October 6th sees the fifth annual Barcelona triathlon take place with a course that runs around the city. For those not in the know, a triathlon is a gruelling sporting competition composed of swimming, cycling and running and is a true test of endurance, with competition distances classified into three backbreaking categories: Olympic (1,500-metre swim, 40-kilometre bike ride and 10-kilometre run), Sprint (750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike, five-kilometre run) and Super Sprint (400-metre swim, 10-kilometre bike and 2.5-kilometre run). Last year, the event (which is sponsored by sports technology company Garmin) saw 6,000 brave competitors take part. There’s big prize money as well with the first four placed ‘elite’ participants being awarded between €500 and €4,000.
The first known modern triathlon was held in 1974 in San Diego, California with just 46 participants, although there are tales of the event dating as far back as Twenties’ France. Out of the US contests came Ironman Triathlon competitions, a heavy-duty, longer version where competitors are expected to finish the punishing course in a maximum of 17 hours. The original triathlon has since come a long way; at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, it became a recognised Olympic sport and at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, the first paratriathlon will be held.
The long-distance training that participants must undergo also comes with a lot of health benefits. Depending on your weight and how hard you work in training, participants can expect to burn a lot of calories. Swimming and cycling eat up around 600 to 700 calories an hour, and running even more, perhaps as many as 900. Triathlons work your whole body, not just certain muscles as can be the case with single-sport events where participants are more likely to incur an injury than triathletes. Swimming and cycling are also both non-weight bearing sports so there’s reduced stress levels on the body when compared to a lot of other sports. To be able to do the event you have to understand that it’s not about speed, it’s about focus, stamina and building up a strong, healthy body.
For this month’s Barcelona event, the rules and regulations are set by the Catalan Triathlon Federation. Entrants must be over 18 years old and in good physical and psychological condition. Events are organised into male and female categories, with small groups also allowed to compete alongisde individual participants. Swimmers may use any stroke they prefer and a wetsuit is mandatory (they are available to rent for competitors). The swim begins down at La Mar Bella beach before biking along closed-off roads into the Catalan capital via the Agbar tower followed by a run through the Parc de la Ciutadella and Arc de Triomf. The triathlon welcomes a high number of international participants; in its inaugural year in 2008, 20 percent of participants came from outside Spain, from as many as 21 different countries.
To complement the triathlon, the Barcelona Triathlong Expo will take place, with specialist exhibitors from each of the fields (swimming, cycling and running). It is being held at Pavelló de la Mar Bella, Passeig Maritim S/N and will be open on October 4th (12-8pm) and 5th (10-8pm).
And if you are still not sold on participating in a triathlon, perhaps this will persuade you: “The Barcelona triathlon starts at sunrise and the experience is marvellous,” said Oriol Granell, one of the founding organisers of the event. “It begins with a swim right in front of the sun, a beautiful cycling course through the city and ends with a final run along the sea. Once you take part, you will want to participate every year. There is no sporting experience more complete than a triathlon, especially in Barcelona.”