Marathon or Triathlon?

Earlier this year, I completed my first triathlon.


(And all I got was this banana.)

I’d been thinking about triathlons for a while before that, but a guest post from Katy on how to do a triathlon inexpensively finally convinced me. I didn’t want to spend a lot on a bike I might not use much when I could spend that money on beer or more running sneakers.


I got a nice tax refund and ended up spending about $600 on a pretty lightweight hybrid.

I used Katy’s post as a guide to not get sucked up into buying stuff I really didn’t need, so I didn’t do anything fancy like aero bars, a bike calculator or clip-in pedals. Unless I get really serious about cycling one day, I don’t know if I’ll ever do clip-in pedals. They terrify me, and I foresee myself tumbling to my death and getting run over crossing the West Side Highway.

I got a freaking flat tire during the race and got a slower time than I was hoping for, but it was still a fun experience.

So, will I do it again, and which do I like better?

One question at a time!

Yes, I’m going to do the Wyckoff/Franklin Lakes Triathlon (my hometown triathlon) next June and maybe some more triathlons next summer. There’s a ton of tris down the shore, and I’m not really afraid of the idea of open water swimming.

Which do I like better?

Marathoning, for sure.

I’m slightly ADD. The jobs I’ve liked the best are ones where I work on a whole bunch of different projects using varied skills. A job in D.C. that I had and loved had me doing: writing for the magazine, proofing pages before we went to press, editing web stories on a daily basis and laying out and editing a weekly newsletter–and I loved it! Using all those different parts of my brain kept me interested and no day was the same.

So I thought that would apply to workouts, but not only do I absolutely thrive on a training schedule, but I love marathon training because I love honing in on a goal time and crushing it. Aiming for three goal times and to improve in three sports sounds overwhelming to me, and part of the reason I train for races is to compete with myself, so I wouldn’t not aim to improve my times.

What about you? One sport or three? If you’ve done both marathons (or half-marathons) and tris, which do you like better?

21 comments on “Marathon or Triathlon?

  1. Kristina

    I just got into the tri thing last year and am still very much a newbie, but I really enjoy the challenge of balancing the three sports. Plus, I’m a gear junkie to some degree, so I love the gear (although I haven’t gone for a lot of the crazy gear that comes along with the sport). For me, a marathon is out of the question – my body/knees can’t handle it. But spending several hours while I swim/bike/run? Definitely not such an issue!
    I will say that they ARE more expensive than road or trail races, and for me, it is a lot of coordinating (all that gear!). I plan on participating in 2 tris this year – one in May, one in August, but I’m super excited about both of them! One will be the first tri I ever did this past May, and I’m planning on killing my time (unless I get a flat).
    As for you – a training schedule is pretty important for a triathlon, so you might LOVE that part of it!

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Kristina: No, I think it’s definitely important–probably even moreso than for a marathon, but I was trying to say that I like that with a marathon I can hone in one thing and just KILL it! (It just surprised me in general that I thrive on training schedules.)

      1. Kristina

        Someone else mentioned injuries, and I agree that I’m less injury-prone when training for a tri. Last year, I was out for 2 months from running (metatarsal issue) but was able to bike and swim which kept me SO sane!
        One more thing – it took me forever to be comfortable with the clipless pedals, but I am SO SO SO happy that I went with them now.

  2. Kim K

    having done both marathons and triathlons (including two marathons in a triathlon!), i def like tris better. i feel like doing tris helps avoid injuries that a runner might incur, and i think doing 3 different workouts during the week is not as boring as just running all the time. biking improves your running, and swimming is nonimpact, so im gonna stick to tris. you’re already a great runner, so i think you would be great at tris!

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Kim K: Good point about the injuries. Also, every time you comment, I think that just maybe Kim Kardashian is actually commenting on my blog and it makes me smile. I haven’t gotten totally hooked on tris yet, but we’ll see what happens next year!

  3. Allison

    I’ve tried training for a marathon and a half-marathon but due to some health problems, my training was put on hold… I played a lot of sports growing up and liked the unexpectedness and variation [a new opponent, a different play, etc.] so I think a triathlon would be similar in the sense that it’s not just running, but the addition of swimming and biking! One of my good girlfriends and I keep throwing the idea around to try a sprit triathlon but haven’t seemed to organize anything… If and when we do, it’ll definitely be in the warmer months πŸ˜›

  4. Alicia from Poise in Parma

    I really REALLY am uncomfortable in a bathing suit, so a triathlon isn’t probably in my future. I do love biking however and could easily see myself signing up for a duathlon next summer. But I’m with ya on the clip in pedals – freaks me out too!

  5. Corrie Anne

    I’m a nervous biker. And I don’t know that I could change a flat tire even on the bike. That said, I probably do what to do a tri someday. But I haven’t even done a marathon yet. Man, I really need to get cracking!

  6. Shannon

    I’ve never done a marathon, but I enjoyed the triathlon more than the three half-marathons I’ve done. I’m not an awesome natural runner – I have to work really hard at it – but I LOVE swimming. (I was a competitive swimmer for 12 years back in the day.) I liked combining all three sports – which is why I’m doing the NYC Triathlon next July. I’m a little worried about swimming in the Hudson, not gonna lie.

  7. Carly D. @ CarlyBananas

    I’m really happy to see you had a hybrid bike! I’m planning to do my first triathlon in May and I’m planning on getting a hybrid on the somewhat-cheap this winter. I just can’t justify buying a fancy road bike or tri bike but I really want to try a tri πŸ™‚

  8. Laura @ Joyful Shimmy

    I am a scanner/fitness ADD/I must try it once kinda gal. It’s hard for me to sustain a longterm goal of working out on a single sport for longer than 6 weeks. I need to keep my workouts pretty all over the place. What they have in common is that I thrive in the group setting (I work well with the energy of others). You are more likely to see me taking 3-5 classes per week. I am slowly starting to run so we shall see if I get hooked.

  9. Tami

    I started out as a runner who happened to run with triathletes…..the. I kept getting injuried….I attEmpted one marathon and limped the entire way. Ni finally jumped on the tri bandwagon and did two sprints…the I did another maraton and lost my mind at mile 15…. Then I ended up doing to half ironmans and loved them. My favorite thing to do is to run half maratons but the half Ironmans are a close second

  10. Irina G (Fit Flexitarian)

    I’m kind of like you when it comes to work and sports. I love doing 5 million things at once, so I always want to try something new. I’ve never done a tri or marathon, but I’m shooting for a marathon soon. I might try a biathlon also, but I think swimming wouldn’t work for me because I have a bad shoulder. I’m trying to run more and I also love yoga. But I love biking too and am really into just taking different fitness classes, just for the sake of trying new ones.

    1. Theodora Post author

      YES! Too bad we couldn’t go this am! Let’s look at the calendar and see if there are any more warm days coming up. Still not convinced on clipless pedals though.

  11. Kimra

    Really interesting point about goal-setting in one sport vs. three. I’m very curious to see where I come out on that when I start tri training in February. I’m at such different places with all the sports (running, I’m starting to work on taking down outdated PRs; swimming, I have a good easy baseline but I’ve never ever raced; biking, I’m just trying not to fall down) that my goals will be very different for all three. I wonder if I’ll love it or hate it. Either way, I’m excited to read about your redemption tri(s?) next year!

  12. Sam

    Sweet bike! I personally love half marathons more than marathons because I like going out hard and trying to hang on as long as possible!

    Keep up the training and have a good season!


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