What is the order of events in a triathlon?

Learn about the sequential order of events in a triathlon, from swimming to cycling to running. Discover how athletes transition between disciplines and the critical factors that contribute to race success.

The Structure of a Triathlon

A triathlon is a multi-disciplinary endurance sport consisting of three consecutive and sequential races: swimming, cycling, and running. Competitors strive to finish the races as fast as possible, aiming to beat other participants or their own personal records. The structure of a triathlon is standardized across most competitions, with variations in distances and course terrain.

The Order of Events

The traditional order of events in a triathlon is as follows:

  • 1. Swim
  • 2. Transition 1 (T1)
  • 3. Bike
  • 4. Transition 2 (T2)
  • 5. Run

1. Swim

The first leg of a triathlon is usually a swim. The swim can take place in open water (such as a lake, river, or ocean) or in a pool, depending on the event. Participants must complete the designated swim distance before moving on to the next stage of the race.

2. Transition 1 (T1)

After the swim, athletes enter the first transition area where they change from their swim gear to their cycling gear. Transition times are crucial in a triathlon, as quick and efficient transitions can make a significant difference in overall race time.

3. Bike

Once athletes are ready, they mount their bikes and start the cycling leg of the race. The bike course can vary in terrain, from flat roads to hilly terrain, challenging competitors’ cycling abilities and endurance. Athletes must complete the designated bike distance within the specified rules.

4. Transition 2 (T2)

After completing the bike leg, participants enter the second transition area where they switch from cycling to running gear. Similar to T1, efficient transitions in T2 can give athletes a competitive edge in the race.

5. Run

The final leg of a triathlon is the run. Athletes must complete the designated running distance, typically a 5K, 10K, or half marathon, depending on the event. Endurance and mental toughness play a crucial role in finishing strong in the run leg.


Understanding the order of events in a triathlon is essential for both seasoned competitors and beginners. By following the standardized structure of swimming, biking, and running, athletes can prepare strategically and maximize their performance on race day. Training and mastering transitions are key components to success in a triathlon, along with physical conditioning and mental preparation.

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