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?