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I’m a runner, can I really do a triathlon?

Point of view: you want to dip your toe into triathlon but you’re a runner and swimming / cycling is relatively new to you.

Fear not! It’s pretty normal for triathletes to have come from a single sport background, with most of those coming from mainly running, and even some of the best have followed just this route.

Beth Potter is renowned for being a long distance runner before she turned to triathlon, although granted she swam competitively as a child. Anecdotally, I believe starting as a runner gives you an edge, and here’s why…

Running as a strength

With running as your strongest discipline, you’re saving your best for last. This can pay huge mental dividends as you “check off” the disciplines you favour least as you work your way to the finish line. Ending on your favourite or strongest discipline means you have that to look forward to when the race gets tough.

It also means you’re likely to be feeling your strongest as others begin to tire. I find swimming my weakest discipline, so when I come out of the water I have a lot of the race field ahead of me. Being able to start to catch people up as I work towards my strongest discipline gives me a mental boost. I’d rather that than get out of the water first, and spend the rest of the race being overtaken!

Tips for your first triathlon as a runner

The key to getting race ready from a background of only running is to train your weaknesses, and play to your strengths. If you have time for 6 sessions a week, consider structuring them so you favour your weakest element. For example, if you’re really new to swimming, try 3 swims a week, 2 cycles and a run. You can turn one of your cycles into a brick session to add in some extra running and practice that feeling of bike to run in your legs! Doing this on your indoor bike and NoblePro treadmill makes brick sessions a breeze…

Work on quality over quantity

Getting a “hard” workout in for each discipline, for example intervals, hills, etc. will help you build the speed and strength you need, while allowing plenty of easy workouts for recovery and building your base fitness.

Layer your bike and run sessions

Put your hard run in the day after a hard ride, and your long run in the day after a long ride. In addition to brick sessions, layering your bike and run workouts will help you practice running on tired legs – if you’re used to running fresh then this will help you keep strong in that final stage! Triathlon is all about cumulative fatigue so make sure you plan and train for it.

Bonus tip for nervous cyclists or swimmers

If you really want to try a triathlon but are nervous about one (or both!) of the disciplines, look for a race that eases you in gently. For example, if the idea of open water scares you, look for a indoor pool triathlon. If cycling on the roads is nerve wracking, check out races at Dorney Lake where the cycling is all on closed roads. There are options for all and it’s definitely becoming a more inclusive sport.

Good luck!

As someone who went from running to triathlon, I know it’s possible. I’ve even run my fastest single discipline race times while training for triathlon so there are definitely crossover benefits to be had. As long as you put the work in, you can absolutely get the best of three worlds!


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