Kids Triathlon – What you need to know

I have met so many parents who think I am something special because I do triathlons. Well I’m not I just a boy who can like most kids can swim, run and bike. When I tell everyone you can do this too they always have lots of questions. I thought I would answer some here and also kill some of the myths surrounding kids triathlons.

Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquathlon, what’s the difference?

Kids Triathlon – A none stop race of three disciplines which are a swim, run and bike in that order. Plus a transition between each discipline to charge to the right equipment for the next stage of the race. This traditional format of triathlon as in the Olympic games is very popular with kid specific events available.

Kids Duathlon – A none stop race of two disciplines which are the run and bike. The format is run then a bike followed by a second shorter run with a transition between each stage. A favourite for athletes who are strong runners as there’s no swim and most kids ride a bike.

Kids Aquathlon – A none stop race of two disciplines the swim and run with just one transition in between. Often favoured by athletes that are strong swimmers but not so good the bike.

The different race formats take place over different distances depending on age.

How old do I have to be to take part in a kids triathlon?

Kids triathlons are suitable for children from 8 to 18 years old. Their age group is based on their age on the 31st December the year the event is taking place.

Age Groups are as shown below

  • 8 Tristars Start (Also know are Tristart)
  • 9-10 Tristars 1
  • 11-12 Tristars 2
  • 13-14 Tristars 3
  • 15-16 Youths
  • 17-18 Juniors

How distance will races be?

The table below shows the maximum distance permitted for each discipline. Each event distance varies slightly but never exceed the maximum.

Children’s triathlon race distances & age requirements

Age GroupSwim (Pool)Swim (Open Water)Bike (Grass)Bike (Tarmac)Run
Tristars  (Age 8)50m100m800m1500m600m
Tristars 1 (Age 9-10)150m200m2km4km1200m
Tristars 2 (Age 11-12)200m300m4km6km1800m
Tristars 3 (Age 13-14)300m500m6km8km2400m

Junior & Youth triathlon race distances & age requirements

TriathlonSwimBikeRunMinimum Age
Team Really250m5km1.5km15
Super Sprint Distance250m10km2.5km15
Sprint Distance (Pool)400m20km5km15
Sprint Distance (Open Water)750m20km5km15
Standard Distance1500m40km10km17
Middle Distance3000m80km20km19
Tristars 2 (Age 11-12)4000m120km30km19

Do I need any special equipment?

People always think they need special equipment to take part in a kids triathlon. In fact most people have pretty much everything they need and chances are you can borrow the odd every item. Yes if you want to continue with triathlon and become competitive you will need some better equipment. I have listed below what you need have a go.

Items for the swim

  • Swimming Hat
  • Swimming shorts or costume
  • Trisuit (Optional)
  • Goggles (Optional, but strongly recommended)
  • Wetsuit (Only if it is an open water swim and most local events are pool swims so you shouldn’t need this)

Items for the bike

  • A bike (Any bike mountain or road, nearly all kids triathlons are off road so mountain bikes are more than fine for your first event)
  • Helmet (You must have this no helmet no race)
  • Trainers (You don’t need cycling shoes or cleats they won’t give you much benefit at all)
  • T-Shirt (You put this on with your race number pinned on if you don’t have a race belt)
  • Race Belt (Optional but very handy & quite cheap to purchase)

Items for  the run

No additional equipment is required for the run you can use the same stuff as for the bike.

General equipment

  • A bright coloured towel to mark your place in transition
  • A towel to dry yourself once you finish racing
  • A track suit or similar to wear before racing as you want to keep warm
  • Something warm to put on after racing (You will be warm when racing but you can get cold quickly so cover up as soon as you finish)
  • A dry pair of trainers (Remember you put your trainer on with wet feet)
  • Talc (To put in your shoes so they go one easy with wet feet)

How many kids will be in your race?

The number of kids taking part in each category will vary depending on the size of the kids triathlon event and how popular it is. Some of the bigger nation events will have several waves with as many fifty kids per wave but most local event will be a lot small with maybe on 30 kids or so per age group. Some events are very popular especially if they are being held by a large club or in an area not near any other events and these can sell out within 30 minutes of registration opening.

What will happen on race day?

This is one of the main things kids and parents both want to know before they arrive at there first kids triathlon. Here I have given a general breakdown below but each event will vary slightly.

Once you register online you will receive an conformation email

The week of the race

You should expect to receive an email giving you all the details of the day, but there are two very important bit of information the time registration opens and closes on the day and time of your race. They also usually confirm your race distance and a map of the course

Race day

I would always advise arriving 90 minutes before registration this will give you time to pick up your race pack which will include your race number and a timing chip (fairly standard at most races now) which is generally worn on the left leg. Again check the start time of your race, the number of lengths for the swims and laps for the bike and run.

Transition Set Up

You will then be told what time transition will open for you to rack you bike and set up your shoes and helmet. At most events only the child is allowed in to transition so this is something you need to practice at home. They will need to be wearing there helmet when entering transition and a marshal will check it fits them properly. Marshals will also help them if they can’t rack there bike, but you really can’t have 30 parents in transition getting in each others way.

Time To Eat

Once you have put all your stuff in transition and are happy with it and if you have another couple of hours before you race now is the time to have a little something more to eat. Don’t have too much or anything thing heavy or sweets, I tend to have a little pasta or fruit and make sure and take on plenty of water.

Last Toilet Visit

Once you have eaten visit the toilet and then get changed in to your race gear but remember to keep warm so put a hoody and tracksuit bottoms on if needed. I wear a trisuit to race but I only pull the shorts on and never pull the top up until right before the race as I will probably need to toilet again as I like to go just before I race. The last thing I want as I’m about to jump in to the pool is to think that I need the loo.

Now its race time and I have broken down each of the disciplines for you.

The Swim (Pool Swimming)

You will be told or called to the pool to line up ready for your race.

How does the swim work

In a pool swim events tend to have the swimmers go off one behind each other 30 seconds apart swimming up and down both sides of the lane then under the rope doing the same in the next lane. You will start in the lane number that leaves you to swim the correct distance for your race. So if your swim distance is 150 meters and the pool length is 25 metres you will need to swim 6 lengths and therefore would start in lane 3.

How do they decide the start order

Before the day of the event you will have been asked to provide you swim time for the distance you are going to swim so it is a good idea to time yourself over 50 metres at your local pool and multiple this up for the distance you are doing if you don’t know you exact time. They will send the fastest swimmers off first so that the next swimmer doesn’t catch them so it is important to give a reasonably accurate time.

What stroke can you swim?

You can swim any stroke you like and you are not being judged on your technique, obvously the quickest stroke for most kids will be front crawl (freestyle)

Do I have to wear a swim hat?

Generally you do need to wear a swim hat and this is usually provided in your race pack on the day and will be the colour of your wave so that they know they have the right kids starting at the right time.

Do I have to wear goggles?

No you don’t have to wear google but it is probably advisable and if you do prefer to wear googles always take a spare pair as I have seen a lot of people break on the day. Also put you googles on before your hat as again I have seen a lot of people jump in and their googles come off, if you put your hat over the top this stop that happening.

Can I wear flippers?

No you can’t wear anything that will aid your swim and you must be able to swim without armbands.

Transition from swim to bike

Once you get out of the pool you will generally have a short run in to transition.

What do I do first in transition?

  • Stand on your towel and take off your hat and googles and put them down safely.
  • Put on your race belt with the number at the back (or your t-shirt if you don’t have a race belt)
  • Then put on your trainers
  • Finally your helmet and do it up
  • Now and only now you can touch your bike and lift it of the rack, if you can’t lift it down you can call a marshal to help you.
  • Now push your bike quickly and safely over the mount line before you get on your bike

The Bike

You will then pedal your way around the bike course keeping count of the number of laps you need to complete which will have been detailed in your race pack. Once you have completed the correct number of laps your will head back to transition getting off your bike just before the dismount line and then push your bike quickly and safely back to your place.

Do I need a special bike for kids triathlon?

No you can use any bike you like as long as it is roadworthy which a marshal will check as you enter transition. You cannot have stabilisers on your bike.

You can read my blog on options for triathlon suitable bikes HERE

Do I have to wear a helmet?

Yes a helmet must be worn at all times, no helmet no race.

Can I use toe clips?

Yes you can use toe clips but I would recommend one without buckles on in case you need to get your feet out quickly.

Can I use clip in pedals?

Yes you can use clip in pedals but by the time you change from cycle shoes to trainers for the run you will loose any time benefit until you get the to the longer races for youths.

Transition from bike to run

Once you reach your place in transition your need to rack your bike or call a marshal to help you. You can then remove your helmet putting it down neatly and head out on to the run. Remember to keep your transition area neat as you can incur a time penalty if your throw your gear all over the place.

The run

You now need to run the correct number of laps for your race distance and them head towards the finish line.

Can I use running spikes?

These are generally not accepted for safety reasons.

Other key information

Are parents allowed to help?

A few events allow parents in to transition for pre race set up but most do not. You are not allowed to help at all during the race as competitors are not allowed to receive any outside help. Also now is your kids time to enjoy the race so let them get on with it.

Are the kids going to be safe?

All events are very well marshalled and kids can be seen at all times. When I came off my bike at an event the marshals were straight over checking I was ok and straighten my handle bars for me.

When can I get my bike back out of transition?

Depending on the event you might be able to get your bike and kit out of transition between races but at a lot of events you have to wait until all racing is over. So just relax and cheer on the other kids racing.

Can I cheer my child on?

Of course you can cheer your child on and tell them how well they are doing. What I don’t like to hear at events is parents telling there child they should be doing this or that and how they should be going faster. If your are a competitive parent then go and race yourself and just let your child enjoy the fun of racing and remember to tell them how well they have done no matter where they finish.

You can read my blog on competitive parents HERE

What training do I need to do before the event?

The distances for kids triathlon events aren’t that big so you don’t need to spend hours training just follow the points below.

You can read my blog on kids triathlon training for kids HERE


Practice jumping in and swimming the distance of the swim with tumble turns if you can but touch and go if you can’t


Practice mounting and dismounting your bike and biking the distance of the race. Also try a short run straight of the bike just so you know what your legs will feel like as it can be a little strange the first time you do it.


Practice running the distance and running at an even pace, nothing using more energy when running than when you keep changing your speed.


Set up transition at home and practice put on your shoe with wet feet and see how quickly you can put your helmet on and off.


What to eat the night before ?

Kids triathlon races are short events and therefore you don’t really need to worry about your carb stores. I would suggest in the week leading to the event you ensure you are eating enough good quality whole foods.

Night before a race I will have a balanced meal of carbs, fats and protein. My favourite meal being grilled salmon, sweet jacket potato and brochilli.

What to eat the morning of the kids triathlon event?

On the morning of the race you don’t want to be stuffing yourself silly but you need to make sure you keep your fuel levels up so eating little and often works for me. I would normal have scrambled egg on toast for breakfast, then on the way to the race I will usually eat some tuna and pasta. Depending on the time of the race I might have a natural cereal bar a couple of hours before the start. After the kids triathlon I will usually have some chocolate milk with some more tuna and pasta with plenty of water.

Where can I find my nearest event?

British triathlon have a good list of kids triathlon events in your area.

Tristar Events

Youth & Junior Events

I have listed below some of the companies that put on kids triathlons.