Triathlon Cofounder Jack Johnstone Passes Away

Jack Johnstone, one of the creators of the triathlon, has died at age 80.

Jack Johnstone, one of the creators of triathlon, has died at the age of 80.

It was nearly 42 years ago that Johnstone and Don Shanahan decided to mix it up by adding another sport to a running race. “We had a number of events in town. Two were fairly popular run-swims,” Shanahan said at the 40th anniversary at Mission Bay in San Diego. “So I got to thinking, well, it would be really fun to put a bike on the back end of this.”

“Jack was a member of the (San Diego Track Club), he called up and wanted to put on a swim-run,” Shanahan said. “They said, ‘Well, Shanahan has this crazy idea. Why don’t you talk to him?’ So Jack called me and we put it on.”

They combined their ideas and held the first-ever running, biking and swimming race on Sept. 25, 1974, in Mission Bay. Shanahan said they called it the “triathlon” because swim-run events were already called biathlons.

After reportedly battling Alzheimer’s disease since January 2013, Johnstone passed away last week in San Diego.

San Diego-based reporter Claire Trageser remembers Johnston in this report for NPR.

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