What Is A Duathlon? Distances, Order, Gear, How To Train & Beginner Tips


People generally refer to multisport as the ultimate test of endurance; the ease and swiftness of an athlete to move from one activity to another without batting an eyelid is commendable. Not many can achieve this feat, and those who did will tell you it requires tremendous effort to do it.

A duathlon is a multisport quite like a triathlon, with their significant difference being the absence of the swim leg.

What is a Duathlon? A duathlon is multisport that comprises two-sport – running and cycling in three stages. In simple words, it is made of three athletic activities but across two disciplines. Duathlon occurs in this order: Running followed by cycling, then back to running. 

Like the triathlon event, the duathlon has varying distances according to the events.

A duathlon is perfect for the athlete who is uncomfortable with an open water swim or a triathlete who cannot get access to open water during winter. Many people go for triathlon as their first multisport event only to find the swim part a bit challenging, while some don’t have access to open water for training.

A safe way to start multisport is by trying out a duathlon. So, let’s find out more about the duathlon sport.

Before going further, if you are looking for adventurous sports to choose from, we think it is worth it to check out our write-up on Are Triathlons Harder Than Marathons? Alternatives & Why To OR Not To Race One.

Or if you are looking for a triathlon experience, yet the distance is of concern to you, then go through our article on What is A Mini-Triathlon? Distances, Nutrition, and Preparation required

What Are Duathlon Disciplines

Two disciplines made up the duathlon; running and cycling, but it comes in this order; Run-Bike-Run. And there is also a transition period between each activity.

Running

There are two sets of run legs when racing in a duathlon – the start and the finish, with the cycling course coming in the middle of the two. Like its counterpart, triathlon, the run course has rules that triathletes follow and a set of gears. Also, your race number should be on display at all during the race.

Cycling

The cycling leg comes in the middle of the three legs of the race; it occurs after the first run leg and before the last run leg. Unlike the run discipline, you only face one set of cycling, which occurs after T1. It also has the same set of rules that triathletes strictly follow.

What Are Duathlon Distances

Like its triathlon counterpart, duathlon distances vary according to the event. However, there are standard racing distances although, they sometimes vary depending on the course or weather condition of the area. In this case, some race officials tweak this distance to suit the course (source).

Duathlon EventsRun(km)Bike(km)Run(km)Total(km)
Super Sprint2.5102.515
Sprint520530
Standard1040555
Long1015030190
A table showing the distances for the different duathlon events

What Are Duathlon Gear

Duathlon is a blessing in disguise when it comes to equipment, and it is one of the characteristics that make it attractive.

While triathlon requires much equipment to ensure a successful race, duathlon can make do with a handful of gears, and you are good to go.

Starting from your outfit, a tri suit is not a must. A bike shirt and tri shorts will do the job perfectly. However, other essential gears include;

Check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear for guidance

Breakdown of a Duathlon Event

If you are gearing up for your first duathlon event and have no idea of what it would look like. You are in luck right now because we will analyze the breakdown of a typical duathlon event. If you are familiar with triathlon, then this shouldn’t be new to you but for beginners, here is how it goes:

Pre-race setup

The first thing to do in any event is to set up your equipment in the transition area and sticking your race numbers to your equipment. Since they are closer to triathlon, they tend to have similar rules, and making your race number visible at all times is part of it. Another activity you need to do is to rack your bike in the appropriate place.

Run

Unlike triathlon, duathlon events begin with running, and this usually occurs as a mass start or wave start depending on the size of the event. In the USA, mass start is the most common technique employed, which means everyone begins the race simultaneously.

However, some event uses wave start which means a group of athletes will start in a particular format. The reason why many events employ a wave start is to avoid the congestion that usually follows a mass start. Remember to move but avoid overexerting yourself because doing this can tire you out quickly.

First Transition

During the first transition, you run to a designated section of the transition area and head to your bike. Put on your helmet and start the bike course.  A good piece of advice is putting your helmet first before mounting your bike; this prevents you from accidentally forgetting it and having to go back for it, thereby wasting time.

Bike

For most races, there is always a designated area for mounting your bike. Once there, you can mount your bike and start the second leg of the race.

Second Transition

After the second leg of the race, there is a dismount area located outside the transition area. Once you dismount, you walk into the transition area with your bike before re-racking it to the correct sport, from where you proceed to the second run, which is the last leg.

Run

Power through your last run and race like a champion to the finish line!

How to Train for a Duathlon

Training for your first duathlon can be overwhelming; however, a proper and strategic plan can help you achieve your goal (source).

Here is just very basic training guidance. You may want to consider hiring a coach. Check out How Much Does a Triathlon Coach Cost? Do you really need one!

Running Session

The running session is divided into two categories- endurance and speed. For endurance training, you can start with a light jog for a distance of 1-2miles with a 90seconds rest. Start with 2-3 sets daily before working your way to 5-6 sets.

It is good to start with 400-800m reps in 10-15 sets for speed training. When coupled with a 2mins light jog, it prevents lactic acid build in the muscle.

Bike session

Having a spin bike or access to one is an excellent way to practice indoors and closely watch your progress. It provides an effective workout, and you can easily deduce your cadence, which will ultimately help you know the amount of power you are expending.

It would be great if you can attain and maintain a cadence of 80 during your training sessions. It helps you develop your pace. To build endurance, it is advisable to practices 4mins rep of 10 sets. You can also increase resistance after each minute to help you develop power and stamina.

Combining the Two Discipline ( The Real Deal )

After practicing for each session, it is essential to combine the two into one session for the body to adapt to the changeover. A run and bike session combined is essential because it helps the muscle to adapt. It would be best if this combination is done at the interval. For example, 2 minutes run followed by a 5 minutes ride for about 4-8 sets.

Duathlon Tips for Beginners

  • Preparation and proper planning: Carry out research and get more knowledge about the duathlon. You can also join a duathlon community to keep up with the duathlon world and gain knowledge from the shared experience. You can also hire a coach and develop a personalized plan that will boost your work session.
  • Identify your Weaker Discipline: The earlier you do this, the better for you. This will help you develop a training plan that will improve your weaker area. For instance, if you are a strong cyclist, your training should be more run-focus as it will help you build the necessary strength, stamina, and technique to cover for this on race day.
  • Practice Transition: If you don’t incorporate this into your training plan, you are setting yourself up for failure. You can set up a mock transition area that allows you to switch from one discipline to another.
  • Do bricks workout: Bricks workout includes training from two disciplines. You can have a bike-run or a run-bike training session. It will help train your leg to run coming off a bike.
  • Speed should not be the first focus: Learn how to complete all the legs first before training for speed. It won’t do you any good if you are feeling exhausted after each training session.

Triathlon tips also apply. Check out Top 50 must-know tips for every beginner triathlete

What Is A Duathlon Relay Team?

The duathlon relay team comprises two team members, of which one is the runner while the other is the biker. The runner starts the race and competes with the other team. When he completes the first run leg, he runs through the transition area and transfers the timing chip and ankle strap to his teammate.

When the cyclist completes the bike course, he transfers the timing chip and ankle strap to the runner. There is a designated tag zone where this exchange occurs.

When the exchange has been complete, he dashes off to complete the race and cross the finish line.

Final Thoughts

Duathlon is quite similar to triathlon but with a twist that takes off the burden of the swim. The duathlon multisport includes just the run and bike discipline. Not only are these two sports similar in gears to the triathlon sport, but they are also similar in rules. Duathlon is a good way to get integrated into the world of multisport.

sherifjallad

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

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