Triathlete’s 2023 Guide to the 12 Best Beginner Triathlon Races in the U.S.A.
Looking for a low-pressure, fun, and friendly way to dip your toes into the multisport world? Check out our guide to the best triathlons for beginners in 2023.
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Welcome to the wild, wacky, and wonderful world of multisport competition! You’ve been swimming laps in the pool, practiced running off the bike, and envisioned your triumphant finish line pose (or maybe you haven’t gotten started yet, that’s ok too!). Now, all you need to do is pick your first race. Lucky for you, we’ve made it easy by compiling our guide to the best beginner triathlons in 2023.
On this list, you will find races with easy-to-navigate courses, routes closed to automobile traffic, and gentle-to-moderate terrain. There are events with inclusive categories like relays, challenged athlete divisions, Clydesdale/Athena sections, and kids’ races. For those who aren’t ready to tackle an open-water swim, there are races with duathlons (run/bike/run), pool swims, paddle tris, and even floatie divisions. Some events have special first-timer programs with open-water swim clinics, pre-race course talks, separate swim waves, and private transition racks. One race even provides you with a bike!
If you can swim, bike, and run, you can be a triathlete. All you have to do is sign up for your first race to make it official! Check our free guide to your first triathlon to get started with training for your big day.Section divider
The Best Beginner Triathlon For: An Early-Season Ease-In
Spring Sprint Triathlon Festival
May 7, 2023
San Diego, CA
The Spring Sprint Triathlon Festival is the second multisport event of the season in San Diego. The race takes place in beautiful South Shores Park, and the calm, bay swim and flat bike and run are perfect for beginners just easing into the sport, or as a rust-buster for more experienced triathletes. This multisport event has a sprint and international triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquabike, and aquathlon, and two kids race options—the mini sprint and “Itsy Bitsy.” The sprint consists of a .25-mile swim, 10-mile bike, and 5K run, while the international has a 1K swim, 31K bike, and 10K run. The race guide that’s sent to all athletes prior to the race even has video instruction with tips on setting up transition, bike maneuvering, and open-water swimming guidance. There’s also a great after-party with a beer garden and live music at the finish line in support of the Life Sports Foundation to help youth sport programs and challenged athletes.Section divider
The Best Beginner Triathlon For: Bringing A Friend
Blue Lake Triathlon
June 3-4, 2023
The PDX Triathlon Festival at Blue Lake is an Oregonian tradition. 2023 will mark the 42nd edition of a race that was started by the Portland Triathlon Association and Frank Goulard—who is still an active masters triathlete. The weekend festival offers an Olympic and sprint triathlon, duathlon, aquabike, and 5K, but the specialty beginner and youth distances are why this race is perfect for athletes that are new to triathlon. There is a super-sprint/”My 1st Tri,” a free kids race, and a new paddle triathlon for those who feel more comfortable doing the swim portion of the race on a paddleboard or kayak. There’s also a non-competitive “Friends and Family” division that allows athletes of different ages and genders, (father/daughter, mother/son, husband /wife) to swim together in the same wave. The course itself is flat and fast with the majority of the bike taking place on a section of road that’s closed to all but local traffic. Stick around after the race for an after-party with music, food, awards, and prizes.
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The Best Beginner Triathlon For: Setting Records (Or Just Having Fun!)
TRI for Fun Sprint Series
June 10-11, 2023
The TRI for FUN Sprint Series is returning to Rancho Seco Park for its 40th anniversary in 2023. The event debuted in 1983 when it was founded by Fleet Feet Sports. This first race in the three-part series takes place in a beautiful park with a lake swim, road bike course, and a dirt trail run. There are two distances to choose from: the “TRI for FUN” (.5-mile swim/16-mile bike/3-mile run) and the “DU for FUN” (1-mile run/16-mile bike/3-mile run). There’s also a “TRI for KIDS” triathlon with a 50-meter or 150-meter swim, depending on age, a four-mile bike, and a one-mile run. The day prior to this race, athletes can compete in the “TRI For REAL” event, a USAT sanctioned race with super sprint, Olympic, and aquabike options. Legend has it that back in 2021, Ken Hale achieved a Guinness Book of World Record for the most triathlon finishes by completing #700 at this same race.Section divider
The Best Beginner Triathlon For: Learning at Your Pace
Lake Havasu Triathlon and Duathlon Festival
March 18, 2023
Lake Havasu, AZ
Lake Havasu has a rich athletic tradition dating back to the 1980s when it was the site of the first Havasu Triathlon, the Pan American Games, and the Collegiate National Championship. Today, athletes can take advantage of the blue skies, sunshine, and mild weather as they begin their own tri journey at the Lake Havasu Triathlon. The swim takes athletes down a crystal clear canal. The out and back bike course has rolling hills. The run goes along the canal with a 200-meter section on the beach before you hit the finish line in the park. This USAT-sanctioned event has Olympic, sprint, and super sprint distances, as well as duathlon, aquabike, and relay options. There’s even a kayatri, which consists of a 2-mile SUP/kayak/canoe, 20k bike, and 5k run. They also have a unique “TRI-One” program where athletes can participate in a single discipline of their choice by heading to a start flag at a designated time and starting on that part of the course—for training purposes, race practice, or just for fun. In addition, there is a “Multi-Sport 101” course where the race director walks competitors through the event, from start to finish, provides tips, and answers questions.Section divider
The Best Beginner Triathlon For: Starting From Scratch
South Davis Splash ‘n Sprint
May 13, 2023
This event takes place at the South Davis Recreation Center and has a sprint (350 yard swim/12-mile bike/3.3 mile run), novice race (150 yard swim/2.4 mile bike/1.5 mile run), and a relay. The pool swim has a serpentine start seeded by swim times, and the bike and run take place outdoors. To prepare for the race, there’s a beginner triathlon clinic and group ride for all registered participants. The South Davis Recreation Center also hosts a pre-season indoor triathlon in February with a nighttime start of 7:00 pm. The race consists of a 15 min. swim, 25 min. spin bike, and 20 min. run. They also regularly offer triathlon classes for beginners that focus on topics like Triathlon 101, Pool and Transition Basics, and Cycling and Running Technique.
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The Best Beginner Triathlon For: Something Different
Ordinary Mortals and Mini-Mortals Triathlon
May 20, 2023
With its clever name, unique race set-up, and hometown touches, the Ordinary Mortals triathlon has a welcoming atmosphere that’s great for newbie triathletes and provides a fun challenge for more competitive racers. The OMT is a reverse sprint triathlon that begins with a 5K run, transitions to a 12.5-mile bike, and finishes with a 300-yard pool swim. The run has a few hills and circles the Colorado State University-Pueblo campus. The bike is a flat out and back. The swim is the fun part! It takes place in the pool where swimmers will start in one lane and swim down and back. After touching the wall on their return, they duck under the next lane line and repeat the process for all six lanes. It’s probably the only time in your life where you will run across the finish line while wearing a swim cap! There’s even an adorable Mini Mortals Triathlon that takes place at the conclusion of the adult race so families can make it a full day of fun for all.Section divider
The Best Beginner Triathlon For: The Swim-Averse
March in Okarche Duathlon
March 25, 2023
If you’re just getting started in the sport and the thought of an open-water swim makes you a bit anxious, another great option is a duathlon, which consists of a run, bike, and run. 2023 will be the 20th anniversary of the March In Okarche, a 5K run/15.6-mile bike/5K run. The course is flat and fast, so the only limiter will be your legs and lungs. The run course leaves Okarche Town Park and takes runners on a peaceful out and back through a quiet neighborhood. The bike is super simple, because it’s an out and back on one road with a few rollers accumulating 500 ft. of gain over 15.6 miles. But be prepared for some wind – it’s Oklahoma after all!
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The Best Beginner Triathlon For: A Small Part of Something Big
Woodforest Bank Tri
May 6, 2023
The Woodlands, TX
This Texas-based sprint is so dedicated to the idea of promoting a beginner-friendly atmosphere that the local parks and rec dept. offers several pre-race events like an Open Water Swim Day and a First Timer’s Clinic. If the name of this location sounds familiar that’s because Ironman Texas takes place in The Woodlands each April, and the course even goes through North Shore Park—the site of this sprint triathlon. The 500-meter swim leaves from North Shore and heads into Lake Woodlands. The 12.8-mile bike goes out onto Woodlands Parkway and makes a big loop before heading back into the park. Navigating is easy on the out-and-back 5K run that takes athletes southeast toward Market Street and Town Green Park before heading back to the finish at North Shore. Following the race, stick around for some good ‘ole Texas hospitality with a festive awards party.
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The Best Beginner Triathlon For: Playing a Bit of Pool
Rookies and Rock Stars Triathlon
May 7, 2023
St. Peters, MO
Whether you’re a rookie or a rock star, this fun race at the Rec-Plex in Missouri is a great sprint distance to add to your race calendar in 2023. The 400-meter “serpentine swim” takes place in a heated, indoor, Olympic-sized pool. Athletes will begin the swim in 10-second intervals. Simply swim down to the end of the lane, duck under the lane line, and swim back up the other lane, until you reach the end of lane 8. Then, run out the doors to the transition area to hop on your bike. The new bike course for 2023 is flat and fast taking riders on a 19.5-mile journey through rural farmland. The 3.1-mile out and back run is on paved trails through a shady park setting. Athletes can compete as individuals or gather some friends to compete together as a team.
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The Best Beginner Triathlon For: Rubbing Elbows With The Elites
Red Hills Triathlon
April 8, 2023
Head to the hills of North Florida to compete on a scenic sprint course that regularly sees kids and beginners competing alongside collegiate athletes and Kona qualifiers. With its 22-year history, the Red Hills Triathlon is not only a local favorite but also draws competitors from all over the South to experience the unique triathlon culture of the big “small town” of Tallahassee. This event hosts a challenging sprint and a beginner-friendly super sprint (1/4 mile swim/9.6-mile bike/2-mile run) with inclusive race divisions for age groupers, Clydesdale/Athena (200 lb./156 lb.), youth, and physically challenged competitors. The sun rising over the swim course in Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is magical on race morning. Bike on a rolling course underneath picturesque, canopy oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. It’s so pretty that you might even forget the hills are a bit spicy! The sprint distance is unique in that the 19.2-mile bike is longer than most traditional courses—though the “Time To Tri” super-sprint only completes one lap. Then, a hilly run takes athletes on a mixture of asphalt and trail through the gardens and back down to the lake to the finish line. The eclectic awards are always a hit and, in the past, have included pottery made by a local artist and plaques mounted with real gator heads.
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The Best Beginner Triathlon For: A Waterslide (Yes, A Waterslide)
Chattahoochee Challenge Sprint Triathlon
July 8, 2023
Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee, triathletes have entirely too much fun at the Chattahoochee Challenge Sprint Triathlon. The town of Columbus is quaint with brick-lined streets, cozy hotels, and plenty of restaurants to carb-load before the big race. The swim is the highlight of this sprint triathlon as athletes enter the water by going down a rainbow arch water slide! The 500-meter downstream swim has some current, so expect a fast time. If the idea of swimming has you a bit nervous, there is a special floatie division with their own awards. The 12-mile bike course has some twists and turns to navigate around the Riverwalk, but it’s fairly flat and will be closed to pedestrian traffic. The one-lap, flat run crisscrosses the river before ending at a giant inflatable slip and slide at the finish line – it can’t get much more fun than that.
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The Best Beginner Triathlon For: City Slickers
August 26-27, 2023
There is a triathlon distance for every member of the family at the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Triathlon. There’s an international and sprint for more seasoned competitors and a super sprint and kids race for beginners. The super sprint consists of a .23-mile swim, 6.2-mile bike, and 1.5-mile run, and the kids’ race has two divisions. Both the super sprint and kids tri are held at Foster Beach along the shores of Lake Michigan. The bike course is a super simple, out and back, and the run follows a similar route on a path by the shoreline. Don’t have a bike? No problem. There’s a special Divvy wave where 100 athletes will be granted the use of Chicago’s famous Divvy bikes for the 6.2-mile bike course. It’s a great option for the single-sport, urban-based competitor who’d like to try a triathlon before making a big investment. The event also hosts an open water swim clinic and a first timer’s program with educational sessions on topics like swim, bike, run, transition, and gear. This great program also provides a written training guide, social runs, special swag, and Facebook support group. During race weekend, these athletes will have a private race briefing, private transition racks and support, and a private swim start. It’s the newbie VIP experience! If you’re up for trying the sprint or international, the swim is in protected Monroe Harbor, the flat bike course is 100% traffic-free, and the run goes through the Museum Campus. All races are wheelchair and paratriathlete-friendly.
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