Your first triathlon can be intimidating enough on its own: Training for three sports, navigating in open water, organizing your pile of gear in transition, and figuring out fueling are all enough to overwhelm any multisport rookie. That’s all before you throw in complicated race logistics or an extra challenging course. So let us help! These eight beginner-friendly triathlons lower the intimidation level with calm swims, shorter distances, top-notch organization, simplified logistics and (mostly) flat bike and run courses. With one of these races on your calendar in 2022, you’ll be sure to earn that simple-but-coveted title: “triathlete.”
Best Beginner Triathlons: WESTERN REGION
Spring Sprint Triathlon
May 1, 2022 | San Diego, California | springsprinttri.com
Mission Bay, the venue for this sprint-distance race, is recognized as the birthplace of the sport of triathlon in the 1970s. And it’s an ideal spot for a first tri—the sprint distance features a quarter-mile swim in the calm, protected waters of Mission Bay followed by a flat 10-mile bike ride and a flat 5K run under the palm trees and in view of the water. The bike and run each feature two loops, giving you more chance to be cheered on by spectators, though it does make for a few sharp turns. The event also offers an international distance (double the sprint) and “mini” sprint distance (200-yard swim, 6-mile bike, 1.5-mile run), which might be good options for certain people looking for a good beginner triathlon.
June 19, 2022 | Bend, Oregon |deschutesdash.com
Featuring Mount Bachelor as the backdrop of this race, this scenic course starts with an 800-meter down-river swim in Wickiup Reservoir—the headwaters of the Deschutes River. Sprint-distance athletes then ride 12 miles out and back through the heart of the Cascade Lakes on rolling asphalt roads with a downhill finish. On the 5K run, you’ll traverse a ponderosa pine forest on gravel trails while experiencing rolling hills and a flat finish. Special beginner triathlon bonus: If you register in the “My First Tri” category, you’re able to start in the final wave of swimmers, giving you plenty of space to race your own race.Section divider
Best Beginner Triathlons: MOUNTAIN REGION
Cactus Man Triathlon
May 1, 2022 | Tempe, Arizona | 4peaksracing.com
Located just east of Phoenix near Scottsdale, Tempe is the site of a few major triathlons—including the famously fast Ironman Arizona. Given the venue, it’s no wonder this course is touted as a speedy one, great for triathlon beginners and veterans alike. The sprint-distance race starts with a 750-meter swim in Tempe Town Lake, followed by a pancake-flat 12-mile bike, which features a few sharp turns. The race finishes with a flat 5K run. The race also offers an Olympic-distance course, which is double the sprint distance.
July 30, 2022 | Burley, Idaho | spudman.org
This popular small-town race in southern Idaho celebrated 35 years in 2021, and it’ll be back on the last Saturday in July in 2022. This course would make for a great first Olympic-distance race, thanks in part to its current-aided swim in the Snake River. After the 1500-meter swim, Olympic racers take on a 40K bike loop, which is fairly flat, save for a few rollers. The 10K run course, which begins with a short, steep hill before leveling out to mostly flat, takes place on country roads and canal banks, with a mix of asphalt and gravel. The race also offers a limited number of entries to a sprint-distance course for beginners looking to sample their first triathlon.Section divider
Best Beginner Triathlons: CENTRAL REGION
Lake Minnetonka Triathlon
June 18, 2022 | Excelsior, Minnesota | lakeminnetonkatriathlon.com
On the southern shore of Lake Minnetonka, about 15 southwest of downtown Minneapolis, lies the community of Excelsior—the host of this local sprint-distance race. The half-mile swim (water temperatures expected to be a comfortable 70-78 degrees) starts on Excelsior Public Beach and travels parallel to the shoreline, allowing for spectator viewing. Athletes then take on the 15-mile out-and-back ride over several rolling hills as it passes through Carver County. The race finishes with a 5K run on the Three Rivers Park light rail trail. The trail, which is very flat and made from hard-packed clay, takes athletes along the shores of Lake Minnetonka.
May 30, 2022 | Austin, Texas | captextri.com
Kick off your summer with this Memorial Day race in the Texas state capital. The race—offered in Olympic, sprint, and “rookie” (300-meter swim, 12.3-mile bike, 2-mile run) distances—begins with a swim in Lady Bird Lake, in sight of the downtown Austin skyline. The slightly rolling bike course takes athletes up Congress Avenue to U-turn right in front of the Texas Capitol then along the water. The race finishes with a mostly flat run through Butler Park and the Palmer Events Center.Section divider
Best Beginner Triathlons: EASTERN REGION
Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon
April 30, 2022 | Huddleston, Virginia | kineticmultisports.com
This early season race in the western region of Virginia is staged out of the naturally beautiful Smith Mount Lake State Park. Athletes start on a sandy beach before swimming 750 meters in a crisp, clear lake. The 20K bike course starts with 5 miles within the park before heading out to rolling rural roads with mountain views. The race finishes with a flat out-and-back 5K run, much of which is lined with spectators. The course is well paved and includes views of the lake on both sides. Beginner triathlon bonus: The race offers a “novice” category, which allows first-time triathletes to start with the final swim wave, though it makes them ineligible for age-group awards.
Chattahoochee Challenge Sprint Triathlon
July 9, 2022 | Columbus, Georgia | tricolumbusga.com
The town of Columbus is situated in western Georgia, just across the river from Alabama, and it’s home to one of the most fun beginner triathlons in the country. Case in point: The 500-meter down-river swim in the Chattahoochee River starts with an (optional) water slide entry! The flat and fast 13-mile bike course begins and ends at the Riverwalk, which is closed to pedestrian traffic. The one-loop 5K run course is flat and scenic, and sidewalk chalk is handed out at packet pick-up for family and friends to leave motivational messages on the run course. If the swim is not your thing but you still want to get wet, rumor has it that the race offers a “floatie” division, where your race starts with a 500-meter down-river float before taking on the sprint bike and run courses.