What Do DNF, DNS, Lap, And Lapped Mean In Triathlon?

Nobody wants to toe the line on race day or back off voluntarily due to whatever reasons. The sad reality is, it happens, and not just with beginners, many elites triathletes have faced the wistful side as well.

In triathlon, we describe such occasions using specific triathlon jargon. So here we’re going to discuss these useful triathlon jargons, what they mean, and the experiences attached to them.

What Do DNF And DNS Mean In Triathlon?

DNS is a short form for Did Not Start and DNF stands for Did Not Finish. DNF is something you never plan for but eventually, you may end up with it, quitting in the middle of a race. However, nobody wants to associate them with their name, therefore, it’s important to understand the fine line that differentiates the circumstances in which the only choice is either DNS/DNF.

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How Is DNF Different From DNS, And Why Is It Better?

The major reason why triathletes will opt for a DNS (Did not start) is medical issues. However, triathletes with insufficient training and those with injuries that occur amid the race usually opt to bail out and DNF (Did not finish).

We have heard that a DNF is better than a DNS but I believe one should not feel embarrassed deciding for any of it. Regardless you should try to decide on which of them you should get in order of priority.

Having said that, the grieve of not showing up in the race is greater than getting a DNF at the race. Both are natural and uncontrollable, give yourself time to absorb the situation and understand the importance of your life in each case.

DNS may be the only option you are left with but remember that,

ONE BODY, MANY RACES – this is the mantra that I cover with our runners so often. Know that starting and making an injury worse just means the day and that training cycle are all detrimental to your progress.


If you were given a DNF at a race and still can’t get through your experience, this video will give music to your ears.

What Is A LAP In Triathlon?

The lap is usually defined as the complete length of the course in different triathlons. Mixed relay triathlon involves five laps in total based on the track length and leg type.

Teams of two men and two women each complete a short-course triathlon (300m swim (one lap), 6.8km bike (two laps), 2km run (two laps)) before tagging off to their teammate to take over.


The word lap can be interpreted differently for different triathlon swim sports. One lap may be defined as the one length of the pool or equivalent to there and back.

The Olympics defines a lap as one length of the pool. It’s worth noting, however, that Olympic pools are 50 meters in length, while most recreational lap pools are 25 yards or 25 meters.


The meaning of being lapped in triathlon

Being lapped means getting ahead of someone competing in the race. The number of laps shows the recorded distance. The distance covered by a triathlete on the bike when lapped by other triathletes.

In another case, it also shows the distance covered by a triathlete on the bike when lapped by a first triathlete on the run leg. Their results are recorded in the form of laps.

Is being lapped more embarrassing than getting a DNF at a race?

After reading the experiences of elite and age group triathletes I feel being lapped can feel more embarrassing than getting a DNF at the race.

For a DNF, you keep pushing yourself until your stamina no longer allows you to stay on that track. And the situation is totally out of control if it involves injury and pain. You are bounded to your own body and you are your decision-maker. It also doesn’t involve any external authority.

On the other hand, being lapped means you could have made the situation under control. And, even after cutting your teeth on the same track before the race day, you had to adhere to rules.

The reasons for being lapped might be technical issues, lack of training, or mismanagement of time. Therefore, mostly the elite triathletes are part of such races.

Why should you DNF in triathlon?

You should DNF when necessary from a medical point of you to save yourself from long recovery phases and eventually not being a part of important events in your life. If you have the life you have the world. It’s important to train yourself for the decision you should be taking in the worst circumstances.

With a DNF, learn more about your body and when you can push yourself as far as you can. Also, It’s better to attempt and fail than to give up at the start.

How to decide for DNF/DNS?

For that, you need to ask yourself some questions and only then you’ll be able to decide between DNF, and DNS. Here are some questions you should be asking.

  • Am I njured and is the injury worsening between the race?
  • Would you be able to recover soon?
  • Can you bear the pain for the remaining distance?
  • Is the injury serious?
  • If you start the race, will it be easy for you to put your ego aside to decide for DNF in the worst case?
  • Is your body not ready to hold up against the pain or is your anxiety kicking in?
  • Have you been told by a doctor not to race?
  • Have you experienced the same thing previously? What was your decision then? Was it helpful?

These are some questions you should possibly try to answer yourself before the race in the case of DNS. However, if you opt for DNF you’ll probably be answering them in the middle of a race.

I know it feels extremely devastating when you see things initially. The time, efforts, money, and whatnot you have been investing in it from the beginning.

Your brain engaging you with a thought ‘you could have been at the last stop regaling everyone with your experience and achievement. But the reality is hidden in the answers to the aforementioned questions.

You are not the only one grieving over DNF at the race. You need to cheer up and stick to your story like Meredith Atwood. Source

What does DQ stand for and what can it cause in triathlon?

DQ is abbreviated as disqualified in competitions. This occurs following the violation of race rules. Each rule violation can cause disqualification or imposed time penalty on triathletes.

Generally, the time penalty occurs between 15 seconds to 5 minutes in which triathlete stand inside a penalty box during a 10km run. If the penalty isn’t served, the triathlete is disqualified.

We have written an amazing article on What a penalty box is in Triathlon? how to avoid a penalty box.


Here, I would like to encourage you to attempt the race and fail instead of not trying at all but, even before that I would like you not to take your life for granted. Regardless I believe a true triathlete should never take a chance for granted but if it involves risks remember the mantra. ONE BODY-MANY RACES.

I’ve learned enough over the years to know that one race is never worth a long lay off.”



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

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