How Triathlon Run Training Works

Sprint Triathlon Run Training

More than half of today's triathlons are sprint distance: a series of 0.75-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike ride and 5-kilometer run) [source: Mora]. Shorter distances are attractive to beginners and competitors who only have limited time to devote to training.

Even at sprint distance, however, triathlon is a challenging sport. Many athletes tend to focus on swim and bike training, probably because swimming is less familiar to most athletes. However, as the final leg of the race, running is arguably the most demanding segment of a triathlon, both physically and mentally.

As with any race training, the key to sprint triathlon run training is to gradually increase distances over the course of your training program. A moderately fit person can train for a sprint triathlon in eight to nine weeks. You should plan to work out six days per week (two bike days, two swim days and two run days), with one day off for recovery. Your run workouts should look something like this:

  • Maintenance runs. One time per week: If you're a novice, your maintenance run should be 15 minutes (or 1 to 2 miles) at a pace where you can carry on a conversation without huffing and puffing. If you have some experience and are trying to improve your running speed, you can alternate easy runs with interval workouts.
  • Long runs. One time per week: In the first week, your long run should be about 20 minutes (or 2 to 2.5 miles) at an easy pace. Every other week, add another 5 minutes (or another half mile) to your distance. Your longest run, 30 to 35 minutes (or 3 to 3.5 miles), should be about 14 days before your race, and you should taper down your distance to 15-minute easy runs in the two weeks before the race.
  • The Brick. On your long run day in week 6 or 7, add a bike workout (10 miles at a moderate pace) before your long run. This will allow you to practice your bike/run transition.

The change from swimming to biking or biking to running can add several minutes to your triathlon time. In the next section, we talk about ways to minimize time spent make the T2 (bike to run) transition.