Duathlon Training Guide For Beginners

Updated: Jan 24

duathlon guide

What is a Duathlon Exactly?

Duathlon is a multisport event for athletes of all abilities. It’s similar to triathlon in that there are three legs of the event. Unlike triathlon, there are only two disciplines are involved. While triathlon is a swim-bike-run event, a duathlon is a run-bike-run event.

The Ideal Endurance Challenge For Beginners

Whether you’re a new athlete that just signed up for your first race, or you’re a triathlete looking to mix up your event calendar – duathlon can be an exciting multisport challenge.

Sprint distance duathlons are excellent introductory events for those who want to try their first multisport event. All it requires is a little motivation and consistent training.

Similarly, they can be a wonderful challenge for experienced athletes as far as improving their time and working their way up the podium.

What are Duathlon Distances?

Distances vary depending on the location and race organizer.

Most duathlon events are considered sprint-distance events, with each run in the 1-3 mile range and the cycling leg around 8-15 miles. A typical event might look something like this:

  • 1.5 mile run

  • 12 mile bike

  • 3 mile run

Sometimes, though, both run legs are equal distances. It's also worth noting that some races may be categorize as Super Sprints when the run legs is less then 2 miles and the bike is under 10 miles.

Duathlon Event Breakdown

If you’re thinking about doing your first duathlon, you might feel a little nervous about the logistics. Take a deep breath, though – once you brush up on the race-day format and rules, you’ll feel confident about tackling your first race.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of a typical Duathlon race day:

Pre-Race Set Up

When you first get to the event, you’ll want to set up your gear in the transition area. This includes racking your bike and adhering your race numbers to the proper spots (typically on your bike, helmet, and shirt) if provided by race organizer.

First Run

The event begins with running, and this may be a mass start or a wave start depending on the size of the event. Most duathlons in the U.S. are mass starts, meaning everyone begins the race at the same time.

If it’s a wave start, groups of athletes will start in a staggered format (typically with a minute or two between each group). For very large events, wave starts help prevent congestion in the initial few minutes of the race.

Once you start, just move those legs and find your stride! Remember to push yourself but avoid overexerting yourself during the first run. You still have two more legs of the race after this!

First Transition (T1)

For T1, you’ll run into the designated section of the transition area and head to your bike. As soon as you reach your bike, put your helmet on first. This is a best practice to make sure you don’t accidentally forget it and have to go back, wasting time.

Once your helmet is on, you can switch into cycling shoes if you’re using them. Then unrack your bike and walk it (not ride it) out of transition.


Once you exit the transition, you’ll find a designated area to mount your bike. Do not get on it until you reach that area. It likely donated by a tape or special line in the road/pavement letting you know where it is.

Once on your bike, you’ll ride according to the race route. While it is technically your responsibility to know the course, local races almost always have plenty of signs or volunteers to guide you at the turns. You’ll also probably have eyes on other athletes and be able to follow them too.

Second Transition (T2)

As you finish the bike leg, there will be a specific dismount area located outside of the transition area. Be sure to get off your bike here – you do not want to ride into transition.

Once off your bike, walk it into the transition area and re-rack it in the correct spot. Now you can remove your helmet. If you wore cycling shoes during the bike leg, switch back into sneakers for the next run leg.

Second Run

Exit the transition area in the designated direction, and power through your last run of the event! You’ll feel amazing when you cross the finish line.

Important Duathlon Race Rules

Luckily, there are only a few race regulations that you’ll need to know in order to ensure a successful event:

  • Keep your helmet on. You need to have your helmet strapped on the entire time you are holding your bike.

  • Walk in/out of transition. You cannot ride your bike into transition; you need to walk your bike in and out of the transition area until you reach the mount/dismount area.

  • No drafting. Drafting refers to riding your bike very close behind another cyclist. This gives you an advantage because the front cyclist absorbs much of the wind resistance, making it easier for you to ride. For most races, drafting is prohibited.

  • ...unless it's a draft-legal race. The exception to above is a draft-legal duathlon event. These do exist—especially in Europe—so review the rules of each race you plan to do to make sure you understand the policy on drafting.

  • Ride on the correct side of the road. You should ride on the right side of the road and pass on the left (by shouting “on your left”).

  • No nudity. There's no nudity in the transition area or on the racecourse. Some races also have rules about no exposed torsos during the race, which can be important to keep in mind. (For example, if you’re a male runner and you planned to remove your shirt due to the heat).

  • No headphones or music. This is not limited to the bike leg; it includes the run legs as well.

Don't Get Overwhelmed

These rules can seem overwhelming, but don't let that scare you from registering for a race. All of the key rules will be in your pre-race packet and you can brush up on them prior to the event. Remember, you can also always ask race officials/organizer to answer any questions for you in advance too.

What Do You Wear?

There are two race outfit options that work well in duathlons:

Triathlon Suit

Tri suits come in either one-piece or two-piece sets. They're quite thin, dry quickly, and have a small layer of padding in the shorts for comfort on the bike. For the competitive athletes, tri suits are useful as they reduce drag compared to other clothing options.

Shirt + Shorts/Leggings

If this is the first multisport event you’re participating in, you may not want to shell out money on a tri suit just yet. That’s perfectly fine. You can wear any type of running clothes, like a shirt and shorts/leggings, to participate in the event.

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