The History of the Modern Triathlon

Bill Kennedy leads Kennedy Technical Consulting Services, LLC, as the president and chief executive officer of the Arlington, Virginia-based firm. Outside of his professional pursuits, Bill Kennedy regularly participates in triathlons and open water swim competitions in Arlington and other cities.

Even though it is an extremely popular sport today, the triathlon is a relatively new athletic event. The roots of the sport can be traced back to 1920s France, but it took another five decades before the triathlon really began to grow in popularity.

In September 1974, the first triathlon was held in the United States in the Mission Bay area of San Diego. The event, which was organized by Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan, was held on a Wednesday evening and consisted of a 5-mile bike ride, a 500-yard swim, and a 6-mile run. Only 46 people competed in the first Mission Bay Triathlon, but it helped lay the foundation for future events.

Two of the competitors who participated in the original Mission Bay Triathlon, John and Joan Collins, went on to found the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon in 1978. The Hawaii Ironman brought international attention to the sport, and soon triathlons were being held in countries around the globe.

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