Triathlon, the multi-sport event made up of running, swimming and biking, has seen an increase in participation over the last several years.
Since the first U.S. triathlon took place in San Diego, California in 1974, athletes have been taking up the challenge and most recently, race organizers have seen a surge in participation.
According to USA Triathlon, their memberships were increasing at a steady 4% between 2009 and 2011. Then in 2012, that rate of annual and one day memberships increased by 5.6% for a record high of over 510,859 total memberships.
But why the increased interest in triathlons?
While it’s difficult to pinpoint, one overarching reason could be that anyone can do it.
Whether you complete a sprint triathlon (500m swim / 20k bike ride/ 5k run) or an Ironman race (4k swim / 180k bike ride /full marathon run), there is an immense feeling of achievement after completing a triathlon.
Not only are more adults participating in triathlons, but young people are trying it out as well. According to a report compiled by the Outdoor Foundation, in 2013 the median age of a triathlete was around 30 years old; however, colleges across the country are starting their own triathlon clubs. The clubs compete at individual conferences against other schools in the fall in order to qualify for the national championship later in the spring. There has also been a tremendous increase in non-traditional or off-road triathlons. These races often switch up events — for example, adding paddling in place of swimming or mountain biking in place of road cycling — appealing not only to athletes but outdoor enthusiasts. Since 2009, participation in non-traditional triathlons has increased 199%.
Maybe the most simplistic reason for the increase in triathlon participation is that there has also been increased interest in healthy living and personal fitness. Racing in a triathlon seems less daunting when you are already an avid runner, a frequent gym goer, or just an all around active person. Triathlons give the fitness focused person a chance to up their game, to challenge themselves and reach new goals. After all, training and competing in a triathlon is definitely a full body workout.