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Have you signed up to do your first triathlon this year? Human Race and its Official Breakfast Partner FUEL10K have teamed up to put together a triathlon guide for beginners. Here’s everything you need to know:

What distance should you run?

Triathlons come in all shapes and sizes so if you’re new to it, it’s best to start a little smaller with a Taster or Novice triathlon and then build up. Human Race offers a variety of distances including:

  • Taster Triathlon: 200m Swim, 5.3km Bike, 2.5km Run
  • Novice Triathlon: 400m Swim, 10.6km Bike, 2.5km Run
  • SuperSprint Triathlon: 400m Swim, 21.2km Bike, 5km Run
  • Sprint Triathlon: 750m Swim, 21.2km Bike, 5km Run
  • Olympic Triathlon: 1500m Swim, 42.4km Bike, 10km Run

What kit do you really need?

You can spend a fortune on triathlon kit or you can be a bit smarter and stock up on the essentials. Here’s what we recommend for your first triathlon:


  • Wetsuit – it can be chilly in a British lake or river so a wetsuit is a good investment. It will keep you warm, reduce drag and make you more buoyant. If you don’t want to buy one new, consider hiring one for the season or buying second-hand. Top tip: wetsuits are compulsory if the water temperature is less than 14 degrees.
  • Tri suit – tri suits are engineered for comfort throughout all three phases of the triathlon, but they can be expensive. Don’t be afraid to wear swim shorts or a swim costume under your wetsuit instead.
  • Goggles – helpful for giving you clear vision in open water, the ones you use in your local baths are ideal.
  • Caps – a swim hat is a good idea to protect your hair from the elements as well as improving your hydrodynamic performance.
  • Towel – always useful so you can dry your feet when you come out of the water before putting on your cycling shoes.


  • Which bike? – don’t believe the tri-geeks who say you’ve got to get a time trial bike. Lots of people use mountain bikes, hybrids or a road bike for the bike part of the triathlon.
  • Cleats – you don’t need your shoes to clip into your pedals if you don’t want to. Cycle in your running shoes instead.
  • Helmet – essential. Don’t get on your bike without one.
  • What to wear? – if you’re wearing a tri-suit, you’re already sorted. If not, make sure you wear comfortable clothing. If you’re a Taster or Novice distance, bike leg shorts are ideal.
  • Try a race belt – great to attach your race number to so you can be easily spotted.


  • Running shoes – feel free to splash out on a pair of triathlon running shows but it’s just as good to use your normal trainers that you have broken in during training.
  • Elastic laces – these are great as they speed up the time it takes to put your shoes on and they don’t come undone.


How best to train ahead of the event

There’s lots to think about before the big day – here’s our top training tips.

  • Practice open water swimming ahead of race day. Find out where your local swimming lake is and train there regularly. Find your local lake here https://www.nowca.org/listing-and-resources-for-nowca-lakes
  • Practice getting in and out of your wetsuit. Top tip: just before you leave the water, scoop a handful of water down the neck of your wetsuit to make it easier to remove.
  • Get mentally fit. Create a mental checklist of everything you need to consider on the day and what order you need to do things in transition.
  • Visit the venue ahead of race day so it becomes familiar to you.
  • Train with friends or see if a friend will take part with you. Human Race offers Mates Waves which let participants race alongside each other regardless.


What you need to consider on the day

  • Get there early – ideally an hour before the start time so you have time to get organised.
  • On race day, give yourself time to get in the water and to get used to the temperature before the start. It’s the perfect opportunity to mentally prepare yourself with some positive affirmations and breathing techniques.
  • If you’re new to triathlon, don’t position yourself at the front of the group as you could be swamped when the gun goes. Give yourself a few seconds so you have clear water in front of you.
  • If you’re running out of power during the swim, switch from front crawl to breaststroke.
  • Sneaky tip: Most of the Human Race triathlons take place at Dorney Lake where there’s a rope holding the swim buoys in place – you can look down in the clear water and follow this to save you checking where you are going as often.
  • As you leave the water, lift your goggles onto your head, unzip the back of your wetsuit and take your arms out.
  • Remember to put on your helmet before even touching your bike – this is a British Triathlon rule.
  • Relax. If it’s your first triathlon, there’s a lot to get your head round. Be kind to yourself.


Triathlon glossary

Not sure what all the lingo means. Here’s what you need to know:

·         Brick session – a training session where you combine the bike and run disciplines, e.g. a 25min bike ride followed immediately by a 15min run

·         BTF (British Triathlon Federation) licence – all participants must either purchase a day licence for £6 or be in possession of a British Triathlon Federation licence. The fee provides you with public liability and personal accident insurance cover while you are racing. Click here to find out more about purchasing an annual licence.

·         Drafting – where a triathlete cycles closely behind another to gain an aerodynamic advantage. In most triathlons, drafting is illegal (except for elite races) and you’ll need to make sure you keep a distance of 10m between you and the person in front of you

·         Duathlon – for people who don’t like getting wet! Run – Bike – Run instead of Swim – Bike – Run.

·         Olympic distance – a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run

·         Sprint distance – a 750m swim, a 20km bike and a 5km run

·         Transition – where you change between disciplines in a triathlon. These are timed separately to the swim, bike and run legs and you’ll hear seasoned triathletes obsess constantly about how they can spend less time there!

·         Tri suit – best described as a triathlon onesie! Wearing one means you don’t have to get changed in transition apart from removing your wetsuit, and they are also padded for comfort on the bike.

·         T1 – the transition between the swim and the bike legs of a triathlon

·         T2 – the transition between the bike and run legs of a triathlon

·         Wave – unless there is a very small field, participants in a triathlon will be set off periodically in groups called ‘waves’.

Gracie Finch

To sign up for a Human Race triathlon click here