Most Interesting Triathlons in the World :: The portal of the largest rankings on the Internet!

The triathlon is surely one of the most physically and mentally demanding competitions which people regularly undertake.

General speaking, a regular triathlon consists of swimming, cycling and running; usually in that order. One of the great things about these contests, however, is the variation in the types and lengths of the exercises involved.

Because of that variety, there are a whole lot of fascinating triathlons out there. For your reading pleasure, here are the ten most interesting triathlons in the entire world.

The 10 Most Interesting Triathlons in the World

1 Savageman Triathlon Come on – with a name like “Savageman”, how could we resist starting our list with this triathlon?!

The Savageman Triathlon begins in the beautiful Deep Creek State Park in Maryland, USA, and encompasses the picturesque Allegheny Mountains and even the Deep Creek Lake (courtesy of the swimming section of the event). There are a variety of lengths you can undertake at this triathlon, but the true competitors will – of course – opt for the most challenging option: the Savageman 80.

Whilst the pretty scenery is all well and good, the true trademark of the Savageman Triathlon is the Westernport Wall. Not only is it a brutal hill, with a gradient of 31% (many competitors fail to make it to the top of this section); you also have to cycle up it whilst a crowd of crazed locals (the “Wall”) are ringing cowbells in your face.

Oh, and we haven’t even gotten to the mountain from which this event’s name is derived. Big Savage is – as the name suggests – incredibly tough to ascend. The climb lasts over 7 miles, with the gradient reaching 20% at times. “Savage” indeed!

Typical Dates: Mid-September
Location: Deep Creek State Park, Maryland, USA
Lengths: 1 mile swim, 67 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

Official Triathlon Site:
2 Laguna Phuket Triathlon We don’t know about you, but we’re already exhausted just thinking about that Savageman Triathlon. Let’s turn to something that sounds a bit more pleasant… for a triathlon, that is!

Phuket is famed worldwide for its pristine beaches, perfect weather and laid-back lifestyle. These are just some of the reasons why tourists flock there in their millions each years, and they also happen to make it a lovely setting in which to hold a triathlon.

It is also, of course, an intriguing contest in its own right. The swim actually has two sections – one in the sea, and the other in a freshwater lagoon – making it a very unusual triathlon. The cycling section encompasses some of northern Phuket’s tricky hills, and the final run circles the Laguna Phuket resort from which the event derives its name.

Oh, and did we mention that the winners receive an escort of baby elephants? What more could you ask for?!

Typical Dates: Mid-November
Location: Phuket, Thailand
Lengths: 1.8km swim, 50km bike, 12 km run

Official Triathlon Site:
3 Enduroman Arch 2 Arc Triathlon Anyway, that’s enough of the more relaxed triathlons. Time to get back to the awe-inducing, seemingly-impossible ones!

They don’t come much more seemingly-impossible than the Enduroman Arch 2 Arc Triathlon. This event begins at the famous Marble Arch in central London, and goes all the way to Paris’s beautiful Arc de Triomphe. The distance between these two great arches? A mere 289 miles.

Obviously, this is about as extreme as triathlons come. In fact, only a handful of entrants have ever managed to complete it on their own. Most interested parties instead choose to compete in relay teams, giving themselves a far better chance at success.

Slightly unusually, this triathlon begins with a run instead of a swim. The run in question goes all the way from central London, across the county of Kent, and down to the cliffs of Dover. Next comes the swim, which literally encompasses two countries as it crosses the English Channel! Finally, there’s the small matter of a 181 mile bike ride, all the way from Calais to central Paris.

Actually, that doesn’t sound so difficult to us after all. Count us in for next year! (We’re joking, of course)

Dates: June
Location: Marble Arch, London to Arc de Triomphe, Paris
Lengths: 87 mile run, 21 mile swim, 181 mile cycle

Official Triathlon Site:
4 Abu Dhabi Triathlon Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and – with its shopping malls, theme parks and beaches – is a massive tourist draw. Sounds like a great place to hold a triathlon to us!

The downside? It is also, of course, situated in the desert. The beating sun and ensuing high temperatures (thermometer readings can easily hit 40 degrees centigrade) are a couple of the most challenging factors in this triathlon. Much of the racing takes place on tarmac, and the surface can get so hot that bicycle tyres can go flat or simply burst.

That aside, this has a reputation for being a particularly glamorous triathlon. It’s brilliantly organized, the water is crystal clear, the cycling sections take place on smooth highways and a working F1 track, and the run encompasses the picturesque waterfront.

The lengths of the course make this a challenging undertaking, of course (we’ve listed the lengths of the longest possible option below, but there are other choices), but as far as triathlons go this is one of the more luxurious.

Dates: Early March
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Lengths: 1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21km run

Official Triathlon Site:
5 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon The prison on Alcatraz Island – located in San Francisco Bay – is a world-famous and iconic structure. Much of this has come from it featuring in a number of Hollywood movies, including The Rock and – obviously – Escape From Alcatraz. At this event, you get to re-enact what movie stars have been doing for decades, and make your own escape from the renowned penitentiary.

This event is a whole lot of fun, as you can probably already guess, and the sense of jollity pervades downtown San Francisco as the event takes place each year. Those who are actually entering the triathlon begin by leaping into the chilly waters just off the island, and battling strong currents for 1.5 miles as they make for the San Francisco shore. The 18 mile bike ride is more enjoyable, ending in the beautiful Golden Gate Park, which affords unforgettable views of the famous bridge. Finally, there’s a run along the coast which – after a grueling 400 step climb – goes under the bridge itself.

Triathlons don’t get much more cinematic than this one.

Dates: Early June
Location: San Francisco, USA
Lengths: 1.5 mile swim, 18 mile cycle, 8 mile run

Official Triathlon Site:
6 Ironman Vichy Triathlon Did you think the triathlons we’d looked at so far were hard? Well, now we’re getting into the official “Ironman” variations! The Ironman Vichy, for example, features a 42km run; that’s the equivalent of a full marathon. The catch is that – by the time you attempt that – you will already have swam across open water for 3.8km and cycled for a whopping 180km!

As far as Ironman events go, the Vichy version is actually supposed to be one of the easier ones! The cycling section does, at least, mostly take place on flat ground, and the beautiful scenery of Lake Allier and the Chaîne des Puys mountains will surely lift your spirits. Make no mistake, however; this is a phenomenally challenging undertaking.

There is one silver lining we’d like to highlight. After finally completing the Vichy Ironman Triathlon, entrants can head to Vichy’s famed hot springs to help ease their aching bodies. Vichy isn’t known as the “Queen of spa towns” in Auvergne for nothing, you know!

Dates: Late August
Location: Vichy, Auvergne, France
Lengths: 3.8km swim, 180km cycle, 42km run

Official Triathlon Site:
7 Norseman Xtreme Triathlon Any list of the most interesting triathlons in the world would be incomplete without the Norseman Xtreme. In fact, it’s renowned across the planet as being one of – if not the – most challenging triathlons there is. The absolutely gorgeous setting also helps to make it one that’s popular year in and year out.

The event begins at 5am, as the entrants leap into Eidfjord, which – being a fjord – is pretty darn cold. After a 3.8km swim through choppy waters, they cycle for a whopping 180km across Norway’s stunning (but very hilly) landscape, until they get to the village of Austbygde. After that, there’s the small matter of a 42.2km run up an entire mountain! Gaustatoppen – the peak in question – reaches 1,883m into the air, and the ascent involves scrabbling over tricky boulders.

We have absolutely no idea how it’s possible for people to complete the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, and yet it’s been running since 2003, and doesn’t seem to have waned at all in popularity. If you’re looking for the challenge of a lifetime… well, you’ve found it here.

Dates: Early August
Location: Eidfjord, Norway
Lengths: 3.8km swim, 180km cycle, 42.2km run

Official Triathlon Site:
8 Schliersee Alpentriathlon The Scliersee Alpentriathlon isn’t the longest triathlon we’ve featured in this article. It’s not the most physically challenging either. It might just, however, be the most picturesque of them all… and after some of the events we’ve looked at, that’s really saying something! After all, what more spectacular triathlon backdrop could you ask for than the Alps themselves?

The initial swim takes place in Lake Schliersee, a stunning body of water with green, wooded hills all around. Afterwards, competitors get the chance to cycle up and into the mountains, ascending the 1,129m-high Spitzingsattel. With an average gradient of 9.5%, climbing the mountain is challenging but achievable. Last but not least comes a lovely 10km run on a trail which follows the Valepp river.

This is a contest which is famous for its support, willingly given by enthusiastic locals, but the chief attraction remains, of course, the achingly gorgeous scenery.

Dates: Mid-July
Location: Schliersee, Germany
Lengths: 1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run

Official Triathlon Site (German version only):
9 Survive the Night Triathlon Covering a total distance of nearly 150 miles is an incredibly challenging and grueling endeavor… but it’s not what makes this triathlon unique. No, the unique thing about this triathlon is that it takes place across an entire night. As far as we know, it’s the only triathlon in the world to have this particular, fascinating wrinkle.

Most entrants choose to undertake this event as part of a relay team, but a few brave souls do attempt it on their own. As we see it, one of the most challenging things about this triathlon is the lack of variety in the surroundings. It takes place at night, after all, so there’s not much for the competitors to look at! The swimming section simply consists of 80 lengths of an indoor pool, the cycling is 100 laps of the same course, and the final run is the same 2.6mile course repeated 10 times. It’s one thing completing a triathlon when you have the Alps to look at; it’s another entirely when you have… basically nothing to distract you!

With its highly unusual timing, and repetitive nature, the Survive the Night Triathlon presents a truly unique challenge.

Dates: Mid-June
Location: Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Lengths: 2.4 mile swim, 120 mile cycle, 26 mile run.

Official Triathlon Site:
10 Survival of the Shawangunks Even despite all of their different oddities – including their differing lengths and settings – all of the events we’ve looked at so far have followed the traditional triathlon structure; that is, three main sections split up by two transitional sections (with the exception of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon’s two swimming sections).

The Survival of the Shawagunks Triathlon (colloquially known as the “SOS Marathon”, which is already a warning sign!), throws all of that out of the window. It has the three traditional events – swimming, cycling and running – but they are split into eight different stages! The swimming might equate to 2.1 miles in total, for example, but that’s actually 1.1 mile, 0.5 mile and 0.5 mile swims interspersed with running sections.

This adds an intriguing challenge to the regular triathlon setup, because it doesn’t allow competitors to ever truly get into a rhythm; they’re always switching from one discipline to the next. The course itself covers lakes, mountains, roads and the Minnewaska State Park, encompassing some of the best scenery that upstate New York has to offer.

Dates: Mid-September
Location: New Paltz, New York, USA
Lengths: 2.1 mile swim, 30 mile bike, 18.7 mile run

Official Triathlon Site:


So there you have it: the 10 most interesting triathlons in the world today. We’ve covered races across a range of lengths, continents and challenges.

Having spent so much time looking at modern-day triathlons, however, we thought it would be extremely apt to look at the history of this great event. Let’s take a little trip back through time, and explore the origins of the triathlon.

Like “marathon”, the word “triathlon” is derived from Greek. It combines the words “tri”, which obviously means three, and “athlos”, meaning “competitions”. Whilst the marathon can trace its roots back for literally thousands of years, however, the triathlon is actually a relatively modern event.

As is often the case, there’s some debate over where and when exactly the triathlon was first invented, although it was certainly in the 20th century. Most people believe it originated in France, in the 1920s, as a new contest called “Les trois sports”; “The three sports”. Just like our contemporary triathlons, the “trois sports” in question were swimming, cycling and running. The contest was much briefer than the current typical lengths, however, consisting of a short swim across the Marne channel, a 12km cycle and a 3km run.

Whilst this might have been the “original” triathlon, the event didn’t truly become popularized for many decades afterwards. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first formal, official triathlon was held. That took place in San Diego, USA, in 1974, and featured a 500 yard swim, 5 mile cycle and 6 mile run; obviously still far below the typical modern-day lengths.

The original triathlon in San Diego actually only had 46 participants, but it set a snowball rolling that would continue to gather speed and size. The popularity of this new competition simply exploded in the following years and decades. In 1989 it was recognized as an Olympic event, and it made its first official appearance at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

1989 (a big year for the event) was also the year in which the first official, worldwide triathlon organization was formed. The International Triathlon Union – more commonly known as the ITU – introduced a variety of regulations. Most importantly, they fixed the standard lengths for the various sections: 1.5km for the swim, 40km for the bike ride and 10km for the run. These were the distances used for the aforementioned Sydney Olympics, and have continued to be recognized as the standard distances for triathlons to this day.

Since then, of course, the triathlon has expanded massively as a contest. Other organizations aside from the ITU have sprung up, and – as we witnessed in our 10 most interesting triathlons feature – a number of variations on the standard formula have been devised. Still, however you look at it and whatever the particulars, the triathlon remains a wonderful event. It’s a unique test of stamina, skill, and – with entrants needing to be adept at swimming, cycling and running – flexibility.

The triathlon has gone from strength to strength in recent decades, and we certainly don’t anticipate this stopping any time soon.