Best Triathlons For Beginners

No one is born a finely-tuned athlete. Some people may have unique physical attributes that place them a few clicks ahead of the pack, but, regardless of gene pools, any feat worth achieving and any contest worth winning takes determination and practice.

While working toward a challenging goal may seem daunting, the process of realizing that which was once a dream is sweet unlike any other. But, don’t be fooled. Hard work is… hard.

It’s the reason so many aspire to greatness and so few ever achieve it. Too many give up prematurely and many more become discouraged after biting off more than they can chew, forced to reconcile their extraterrestrial hopes with their earthly inexperience.

Those who can balance optimism and motivation with realistic assessments of their abilities are rare. They are the warriors among us—the true adventurer.

For all readers who fit that criteria and who’re interested in embarking upon the path of a triathlete, read our top-5 list of upcoming US novice triathlon events and remember, all great champions were once beginners.

For those who don’t know, triathlons are 3-pronged events that usually consist of athletes swimming, biking, and running over set distances as they compete for the fastest time. Races can be run individually or in relay form.

Distances and requirements vary widely across events.

“Kids” and “Novice” events are at the low end of the intensity meter, while “Olympic” trials are toward the middle and “Ironmans” are at the peak.

Winding Trails Triathlons

Everyone has to start somewhere, and Farmington, Connecticut’s Winding Trails Off-Road Triathlon is a fantastic place to cut your teeth. Successful competitors will complete a 1/4-mile swim, 5-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile run. It’s the quintessential starter’s race.

With a bottom-barrel $20 entry fee and picturesque, lakeside New England terrain, there’s no reason not to saddle up and give it a go if you’re in the Connecticut area and you have access to a hybrid or off-road bike (no road bikes are allowed as competitors will be trekking through wooded terrain… it is called the “Off-Road Triathlon” after all).

We’ve run a few triathlons ourselves and we know the first ones are often the toughest (for mental and physical reasons), but we’ve competed in this one before and, to be honest, it’s over before you know it, in a good way.

That’s if you’ve trained a bit. Never begin a triathlon cold turkey. Your body will never forgive you. 

Huntington’s Disease Triathlon

Nothing keeps you moving forward like knowing you’re racing for the greater good. Now, in its 21st year, the Key Biscayne, Florida-based Huntington’s Disease Triathlon is organized to fund research to find a cure for the debilitating degenerative brain disorder.

Entry fees range from $75-$135 and all proceeds go to benefit research efforts. Competitors may choose to participate as individuals or as teams (in a 3-person relay).

Courses include the novice-intermediate 1/4-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile run, and the more advanced Olympic form which includes a 1500-meter swim (nearly 1 mile), 24.9-mile bike ride, and 6.2-mile run.

This year’s race will take place on July 29th. Those who have not already entered will pay a $15 late fee which, when you think about the cause that money’s going to, really isn’t that big a deal.

A word of advice to all novices: stay away from the Olympic route unless you’re in the mood for a multi-day workout.

New England Kids Triathlon

Physical fitness should be a critically important pursuit for all, and those who embark at a young age are better equipped to develop healthy habits they’ll be able to draw about throughout their lives.

Hosted on the Massachussets Institute of Technology campus located in Cambridge, the New England Kids Triathlon welcomes young athletes, from 6-years-old all the way up to 15.

Race distances vary by age group; the 6-10 set does a 100-meter swim, a 3-mile bike ride, and a 1/2 mile run and the 11-15 group does a more involved 200-meter swim, 6-mile bike ride, and 1-mile run. Don’t let mention of the word “kids” in this event’s title fool you.

Though it may sound a bit soft to us “go-big or go-home” adults, this event is certainly extreme enough to get the blood pumping in anyone, let alone the pee-wees that partake.

The Kids Triathlon takes place July 22nd and it’s $35 to enter. Who knows? One of these youngins might end up racing across the finish line at the next Iron Man.

XTERRA Whitewater Triathlon

So you’ve done a bunch of Winding Trails-style events to get your sea legs (and running legs and biking legs), and now you’re ready to take on something a little bit tougher, huh?

Well then, our fine adrenalist-in-training, the XTERRA Whitewater Triathlon might just be the place for you. XTERRA is the real deal. It’s egalitarian enough in its registration processes for amateurs to compete, but very much a pro event at its core.

Those novices who are feeling especially confident about their ability to make a defined leap from beginner to intermediate territory will be asked to prove themselves by completing an 850-meter swim, a 23-km bike ride, and a 6.5-km run. This year’s event took place on July 15th at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, but don’t worry if you missed it.

XTERRA hosts similar outings all year, all around the country. Just hit up The American Triathlon Calendar to check out when and where you might be able to show off your growing skills.

XTERRA entry fees are usually in the $100 range.

Musselman Triathlon

The MusselMan Triathlon is truly an event for the whole family, even if some members of that family are skilled triathletes.

Hosted each year in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, competitors may take advantage of a wide range of sub events from the “super-sprint” (100-yard swim, 0.6-mile bike ride, 0.2-mile run) to the “sprint” (750-meter swim, 16-mile bike ride, 3.1-mile run), to the much more intense Olympic-grade “half-iron” (1.2-mile swim,  56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run).

While their parents compete, kids can join in a MusselKids event where distance is based on age. The triathlon takes place at the center of a Geneva, New York community-wide arts and recreation fair and is truly a fantastic spot to spend a summer weekend testing your physical fitness while enjoying time with family.

This year’s event has passed, but next year’s will take place in July. Inside TriathlonTriathlete Magazine, and Bicycle have all ranked this event among the best races in the country, so it’s absolutely one to check out.

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