Mama, is Duathlon Going to Die?

Duathlon. Sounds like such an obvious remedy for someone who sucks goat eggs at swimming. Just run and bike. But then you have to run again. So why people think that triathletes are badass but eschew duathlon as somehow “not as cool” is beyond me. Iron dude pulling off the 17 hour race by Gallowalking the marathon in a pink tutu, just try doing a sprint duathlon, running two 5K’s at your top possible speed with a puke-bits-o-peanut-butter-cracker-on-yo’sef bike ride in between. Then we’ll talk.

Sound like fun? No. But really, it kinda is. But sadly, duathlon seems to be going the way of Jazzercise. You can still find a race here and there, but it’s largely been replaced by it’s sexier cousin, the color run (JK….but no really).

According to USA Triathlon, duathlon hit an all-time high in the 1980’s. And what a high that must have been. But now, it seems like we have stuck duathlon in a home and are just visiting from time to time,  whenever it’s convenient for us: when there’s a race next door, it’s super cheap, or they cancel the swim.

Is it too late to save the duathlon, or is its demise inevitable? I don’t know. But what I can do is tell you reasons why I think duathlon is the bomb and why you should stop acting like you’re too good for it and go taste the pain for yourself.

Duathlons are harder than triathlons.

I have already said so, but it is true. They are more grueling races, except for maybe that horrible sounding Norseman where you swim with walruses in -50 degree water in the middle of the night with nothing but an abacus and viking horn guiding you into the mouth of Beowulf. Exceptions aside, you cannot tell me that swimming for 20 minutes is more exhausting and mentally challenging than running the run course you’re going to have to run before you run it. In other words, running twice kinda sux, but in a good way. It hurts, it takes mental fortitude, and you can’t fart without anyone noticing. So if you say you do tri’s because you enjoy the challenge, I challenge you to up your game, buttercup.

Duathlons are easier than triathlons.

Dude, no goggles. No running over goose shit and shards of glass. And no incessant facebooking about whether or not the race will be wetsuit legal (but is it? Would you get a DQ for running in a wetsuit? Hmm.) All you need are your running shoes and your bike crap. Oh, and no body marking for many races, so no need to take steel wool to your calf after the race.

A duathlon will teach you how to pace yourself and how to push yourself.

It’s this constant self-dialogue about running the right pace the first time around without going too easy on yourself, or blowing up. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to go too easy in the first run than it is to go too hard. By the time you’re a few miles in the bike, your legs will forget that you ran anyway. But the good news is that if you go too easy on the first run, you’ll have another chance to get it right. You never get that chance in triathlon.

No giardia.

Or alligators, jellyfish, grindylows, or E-coli. I’m not saying every tri comes with giardia, but it could happen in a lake.  It won’t happen on the run course, unless it’s pouring rain and you stop to lick the pavement. In which case you had it coming. Swimming in gross water is gross. And you never know who’s farting on you (or worse).

It’s super easy to qualify for nationals.

All you have to do is sign up for nationals. Yes folks, they’re that desperate for people to participate in this sport (this also means it’s really easy to get All-American in duathlon right now). If my evil plan works, this will change, but for now get while the gettin’s good. Qualifying for worlds is fairly easy too, since only about 2 people per age group bother going to nationals. Switzerland, anyone?

You don’t necessarily have to drive to BFE to race.

Note the distinct lack of giardia on this first leg of the Hagan Stone Park Duathlon.
Note the distinct lack of giardia on this first leg of the Hagan Stone Park Duathlon.

If we can get duathlon going again, there are so many more potential race venues than there are for triathlon. When you don’t need a lake or a pool, you can have some pretty cool bike-run combos. Like we could have a race where you run through Dollywood, then bike through every putt putt course in Pigeon Forge, then run through Dollywood Splash Country.

So are you convinced yet? Cool! Now you need to now where to find a duathlon. My favorite site is Running in the USA, because its mobile site is really easy to sift through. You can also check out Trifind, but their listings are kind of clunky and redundant, and their site hasn’t been updated since Netscape was a thing.

If you’re with me on the duathlon thing, I propose we start a movement. Save the Duathlon. Maybe we can get Bono to act like an authority on it and stuff. But until that happens, it seems that the best we can do is to make a concerted effort to show up at these races. What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Mama, is Duathlon Going to Die?

  1. Kit, Glad to see you’re still out there and competing, but I must respectfully disagree. I’m a complete newbie (one sprint triathlon last year, sending entries for several this year), but for me the essence of the sport is having all three events. Isn’t duathlon just sort of a bastard child developed to cater to people who don’t want to learn to swim? For some of us the swim is our best event. I bike pretty well. My run is slow. I wish the swim was a lot longer and I wouldn’t likely participate if it wasn’t the whole package.


    1. Hey Kelly, thanks for reading and responding! I totally get your point…duathlon is not suited for everyone, especially strong (not to mention willing) swimmers. And I am not advocating for it to replace triathlon at all. I just don’t want to see the sport go away. As for a bastard child, I should go back and do some research to see how duathlon evolved–was it as an alternative to triathlon or did races develop on their own irrespective of Tri. I tend to feel like it’s a legit sport on its own. Not everyone enjoys swimming, even if they know how. Likewise, not everyone enjoys running twice (I am not sure I do but it’s good for me ;). That said, I am totally jealous of those of you who excel at swimming, as I am something of a hopeless case. I hope you have a great race season! Maybe I’ll see you around (not in the water, though :p

  2. OK, a little research is in order. I made that “bastard child” comment thinking that the origin of the multisport events was the triathlon, but I didn’t really look it up. Obviously pentathlon, decathlon, heptathlon have been around a lot longer. I’m planning to compete in the Tybee Island triathlon in June. They have a duathlon option. Cheers, Kelly

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