Triathlon Run Leg Rules: Most Common Violations Listed!

The multi-event sport, Triathlon is considered one of the most intense and highly competitive sport.

In order to make this competitive sport safe, enjoyable, and fair to all participants, rules have been set for each leg in the triathlon sport by governing bodies such as the International Triathlon Union and the USA triathlon.

Participants are required to swim, bike, and run while making transitions in between. Out of all legs in the triathlon sport, the run leg is less complicated as participants will only require their legs and there is no major equipment required.

Traditionally, the run leg is the last in the triathlon sport and it would be a pitiful experience to get disqualified on your way to crossing the finish line because you were ignorant of the running rules.

The run leg in a triathlon sport might seem less complicated, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participants should treat the last leg as important as the first, following the rules strictly to avoid a faulty race.

For example, you might be used to blasting your favorite music in your ears while working out or running. But, the triathlon sport should be an exemption to the use of your iPod as it could lead to your disqualification if you decide to run with it.

Running in silence without any audio device is one of the many rules for the triathlon run leg, and you will get to know more about other triathlon running rules as you read further.

Let’s dissect further what these triathlon running rules are and which of them are commonly violated.

What Are The General Rules For Triathlon Run Leg?

According to the international triathlon union, here are the general rules stated for the run leg in a triathlon, (Source)

  1. You should avoid running shirtless – Any form of nudity or body exposure is forbidden in the triathlon sport. So, running with a bare “torso” as described by the International triathlon union is frowned upon and can lead to disqualification.
  2. If you can’t run, walk. Do not crawl – According to the International triathlon union, crawling is described as placing three or more limbs either together or at a sequence on the ground. You might want to unconsciously do this to help you propel faster but be conscious to avoid disqualification.
  3. Put on the right running shoes – You are not allowed to walk or run barefoot. So get the right shoes that are comfortable for your feet and will help propel you faster while running.
  4. Avoid running with your helmet on – While transitioning from the bike leg to the run leg, it is common to see triathletes forget their helmets on their heads. This could be due to the anxiety of making it to the finish line. You should stay calm and ensure a good transition from the bike leg to the run leg. This is to avoid disqualification before getting to the finish line.
  5. The run leg should be done unaccompanied – According to the international triathlon union, you are not to be accompanied by team members, team managers, or pacemakers.
  6. Avoid touching fixed objects to help with maneuver technique – During the run leg, you might approach bends and curves. You should avoid holding down fixed objects like poles or trees for assistance while trying to maneuver a curve.
  7. Avoid the use of Audio devices – You are expected to run in silence and all audio devices like AirPods, headsets, mp3 player are prohibited. This also applies to all three legs during the triathlon sport. Read this article to find out better alternative to earphones.

What other types of equipment are prohibited during the run leg apart from the audio devices?

Apart from audio devices like headsets, mp3 players, you should avoid the use of glass containers and mobile phones.

What Rules Are Commonly Violated By Triathletes During The Run Leg

Apart from the rules mentioned above, there are rules triathletes commonly violate in the transition. This includes leaving the helmet on while running and holding unto fixed objects for support while running.

What Are Some Unwritten Race Rules To Be Aware Of?

These unwritten rules include maximizing your transition time, using lubricants, avoiding hitting or touching other participants while racing, being unselfish during the race, Smiling, properly disposing of your waste, and being respectful while racing.

Also check out Triathlon Etiquette; What Is Dunking and Short Chute? How Super League Triathlon Works

Here is a video to better understand these rules.

On a general note, what rules are commonly violated by triathletes. 

The USA triathlon has stated some commonly violated rules by triathlete which includes:

  • The use of helmets – Each participant is required to use the right helmet approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This helmet is to be worn during the bike leg. Failure to do so leads to disqualification.
  • The use of Chinstraps – Chinstraps are to be worn and buckled during the bike leg. But this can be unbuckled after the bike leg.
  • The use of outside assistance – Participants should engage in the triathlon sport unaccompanied as the sport is intended to measure individual strength.
  • The use of abusive and foul language – Speaking with foul language to one another is sportsman-like and should be avoided at all costs to avoid disqualification. 
  • The use of a wet suit – The wet suit is allowed when swimming in water of low temperature. Outside this condition, a person who wears a wet suit cannot be given prizes.
  • Abandoning your belongings – Each participant should hold onto their properties and avoid leaving them carelessly.
  • Blocking – All participants should always ride to the right side of the road. If you ride to the left side without passing over, it is blocking. This can lead to disqualification. (Source)

Now you know all these running rules, you have certainly decided to avoid violating them. With this decision, you will make it to the finish line. But how do you finish the race the right way?

When Is A Triathlete Considered A Finisher?

According to the Internation Triathlon Union, participants are said to finish the triathlon race when any part of their body above the waist reaches the perpendicular line which extends from the leading edge of the finish line. For this reason, it is common to see most athletes get to the finish line by throwing their chests to touch the ribbon.

What are some tips for a good run during the triathlon?

We have said that the run leg determines if you win the triathlon sport or not, so it’s advisable to start the run leg by using these tips:

  1. Avoid taking long strides immediately after the bike leg to prevent the leg muscles from being heavy and fatigued.
  2. Practice running on tired legs. You could incorporate the brick workouts in your training where you practice running after a cycling practice. (Source)
  3. Engage in mental visualization where you see yourself as a good runner. Saying mantras are also encouraged.
  4. Engage in a negative splitting of your run leg. Such that, you begin the run leg with a slow pace to allow your legs to adapt and for adequate blood to shunt to your legs. Then at the mid-stage, you should run with more speed.

Final thoughts

You should know the rules to avoid being penalized or worst, disqualified. Rules such as, not running with a bare torso, not crawling during the run leg, and not holding onto still objects for support while running. You should also avoid running barefoot. Also check out What Do DNF, DNS, Lap, And Lapped Mean In Triathlon?

Apart from these written down rules, there are some unwritten rules you could adopt such as maximizing your transition time, using lubricants, being unselfish during the race, smiling, properly disposing of your waste, and being respectful while racing.

You can make your run leg better by incorporating brick workouts during your training and practicing running on tired legs.

Doing a negative splitting during the run leg is advised too. This helps buy time for the rush of blood to your legs. The run-leg ends the triathlon sport with the participant reaching for the finish line with his or her torso.

There are general rules commonly violated in the triathlon sport. This includes wearing the helmet from transition T2, abandonment, blocking, illegal drafting, taking in prohibited items like glass containers, and using audio devices. The inappropriate use of the wet suit is a commonly violated rule too.

The triathlon sport is intense and comes with lots of rules. But, taking your time to know these rules and abide by them will make the sport very enjoyable for you.


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

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