A triathlon is a multi-sport event involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance events. While many variations of the sport exist, triathlon, in its most popular form, involves swimming, cycling, and running in immediate succession over various distances. Triathletes compete for fastest overall course completion time, including timed "transitions" between the individual swim, bike, and run components.
Triathlon races vary in distance. According to the International Triathlon Union, and USA Triathlon, the main international race distances are Sprint distance (750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run), Intermediate (or Standard) distance, commonly referred to as "Olympic distance" (1.5 km swim, 40 km ride, 10 km run), the Long Course (1.9 km swim, 90 km ride, 21.1 km run, such as the Half Ironman), and Ultra Distance (3.8 km swim, 180 km ride, and a marathon: 42.2 km run); the most recognized branded Ultra Distance is the Ironman triathlon.
Triathlon is considered by some to have its beginnings in 1920s France. According to triathlon historian and author Scott Tinley, the origin of triathlon is attributed to a race during the 1920s–1930s that was called variously "Les trois sports", "La Course des Débrouillards", and "La course des Touche à Tout". This race is held every year in France near Joinville-le-Pont, in Meulan and Poissy.
An earlier tri-sport event in 1902 featured running, cycling, and canoeing. There are documented tri-sport events featuring running, swimming, & cycling (not necessarily in that order) in 1920, 1921, 1945, and the 1960s. In 1920, the French newspaper L´Auto reported on a competition called "Les Trois Sports" with a 3 km run, 12 km bike, and a swim across the channel Marne. Those three parts were done without any break. Another event was held in 1921 in Marseilles with the order of events bike-run-swim. Among the participants was American athlete Charles Sector. There are also articles in French newspapers about a race in Marseille in 1927. There is a 1934 article about "Les Trois Sports" (the three sports) in the city of La Rochelle, a race with: (1) a channel crossing (c. 200 m), (2) a bike competition (10 km) around the harbor of La Rochelle and the parc Laleu, and (3) a run (1200 m) in the stadium André-Barbeau.
The first modern swim/bike/run event to be called a 'triathlon' was held at Mission Bay, San Diego, California on September 25, 1974. The race was conceived and directed by Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan, members of the San Diego Track Club, and was sponsored by the track club. 46 participants entered this event. It was reportedly not inspired by the French events, although a race the following year at Fiesta Island, California, is sometimes called 'the first triathlon in America.
<From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, retrieved 10 December 2011>