Multisport Racing 101: Duathlon vs Triathlon vs Quadrathlon

In a world where single discipline sporting events like running and cycling races are most popular, the concept of multisport is a novel idea that adds a level of adventure and excitement to the mix.

Multisport is simply defined as an event that contains more than one discipline or sporting event. The most popular of these events is triathlon, which traditionally involves swimming, cycling, and running in a consecutive sequence.

Although swim-bike-run triathlons are the most common, as this the sequence for Olympic and World Triathlon events, some local events involve alternative disciplines based on the nature of the landscape and terrain, such as run-bike-paddle or in the case of winter events, ski-bike-snowshoe.

While triathlon is the most common form of multisport racing, there are several different versions that offer fun ways for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts to test their physical limits. Of those that we’ll also discuss in this article are duathlon and quadrathlon.

Duathlon

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Duathlon is a multisport event that provides a great stepping stone for athletes interested in triathlon, but may not have confidence swimming in open water. 

Duathlon in the traditional sense consists of a running leg, followed by a cycling leg and then another running leg, or simply a run-bike-run format. Duathlon is often confused with the Olympic sport of biathlon, which involves cross-country skiing and shooting. However, duathlon is a fast-paced event where competitive athletes will often use time trial bikes, as in the case of triathlon, to gain every competitive edge that they can.

While duathlon is not an Olympic sport, there are still national championship series that takes place across several different distances. For example, an intermediate level duathlon will typically consist of 10K run, 40K bike, and another 10K run. Of course, the various distances of duathlon will vary depending on the race, but the concept itself is quite simple.  

Duathlon is not quite as popular as triathlon, but some triathlon events will also hold a duathlon race to encourage greater participation. You can learn more about duathlon and find events in your area by visiting Duathlon.com.

Triathlon

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As mentioned above, there are countless variations of triathlon but the most common format involving swimming, cycling, and running is the standardized race type, as governed by professional organizations like Ironman, Super League, and ITU

These different organizations govern different distances of triathlon, ranging from Olympic distance (Super League and ITU) to Ironman. The most popular breakdown of triathlon distances include:

  • Sprint – Swim 0.5 miles (750m), Bike 12.4 miles (20km), Run 3.1 miles (5km)
  • Olympic – Swim 0.93 miles (1.5km), Bike 24.8 miles (40km), Run  6.2 miles (10km)
  • Half Ironman/70.3 – Swim 1.2 miles (1.9km), Bike 56 miles  (90.1km), Run 13.1 miles (21.1km)
  • Full Ironman – Swim 2.4 miles (3.9km), Bike 112 miles (180.2km), Run 26.2 miles (42.2km)

Most local events will be short-course races involving Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, while larger events (typically sanctioned by Ironman) will offer long-course options like half- and full-Ironman distances.

For athletes who may be avid runners or cyclists, triathlon is a fun and exciting way to branch out into something new.

And if swimming is not your strong suit, you can look for other adventurous alternatives, like the M22 Challenge in northern Michigan, the Buffalo Paddle-Bike-Run Adventure Triathlon in New York, or the Master of the Mountains triathlon located in Northeastern New Mexico’s Sugarite Canyon State Park.

Quadrathlon

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As the name implies, quadrathlon is a multisport event comprised of four different disciplines. And unlike triathlon where swimming, biking, and running are the most common, quadrathlon events take on many shapes, depending on the location. 

The most traditional sequence quadrathlon events involve swimming, kayaking, cycling, and running, however, there are also winter versions that include skiing and snowshoeing.

Quadrathlon is certainly not as popular as duathlon and triathlon, however, there are still various races that take place. Areas of Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, is home to most quadrathlon events, but adventure athletes can still find some quadrathlon races in the U.S. as well.

The two major governing bodies of quadrathlon are the World Quadrathlon Federation (WQF) and the British Quadrathlon Association (BQA).

While short-course races reflect that of a hybrid Spring and Olympic triathlon, the long-course distances of sanctioned quadrathlon events involve running 3.1 miles (5 km), kayaking 12.4 miles (20 km), cycling 63.1 miles (100 km), and running 13.1 miles (21 km).

Not only is it a race that requires skills and fitness in various sports, but events can last well over 5-6 hours for competitive athletes, requiring quite a bit of stamina and endurance.

By now you’re well familiar with some of the most popular multisport events that take place around the world. If you’re getting bored with 5/10K running events or other single discipline sports, we encourage you to give a multisport event a try. Not only is the training more stimulating and varied, but the race events can offer a higher level of adventure and achievement when you cross the finish line.