How Will My Typical Running Pace Change For A Triathlon?

There is a difference in how you’ll feel running off your bike compared to how you feel during a running-only race.

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Q: I have done a lot of running races, but I’m doing my first triathlon this season. How will my typical running pace change for a triathlon?

A: There is a difference in how you’ll feel running off your bike compared to how you feel during a running-only race. During my first triathlon, I was riding my bike into T2 and saw the athletes going out on the run, looking sluggish. I thought, “I’m going to beat them all!” Little did I know exactly how my legs would feel when I started running—heavy and slow. That is one thing that you don’t expect when doing a triathlon, but there are ways to prepare yourself. For most athletes, there’s about a 1–2-minute difference between a freestanding 5K time and their triathlon 5K time.

There are certain types of training that can help minimize the disparity between standalone runs and triathlon runs. Improving your bike fitness and strength will also help your triathlon run so that you are not as fatigued off the bike. Properly pacing the bike leg during a triathlon is very important so you don’t overtax the legs prior to the run. It is also important to work on your running form and technique to help minimize the breakdown of your mechanics, which usually happens as you fatigue. I have my athletes do “bricks,” which are workouts that include two disciplines within the same workout with minimal or no interruption in between, just as you would experience in a race. Brick training will help you learn to run with jelly legs going from the bike to the run. Here are a couple of my favorite brick workouts to help prepare you for your first triathlon:

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Trainer Plus Treadmill Workout


  • 10–15 minutes easy spin on a stationary bike or trainer

Main set

  • 10 minutes building to a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 7 out of 10
  • Quick transition to treadmill
  • 5 minutes at a tempo pace or RPE of 6–7
  • Make a quick transition back to the bike trainer. Repeat all the way through three more times.
  • Add in an easy cool-down jog/walk after the last run interval.

Bike to Run

Preparing for a sprint distance:
After a 60-minute bike ride, transition quickly to the run.
Run 10 minutes at a 5K pace followed by 5-minute easy jog.

Preparing for an Olympic distance:
After a 90-minute bike ride, transition quickly to the run.Run 20 minutes at a 10K pace followed by a 10-minute easy jog.

Stephanie Liles-Weyant is a USAT Level 1 coach, USAT Youth and Junior coach with TriAttic Coaching in Tallahassee, Fla.

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