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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Various Types of Triathlons

William (Bill) Allen Kennedy is the president and chief executive officer of Kennedy Technical Consulting Services, LLC, in Arlington, Virginia. In this position, William Allen Kennedy assists his client in their pursuit of Federal government contracts by providing business development services ranging from strategic planning, capture management, proposal management, and leadership coaching. In the past, Bill Kennedy, a long-time Arlington resident, has worked extensively with the Raytheon Technical Services Company. Also an experienced triathlete, William A. Kennedy’s most recent triathlon season found him finishing second in his age group for the Tri It Now race series and later in the year qualifying for the USA Triathlon National Championship in the duathlon.

The term triathlon most commonly refers to an athletic event that requires participants to swim, bike, and run in succession for a predetermined distance. There are several different types of triathlons, each with their own measurements and regulations. The traditional full marathon requires participants to swim for 2.4 miles, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and finally a 26.2-mile run. Full marathons are often referred to as Iron Mans, while half Iron Mans are sometimes referred to as Iron Man 70.3s, referring to the total mileage participants cover during a half triathlon.

In comparison, sprint triathlons are convenient when a large number of beginners or amateurs are competing, such as during a charity event. Sprint triathlons feature a half-mile (or 750-meter) swim, followed by a 12.4-mile bike ride and concluding with a run of just over three miles. The final two forms of triathlons are the Olympic and ITU Long formats. Olympic triathlons, despite the name, are the second shortest format—the swimming portion of the event lasts just under a mile, while the bike ride features 24.8 miles and the running section 6.2 miles, essentially double a sprint triathlon. Finally, ITU Long triathlons feature a 1.86-mile swim, a 49.6-mile bike ride, and a 12.4-mile run.