Regular readers of this blog likely know what duathlons are, but if you are just coming into multisport racing, it might be helpful to go over the definition. Duathlons are distance races with three separate legs but two sports: running and cycling. They come in a variety of lengths from short to very, very long. And in that regard, do you know what, for a duathlete, is a crazy duathlete? Why one who has done a longer race than the longest one she or he has done.
Why tri the du? Let us count the ways. Whether you already do a distance sport, you are looking for a new challenge in your life. Or you want to try it because it looks like fun (and, done right, it is). You are a cyclist, or a runner, and whether you already race in your sport, the idea of combining it with the other one in a race intrigues you. You are interested in getting into what’s called cross-training; that is, training in more than one distance sport at the same time. Cross-training reduces your risk of sport-specific injury in any one of the sports because you are spending less time in each one. Coss-training can also reduce the boredom that can come with doing just one distance sport. And so, if you are cross-training, why not do the racing event it was originally designed for? Duathlon also provides a great excuse to buy some new toys — like a bike — especially for runners.
You may already be thinking about multi-sport racing, and you may well have heard about triathlon than duathlon. Yes indeed, you could try the tri for whatever reason or reasons pull your chain. But, let’s say that you don’t like to, want to, or just cannot, swim. Well then, it is definitely time to look at duathlon. Although there have been just run-bike events (and I did several of those years ago), the most common format is run-bike-run. There are four standard distances (although variants of them can be found to accommodate various course lengths and settings). There is what is generally called the super sprint, 2.5km run,10km cycle, 2.5km run, the sprint 5km run, 20km cycle, 5km run, standard distance: 10km run, 40km, 10km run, and a variety of truly long ones, like Powerman Zofingen, 10km run, 150km cycle, 30km run event, held in Switzerland.
So, if you are thinking about getting started in multisport racing but don’t like the idea of swimming, or you are a triathlete who is getting tired of training in the three sports, or you are looking for shorter combo events that are still a challenge but not as demanding as the usual triathlon, or you are most comfortable on the bike and perfectly happy to do the bulk of your training on it, or what have you, it might be time to “think duathlon.”
When duathlons were first developed by Dan Honig, President of New York Triathlon Club in the mid-1980s, the run-bike-run events were called “biathlons.” In the mid-90s the International Triathlon Union moved to get triathlon added to the Olympic Games. As many readers know, “biathlon” is also the name of the winter Olympic sport that combines cross-country skiing with target-shooting. Understandably, the winter biathlon people didn’t want another event in the Olympics associated with one that had the same name as theirs. So, by substituting the Latin prefix for the Greek one, the official name of the event was changed to “duathlon.” Whatever it is called, I do them on a regular basis throughout the season, and in my 35th season coming up, continue to do so.
By Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.
This column is based upon an earlier column of mine, “Why Try the Tri and Why Do the Du?” which appeared on the USA-Triathlon Blog on April 25, 2013. It is used with permission.