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There’s A Great Triathlete Inside Every Runner

Runners often make great triathletes–all they need to do is give the triathlon a try.

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Give The Tri A Try

You know that scene in The Wizard of Oz when the wicked witch is on the bike in Dorothy’s tornado dream, riding along to the evil music we all know so well? That’s how I used to feel in a triathlon event as countless cyclists passed me. In my head I was all, I’ll get you on the run, my pretty! (Insert high pitch wicked witch cackle.) I would always make good on my internal promise, which is how I discovered my distinct advantage.

Related: 4 Secret Superpowers Of Runners

I was exclusively a road runner for almost 15 years before I completed my first triathlon. In the nearly eight years since, I have learned how much of an advantage runners have in triathlons and why every runner should try a tri.

Most triathletes are excellent swimmers and/or cyclists but loathe the run and are not great at pacing and building speed. Although triathletes typically spend most of their time on a bike and therefore can gain the most race advantage during the ride, don’t discount how much ground you can make up on the run.

There are a few reasons why this is the case:

Runners Endure

Runners spend their training days enduring pain, pushing their limits and conquering fears–all on their way to attaining huge goals like running half, full or ultra marathons. After the swim and bike ride, most triathletes are dreading the run and their bodies are reaching their breaking points. The opposite is true for runners. I look forward to the last part of the race, knowing I’m strongest and most comfortable on the run, and I end up passing a lot of those who earlier passed me on their bikes.

Case in point: in a recent race, I came out of the swim at number 22 of 48 in my age group. I finished the bike ride in 11th place and finally nailed the run to get me into the top 10, coming in eighth overall.

Runners Know Cross Training

Anyone who’s been running for a while knows how important cross training is for preventing injuries and increasing power and strength. Not only will the addition of swimming and cycling improve your running and overall fitness, but you already have the power in your core and lower body that you need for good performance in cycling and swimming.

Another case in point: after racing triathlons for six years, I ran my first marathon in eight years in 2015 (I had raced seven marathons between 2004 and 2008) and finished with a 3:28:00 personal record at the ripe old age of 40.

Runners Adapt

Any runner who has gone the marathon distance knows there are major ups and downs. Runners also know the importance of simply running the mile they’re in. With that kind of mental toughness already in place, if you get your goggles knocked off during the swim or find yourself with a flat on the ride, you are better able to keep your head, do what needs to be done and move on. The mental toughness you’ve gained in running will help tremendously during a triathlon.

Ready to try a triathlon? Start here.

  1. Do your research! Sites like DefeatSame from USATritahlon answer every question a first time triathlete may have. These sites also offer free training plans, advice and a calendar of races in the United States.
  2. There’s no need to invest in a fancy bike for your first attempt. Borrow a bike, use the one you already have or invest in affordable wheels that will get you to the finish line safely.
  3. Find a beginner race plan that’ll help you strategize ways to incorporate swimming and cycling into your training.
  4. Enjoy the added benefits of cross training and challenging yourself!


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