers. The following table provides a list of the most common distances and names.


Swim (m)

Bike (km)

Run (km)

Super Sprint








Standard (Olympic)




Half (70.3)




Full, Long, Ironman (140.6)





For more information on well organised events British Triathlon is a great place to start your search.


Basic Equipment

Let’s be honest, triathlon can cost an arm and a leg, but it does not need too, especially when you are just starting out. 

For a pool swim all you’ll need are goggles and your swimsuit and if you are swimming in open water just add a wetsuit to your list.  Buying a new wetsuit for your first and possibly only triathlon is an expensive option.  It’s important that the suit fits well, which can make buying a second-hand suit a somewhat risky purchase.  Renting a suit from a company that that offers a sizing service and uses reputable brands is a good place to start. There are a few companies out there, but Sarah from Tri Wetsuit Hire offers a great service. Don’t worry about a swim hat, you’ll be issued one in your event pack, but it would be worth practising to putting one on (without a mirror) before the day!

As for the bike, almost anything goes.  Clearly a shopping bike with wicker basket is not going to get you the fastest time of the day, but I bet you’ll finish with a smile on your face.  Whatever you decide to use make sure it fits and is well maintained (brakes and general roadworthiness will be checked when entering transition).

For the run, a decent pair of good fitting running shoes that you have used for training, but not worn out, will do the job.

Whatever you decide to use on the day, do not bring anything to the event that you have not used before in training. The day of the event is not the day to try out your new goggles or running shoes.

So, there you have it.  Your first triathlon sorted.  Now all that is left to do is find an event, enter it, get training and enjoy your first triathlon. I bet it will not be your last.

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch at Kairos Multisport.

by Mark Ross



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