Can You Walk In a Triathlon? Should You Do It ?!

A triathlon event is a very intense and exhausting event, especially for those longer distances. For this reason, there are times when triathletes may choose to take a break at either the swim, bike, or run leg. These triathletes may also choose to engage in a run-walk interval to help them recover from burnout.

Walking is allowed during any any of the three triathlon disciplines and athletes take advantage of it to allow themselves to recover while gaining some ground. However, note that there are techniques to optimize the effectiveness of the walking breaks. This involves making short strides with bent elbows, walking with a sense of urgency, and selecting the current intervals.

Triathletes should try to avoid walking slowly or dragging their feet. Also, many opt to walk through the support stations and for some time after the station to allow some time for the food intake to settle in their stomach.

One crucial element to keep in mind is that triathlon has a cutoff time, so if you decide to walk, make sure you do not take it too easy that you miss the cutoff time. For more on this, we highly recommend that you check out our post” What Are Triathlon Races Cutoff Time? Whatโ€™s a Good Finish Time!

Triathlon Walking Technique: The run-walk interval

There is no hard-fast rule on how one should employ the run-walk interval. It is designed to help the triathlete conserve energy and recover between checkpoints. A classic run-walk interval involves the 9-1 minute combination where they run for 9 minutes and then walk for 1 minute. This combination is easy to keep up with and ideal for long-distance triathlons such as Full and Half Ironman, but it might get to a point where the athlete begins to feel weary and heavy during the run. At this point, one can try out the 4-1 minute combination. Typically, this interval should drop in shorter races.

Asides from helping you conserve your energy, the run-walk interval can also help you complete the run distance faster. The idea is that the more your energy is conserved, the faster you can go.

Note though, that this advice does not apply to professional triathletes who compete for the seconds. Professional triathletes have no problem finishing any triathlon distance without any breaks

Be sure not to make the run-walk interval a thing to engage in as an afterthought or for an emergency. It ought to be planned for. Before the start of your event, create a plan on how to engage in the run-walk interval according to your strength and performance level. Without a plan for the run-walk interval, you canโ€™t reap the benefit of an improved speed.

A good piece of advice for the walk-run interval is to take a minute to walk at the start of the run leg to get rid of the jelly feeling and try to make the walk portions at the food/hydration stations to allow the intake to settle in the stomach. (Source)

Here is a video for some tips on run-walk intervals,

Can You Walk the Bike Leg in A Triathlon?

Triathletes are allowed to walk the bike leg in a triathlon under the condition that they hold onto their bike and keep their helmet fully fastened while making any forward movement. If they walk the bike leg without the bike close by, they run the risk of getting disqualified or penalized. 

Here is the rule as stated by Team USA triathlon:

 Participants shall not make any forward progress unaccompanied by their bicycles. If a bicycle is rendered inoperable, a participant may proceed on the cycling course, running or walking, while pushing or carrying the bicycle, so long as the bicycle is pushed or carried in a manner not to obstruct or impede the progress of other participants. Any violation of this section shall result in disqualification.


Can You Walk During an Ironman?

The Ironman triathlon is highly intense, for this reason, most triathletes take walk intervals during the marathon, including those that they might not have planned. It has been estimated that about 50% of triathletes walk at some point during the ironman triathlon. This average estimate suggests that walking is normal and also may be essential for many during an ironman race.

It is best to create a plan for your walking intervals early on in the event instead of making it an afterthought. (Source)

Reasons Why Triathletes Get Tired and Need to Walk in Triathlons and Ironmans?

Here are some reasons why triathletes get tired and give into walking during an ironman triathlon:

– Lack of fluid and electrolyte intake 

Lack of fluid and electrolytes intake cause you to feel dehydrated, drowsy, and sluggish. Without proper fluid and electrolytes intake (water, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium), you will most definitely give into walking too often during the race. 

– Starting with an intense run

When most triathletes start the run leg, they do so with so much energy, forgetting itโ€™s a marathon. Then after a few minutes in, they begin to burn out and give in to walking too quickly. 

– Poor feeding

Just like lack of fluid can cause dehydration, lack of proper feeding can lead to a calorie deficit, hunger, and low energy. So walking becomes the go-to for such triathletes.

– Overriding during the bike leg

Riding excessively without maintaining the right pace while cycling, can wear your legs out, making it difficult to begin the run leg effectively. 

Note that walking during the ironman triathlon race is not discouraged, if not encouraged. So, you are free to walk at intervals whenever you need to. 

Can You Stand on The Bike in A Triathlon?

When riding your bike during any triathlon event, there are three positions one can take. Athletes can sit on the bike holding the handlebars, go down the aero bars, or stand on their bike. Although people say that standing on the bike slows the rider down due to wind resistance/drag, it is actually the best position to take in certain circumstances. (Source)

Here are some situations where standing on the bike during a triathlon could be helpful,

After holding down the brake lever

When triathletes come across a bend, the next action to take is to hold down the brake lever, and after a few seconds, they need to get back to their normal acceleration. The best way to do this is to stand on your bike. While stepping up your speed, it also gives you a chance to stretch. 

To relax your glutes and lower back

As stated earlier, standing gives you a chance to stretch. This is an important reason to stand at intervals to help relieve the pressure on your buttocks and lower back. Standing on your bike at intervals is needed to enhance your comfort level. 

When taking a steep or long climb

When triathletes take short steep climbs, they do this standing because it helps generate more power while attempting to move forward. This also applies while taking a long climb. 

In Summary

Walking is allowed in the triathlon event but one could optimize the walking efficiency by taking basic steps such as walking with the elbow bent, using short strides, and walking with a sense of urgency. Walking in the bike leg is also allowed but with the conditions of holding onto the bike and keeping the helmet fastened.


An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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