How did it all start?
Well, triathlon history dates back to around 1974 in Southern California when a group of friends began to get together to work out in training. The group contained mostly runners, a few swimmers and the odd cyclist or two. It wasn’t long before the group was organizing informal fun runs and races, followed by races containing swimming and running and a natural progression led them to include cycling. They decided to call this amalgamation of three disciplines Triathlon.
In the early days it made no impact on the general non-sporting population at all, nor, at that time, did any of these athletes think that it ever would. However the word did start to spread a little and gradually other triathlons began to be organized up and down the Southern California coast, many around the San Diego area.
One of the group of friends who started competing in the multi-sport events in California was a navy captain, John Collins. In 1977 he competed in the around-Hawaii relay race, a running event. After the race, as so often happens, the beer began to flow and Collins came up with a proposal for a new race …
There were three tough races on the Hawaiian island of Oahu at that time. The Waikiki rough-water swim of 2.4 miles, the around-the-island bike race of 112 miles and the Honolulu Marathon over the classic distance of 26.2 miles. Collins proposed that they be combined into one event, called appropriately “Ironman”. Many laughed at him but the idea wouldn’t go away and on 18th February 1978 it became a reality when fifteen athletes lined up on Waikiki beach for the first ever Hawaii Ironman. Twelve of the fifteen finished the race and an institution was born. Over the years the entries grew to the present size of around 1500 competitors. The start of an Ironman race with 1500 triathletes racing into the water together is one of the most spectacular sights of any sport. Eventually the race outgrew Oahu and moved to the main island of Hawaii, retaining the original distances which are now replicated in many races around the world each year. The television coverage of the Hawaii Ironman is probably the main reason for the very fast spreading of the sport around the world.
Triathlon in Great Britain really started as a result of an Englishman, Aleck Hunter, who had taken part in the first long distance Nice Triathlon in France in 1982. He was enthralled by it all and amazed at the level of fitness of the top Americans who had dominated that race. Soon after returning home he got together with Olympic pentathlete Mike Ellis and cyclist Dick Poole ( a former holder of the John O’Groats to Lands End cycling record ) and together and with others formed the British Triathlon Association (BTA). Dick Poole was the Chairman of the BTA from 1983 to 1989.
The above information was written with the help of extracts from "Triathlon - The Skills of the Game" by Steve Trew and was produced with the author's permission.
You can visit the BTA's website by following this link:-