The earliest recorded triathlon took place just east of Paris in 1901 with the “sportsmen of the time” completing a run, cycle and canoe.
From 1920, the canoe segment was replaced by a swim with a newspaper listing the annual event as comprising a 3km run, 12km bike ride and a crossing of the River Marne.
While other ‘Les Trois Sports’ events were staged in Marseille and La Rochelle before World War II, the sport only garnered minority interest.
The origins of modern triathlon stem from the boom in jogging in the United States following Frank Shorter’s marathon victory in the Munich 1972 Olympic Games.
The birth of Ironman
Two of the 46 competitors at the first and second Mission Bay Triathlons were U.S. Navy Commander John Collins and his wife Judy.
After moving from California to Hawaii’s main island O’ahu in 1975, they were involved in a sprint run-swim event before having the idea of creating something for endurance specialists.
In October 1977, the Collins announced the first Around The Island Triathlon to be held the following February comprising three existing competitions – the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race and the Honolulu Marathon – but taking place one after the other.
John Collins famously said, “Whoever finishes first, we’ll call him the Iron Man.”
The Ironman tag stuck with a line from the instructions to competitors also living on to this day: