I have been a runner for almost as long as I can remember. Before Garmin and GPS watches, before technical fabric, before running groups on social media, hell even before social media itself. But, after a few years training on the fringes of the sport, I now consider myself firmly in the category of triathlete and not “just” a runner. In making this change, I have observed more than a few ways triathletes are different than runners.
Triathletes Do Not Wear Tutus
Not even on the run portion will you see a triathlete in a tutu. I’m not saying it’s bad to wear one, I’m merely pointing out that I have yet to see a triathlete in one. Take from that what you will.
Runners are free to wear a variety of clothing – loosely fit, tight, breathable, compression socks, no socks, jackets, skirts, tights, shorts and the list goes on. For every runner, their could arguably be a different outfit. There is a multimillion dollar fashion industry (athleisure anyone?) built around fitness clothing and, you can even dress like a runner if you have never even thought about running in your life, and no one would bat an eyelash.
Triathletes wear kits and wetsuits. They are horrifyingly odd and look more like babies should be in them than adults, especially the male variety whose nether reigns leave nothing to the imagination. If you ever saw someone dressed in a wet suit at Starbucks you would probably call the police. As you should.
There Is A Massive “I” In Triathlon
Maybe it’s me but, I find it much more difficult to buddy up to triathletes. Runners seem to fully embrace other runners, regardless of speed, number of races run or shoes on their feet. Triathletes? Not so warm and fuzzy. In fact, a bitch will cut you in the water, and I had the bloody ankle to prove it. I’m not saying triathlon is “vicious” but I’m saying I came out of the water bleeding…from another woman scratching me while swimming. I have yet to cross a road race finish bloodied from anything other than my own clothing.
You may also be judged (harshly) on your bike. Your helmet. Your wheels. Your wetsuit. Your distance. No other triathlete has actually come out and said something to me (well, just that once) but I see them judging my transition set up with their eyes!
Runners enjoy running groups, communities and long talks on the run. Triathletes enjoy training alone in silence. Ok, maybe they all don’t but, around here, I have one other person I can get out on a bike with me. And, good luck having a conversation while swimming or cycling, it’s about as easy as finding a training buddy.
I have yet to be invited to a triathlon retreat like the Rise.Run.Retreat I have attended for the past two years…
There Is No Disney Triathlon
I think you know the tropical destination triathletes flock to and what they do there. In case you don’t, they train for at least a year, travel to a paradise in Kona, Hawaii and then put themselves through the brutality of an event that lasts 9 hours for the top finishers and up to 16 for everyone else – – the Ironman. This ultimate endurance test consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Sounds fun, right? Yeah, not to me either so I did some googling.
In my search to find “fun” triathlons, I came across this gem:
Wildflower race weekend is known for being fun, relaxed and festival-like. Yep, camping is even encouraged! Sign up for the Ultimate Wildflower Challenge to take on the 70.3 race on Saturday and the Olympic course on Sunday. Then pitch a tent and sleep under the stars to recover.
The fun part is sleeping on the ground in a tent after you race 70.3 miles! Wait…what? I also love that the Olympic distance (1 mile swim, 25 mile ride and 6 mile run) is the easy day of the weekend.
Yes, I just compared Ironman to a Disney race because it’s funny.
Bling Don’t Mean A Thing
In the world of road races, there is almost always a medal involved at the finish line. If not, some runners get extremely upset. There have been countless articles on bling vs no bling, who should get the bling, what it should look like, what are the best ones, and on and on and on. To my knowledge, no such argument exists in triathlon and, a medal is the exception and not the rule at the finish line.
In fact, a Google search for “top 10 triathlon medals” seemed to confuse my all-knowing and all-powerful search engine because it spouted out a list of Olympians and of triathlon races:
Oh, and that I one I clicked on about “Important Issues in Triathlon: Finisher’s Medals” is a rant from a Canadian triathlete who believes all finisher’s medals should be thrown in the garbage. He goes as far as to say that anyone who has the audacity to display them is a “douche.” So, that went well.
The same however, did not happen when I searched for “top 10 race medals:”
There were 15,600,000 results.
If I could cast my vote, it would be for the bling I received at one of the worst triathlon events ever…
Regardless of tutus, destination races, bling and independence, I absolutely love triathlon and everything it represents. Admittedly, I’m a newbie in the sport and, these are my beginner experiences. I have to say that I truly love the differences in the two sports, races and atmospheres. There have been moments when I’ve glimpsed a softer side of triathlon, although they are few and far between. I’m sure my opinions and experiences will change over the years but, right now, I wouldn’t want it any other way…except maybe a training partner or group. Call me!
[Tweet “How are #runners and #triathletes different? Let me count the ways… #train4life”]
Now read this – – > Lest you think I’m a Trump supporter and enjoy bullying people because of what they wear or races they run, know this: some of the runners I admire most love Disney races (I’m looking at you Nellie!) and have completed epic marathons wearing tutus (that’s my woman Paria). I think anyone who steps up to a starting line is an athlete and they all have my utmost respect.
Are you a runner? Triathlete? Both? Neither?
How do you feel about fitness communities (online or otherwise) in general?
What are your thoughts on bling?
Don’t even get me started on bling. The word alone makes my skin crawl. If I never got another medal from a race, I’d be happy. It would save on registration fees for sure. It’s so true – there’s no comparing tri athletes to runners. You guys are badass and I bow down to you! #youraisemeup
Tell me how you really feel about the bling 🙂 Mine are hanging on a wall in my garage. I really need to donate them to a charity or something… 🙂
GIRL I READ THIS AND I HEAR YOU SAYING:
Im gonna start a tri-retreat of my own.
I absolutely love that idea!!! Now I need an assistant!
I’m a runner turned triathlete who runs in the off-season. I could take or leave the bling, it’s not what motivates me to sign up for a race and like Angela said above-maybe it would save on registration fees….well, maybe not for an Ironman 😉
Exactly! And I almost died when I saw the fees for IM. I thought the Boston Marathon was bad!!
I had no idea that race bling was such a thing! It reminds me of participation trophies for kids’ sports.
I’ve loved following your journey from runner to triathlete, Allie. Can’t wait to see what you do next!
It’s exactly like participation medals and, for the people who love them, a reason to race certain races. Weird and sad but whatever…
Thanks so much for saying that Dana! I hope my travels take me somewhere close to you again..although I’m NEVER doing that same triathlon!
I am totally a blog and instagram “stalker” of yours and LOVE what you have to say. I started doing Tris this past summer and have four under my belt. I also live in CT!!! Thankfully when I started doing Tris last summer I found an awesome group of supportive women. At my first Tri there were six of us that raced it. I loved having their support and guidance on the course. I feel like you have to find the right “Tribe” of women to train with. We met every saturday in the summer for “Bricks” and I definitely feel better having a group when we do our open water swims.
Well hey stalker! Thanks for coming out and commenting 🙂 I would LOVE to find a tribe but, one of my main issues is not really being able to work out on Sat and Sun because of all the family stuff I have going on. I mean, I do my workouts on Sundays but at like 5am so not sure there is a group for that!
Again, thanks so much and hope to see you at a race in CT!
LOL!!!! Can’t wear a tutu, no cute outfits, no good bling, no Paris triathlon to aspire to, and no community…… I can’t think of any reason why I would ever want to do a triathlon…. except that maybe if I did, one day I would have a chance at looking like a mother-f**king bad-ass like you!!!
Do you really need another reason?? LOL!!!! You are so freakin awesome no matter what you do so just keep it up!
Thank YOU!!! You nailed it. No tutus, for the love of all things covered in Gu, please no tutus. Of course now that I’ve typed that I’ll probably wear a freaking tutu this year and try to rock it. But hear me, my inner soul does not like tutus NOR running skirts. This is why I never got on the lulu track n because I thought it required wearing a frilly skirt. Maybe I’m part caveman but when I’m working out I wanna Chanel my inner fucking lion, not my inner tutu wearing fairy. . This might be why I gravitate towards the tri packs. I’m more a loner that periodically likes the company of others. I’m probably more social and fluffy than more serious triathletes but I still prefer the grit and discipline of the tri training. Like can we just sweat now??? Move it along people, enough with your rah rah. Ok maybe I need to soften up if I wanna truly dominate the spin instructor world… life goals
You are speaking my language woman!!
This was hilarious, and actually quite educational! I’m too wimpy to even contemplate triathlons, and this made my avoidance feel even more justified. I admire the heck out of you folks, and even think your suits are sexy, but man, it sounds like torture.
But heck, maybe I’ll start my own Tri event: run, nap, then booze it up…
Please let me know when registration opens for your triahtlon event! I’ll wear my kit…:-)
Thanks so much for reading and commenting and really, they are FUN, I promise!
I love this post! I have zero plans to become a triathlete, but I truly believe everything you said here is true! I do not however care one bit about race medals. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in a 500 square foot apartment most of my adult life, but it just isn’t something I need sitting around taking up space.
Hahaha – thanks so much Jess and, for the record, you would be a total badass triathlete!
I don’t run for the bling but I will say cool medals are just that…cool. I typically put mine in our basement and forget about them. I’m happy for those who that is what gets them out of the door.
Agreed! I need to find a good charity to donate mine to as I know my boys couldn’t care less about them…
This is so true! Triathletes are gear-heads (you kind of have to be!) and there’s definitely judgement that goes with that. The nature of the sport makes it a lot more solitary. That said, I’ve always been welcome at triathlon events, but the mood was definitely a little different! I do enjoy group rides, though.
Ok also, there is a “fun” triathlon in Nevis! My friend completed it with a 100-pound tree strapped to his back. The link to the race is here: http://www.nevisisland.com/island-of-sport/nevis-triathlon and here’s a link to a picture of my friend riding the bike with the tree on his back: https://www.instagram.com/p/BOzYipLBbuA/?taken-by=rossedgley CRAZY!!
You are so awesome! I would LOVE to go to Nevis to just be in Nevis but a fun triathlon too? Can we make it WR/girls weekend?
Amen to that last statement. What you said is true about other runners. I run races to challenge myself to work on getting better. Bling is nice but not expected. That thing about triathletes being judgy about other people’s gear is kind of sad. In fact, depending on how this year goes, I’m considering a sprint tri in 2018. I don’t make a lot of money so yes I’ll be out in my Trek 7.1 bike which I know is I know is not an expensive racing bike but it’s mine and I’m going to use it. Finishing a sprint tri would be amazing regardless of the gear. I just have to get past being afraid of drowning. 😉
Definitely do it and ignore anyone who looks at you sideways! I completed my first triathlon on a mountain bike with road bike tires. There is nothing more ridiculous than that!! But, I finished with a huge smile and a bigger sense of accomplishment. And yes, the fear of drowning is real but they have boats out there with lifeguards on them so you’re ALL GOOD. Go for it my friend! You will be great!
Haha! I am loving this post! I challenge you to wear a tutu on your bike! We should create a triathlete retreat!!! xoxo
NO to the tutu and YES to the retreat! xo
I’m putting it out there: I am not a tutu wearer. Pretty sure that doesn’t surprise you! There’s a local 10 miler I want to do in March, and the way I’ve been selling it is to tell folks that there are no tutus or costumes at this race. I call it a “runners” race. Bling is blah and I’m good with that!
Funny thing, I’ve spectated a few tris and I’ve had the thought that I don’t know if I could pull off the kits…
I am well aware that you agree with me on all things tutus and bling 🙂
You could totally pull off the kits, Instagram the hell out of it, and get 17.5k likes. You have to own it!
This post is great. Love reading the reflection on how all aspects of “just” runners vs triathletes are different.
As for bling…a couple years ago, I admittedly was a bling junkie (mainly because I ended up doing 3 Rock ‘n Roll events and received like 8 or 9 medals total from those 3). Now, I am not signing up for events based on the bling. I sign up because it is an event I enjoy. Yes, I do display my bling at home….in my room. It helps give me a visual of what I have accomplished.
Thanks so much and, overall, you have to do what works for YOU. I know I can come across as judgmental about bling and tutus (which is why I added that last part) but I honestly respect anyone who races anything because it’s HARD. And, if bling is the thing to get you to the finish? What do I care? Sounds like you already knew that but I hope you’re proud of your “visual” and know not too many people have a medal collection!!
You as always are cracking me up!!! I think it is the addition of the bike portion of the race that turns the fun, tutu wearing runner into what you are describing as triathletes. Maybe it is just the cyclists around here but they are anything but friendly….Personally I think it’s the massive amounts of spandex in places it has no business being but I could wave/smile and say “good morning” to a thousand runners and always get something in return…cyclists give me nothing but radio silence…not even a smile!!
I’m so glad I can give you a good laugh my friend! And, just so you know, even when I’m RIDING my bike, other cyclists barely acknowledge me. I just laugh it off because really?
Haha this is so true! I’ve only done one tri and it was a women’s only sprint tri with so many different types of women and ages participating. I was so glad I did it, but I have to say that it wasn’t as warm and fuzzy as women’s only road races. There’s just such a huge difference in types of gear and that really does create a division between people. I miss running a lot but I’m hoping to do at least one sprint tri this year!
I’m glad I’m not alone in this, although I suspected as much! You make a really good point about the diversity of gear and ability. I still love them but there is a special place in my heart for running.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
This is my favourite post of yours ever. I laughed out loud so many times! I am not a triathlete and I didn’t take a single thing personally. I’ve raced in a tutu and a coconut bra, and I’ve done Sambuca shots out of the back of my friend’s trunk at an aid station. My friend Alain is an Ironman and he bled out his arse for weeks after he finished his first one. I ran a 50 miler and then spent the night drinking and romping around the covers with Andrew. I can run a 3:06 marathon, but I nearly shit my pants when I try to do 3 sets of 10×15 lb bicep curls. You guys are a little bit awesomer, and I’m secure enough in myself to admit it! The only medals I’ve kept is my medal from Boston, my winner’s mug from my 50 miler and my bobble head from Skagit.
LOL no disclaimer needed. I TOTALLY understand the difference between the rundisney runners (minus the top 20% cuz they are blazing fast) and triathletes and you all have my utmost respect! I am a double whammy a runner that runs races IN DISNEYWORLD wearing a TUTU. You will NOT find me at the start of an ironman, nor a triathlon, but I will always root for you. <3
You are the BEST!!!!
This post is so funny – I laughed so many times! The tutus part is just too funny – all I can think when I see someone running in them is SO MUCH CHAFE – and that would only be worse on a bike or swim! But ummm I can’t believe that someone scratched you until you bled in a tri!
I don’t really care much about bling. There’s been a couple races where a volunteer chased me down (and by chase, I mean walked) to give me my medal, since I forgot about it. But if it inspires people to run – more power to them then!
So glad you could laugh – that was the goal! And yes, I had a bloody ankle from someone who obviously had long nails and a long reach! I actually didn’t even notice until someone else told me I was bleeding. That’s adrenaline for you!
I feel the same about medals and have only had volunteers chase me down for the timing chips…
I feel like “bling” has just been a thing the last few years? I seriously could care less about a medal – in fact, I couldn’t even tell you right now where my Boston medal is (oops? I think it’s in a drawer)
Cracking up about the Tutus!!! I just can’t even…
Have you done Wildflower? When I was doing tris – everyone did and LOVED Wildflower! I never did it, but it looks awesome and hard core.
PS: I do not think of you as a “newbie” triathlete!!!
That is too funny about your Boston medal! And I think you’re right that bling has only become a “thing” in the last 5-8 years. Weird.
I have NOT done Wildflower and I do not camp but otherwise, it sounds great 🙂
Thanks so much Nat!
This is SO great – from a runner turned triathlete I totally get it. There are fun runs. You don’t sign up for a fun triathlon. They’re “fun” but in the hurt-so-good kind of way. I cannot see lugging all that gear to a starting line at 5 freakin’ am to not race hard, lol.
And… yeah, the medals are fun the day of, sometimes, but then what do you do with them after when you have like 100 of them? I decorated my Christmas tree one year with them heh.
I’m so glad you can relate and such a good point about lugging all the gear!!!
Medals as ornaments is a great idea 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting!