Why triathlons are booming
One of the most interesting sports phenomena of the past few years has been the new boom in triathlon, with race participation in the UK showing an increase of more than 300% in the past 5 years!
Triathlon is, of course, a new sport, with the first recorded triathlon only taking place on September 24, 1974. It was organized by the San Diego Track and Field Club at Mission Bay, and consisted of 5.3-mile run, a 5-mile bike ride, and a 600 yard swim in the ocean.
Just a few years later (1978) the first Ironman race was held, capturing the public's attention and starting the first triathlon boom. The sport is now showing huge growth worldwide, with the Olympic races from Sydney and Beijing being among the most watched events on the Olympic calendar. The ITU (International Triathlon Union) now sanctions over 100 events worldwide every year, with the 2009 World Cup series including 12 events in major cities and destinations around the globe.
Here in the UK, the London Triathlon has grown from 1,000 to 11,000 competitors in just over ten years, with organizers reporting that more and more people are signing up every year.
So why is triathlon so popular? To the casual observer it can seem like a torture fest - particularly when you see TV coverage of an Ironman race - so why do so many people do it? There are several reasons.
It is the ultimate cross training workout:
We are all being encouraged to put more variety into our training, to try some different things. Triathlon is the ultimate expression of that - triathletes swim, bike and run every week, ensuring that they always have a varied workout program.
Everyone's a winner:
The three disciplines mean that people who are not great at any one event can compete in all three. It's more interesting, and allows a greater variety of people to participate.
It's more interesting:
Because there are three sports to master, or at least become reasonably good at, the training is much more interesting than just running, swimming or cycling.
You can push yourself:
Because simply finishing an event is seen as an achievement, it's a great opportunity to test your limits. Just crossing the finish line - no matter your place in the field - can be a hugely rewarding experience, and is what keeps thousands of middle (and back) of the pack racers coming back for more.
Because they are doing three different sports, triathletes can avoid many of the injuries that single sports athletes - such as runners or swimmers - fall prey to. In addition, training for a triathlon is a great cardiovascular workout, and can help to build and maintain good muscle tone.
Surprisingly, you don't have to spend hours every day training in order to complete a race. There are races of all different lengths, and if you choose a short race, you can dip your toe in the water with as little as four to six hours of training a week. Why not give it a go?