Friday, May 04, 2007

Triathlons are biased towards runners and biased against swimmers

I did the the Ironman in 1983 in Kona, Hawaii; (Thank you Julie Moss). After the race, Valerie Silk, the official Ironman race founder, told me that the first ever Ironman was a race between friends to settle a bet as to which athlete was the most superior: The swimmer, the cyclist or runner? (the swimmer won.) With that concept in mind or keeping with the spirit of the race, the distances in a triathlon should be calculated in terms of time/distance for fairness.

A fair triathlon would have the following distances or distances determined by using these proportions: 1.5 kilometer swim (1 mile), 25 Kilometer bike (15 miles), 5 Kilometer run (3.2 miles)

An elite athlete in any of these events could finish in a time of around 15 minutes. Ergo the race would require all around athletes rather than running and biking specialists. This to me would improve the sport of triathlon greatly. It would be a fair race and make the finishes much more exciting with racers much closer together throughout a competition. It would also determine which sport produces the greater athlete. But readers of this blog all ready know the answer to that: The swimmer would win.


Scott said...

I've thought about this too. The problem with an 'equally weighted' triathlon is swimming is by far the most difficult technically, so a swimmer will have a huge advantage over the cyclist and runner. Right now, of course, swimming in an Ironman is more of a distraction in an event where cycling and running are the competitors' main focus. I would argue, however, that rather than using distance/time for measuring equivalence we should use instead relative energy expenditure (calories/sec). This would see the distances covered running and cycling double to around 10K and 50k respectively. Of course the Ironman has to include the marathon so everything needs to be scaled from there. Why not require them to swim the 5k now that this is an official Olympic distance?

Anonymous said...

So what I'm hearing from the previous comment is that SKILL is involved in swimming. Yes, this is true, but what's wrong with that? We'd actually get the fittest and most skilled person winning. Isn't that what sports do--separate the best from the best? And adding skill only makes it more of a sport. Skill is what separated Michael Jordan from the pack. Why should someone who swims great have to compensate for those who don't. Of course, I'm biased, I'm a swimmer. But i'm really surprised the idea of fairer representation hasn't caught on. I mean, if the swim is that hard, you can always sign up for the duathlon.