Sign in

How Many ‘-Athlon’ Type Sports Are There and What Do They Involve?

Sharon Willis
How Many ‘-Athlon’ Type Sports Are There and What Do They Involve?

While they are less well known when compared to straight up sporting disciplines like cycling, running or swimming, the ‘-athlon’ sporting types are growing in popularity every year. Athletes at the top of their game are always looking for new ways to challenge themselves and find ever more extreme ways to compete and push the boundaries of their endurance. 

Unlike other endurance sports such as ultra marathons, cross-country skiing and long course swimming, sports that have the suffix ‘-athlon’ require athletes to take part in more than one sporting discipline. There are quite a few different types of sporting events that fall into this category and each one includes a varying combination of sports, but every one is designed to push competitors to their limits. 

Thousands of such events take place every year, in almost every country. As you can imagine, the locality of each event can have a strong impact on how difficult the event is. For example, some take place in extremely hot climates and over difficult terrain which can be much more challenging than easier terrain and milder weather conditions. The diversity of these events makes them extremely attractive for athletes looking to push themselves.


If you know a little latin, you’ll have a clue as to how many sports this event includes. Duathlons combine two sports, typically running and cycling. Some are more specialised and may include off road biking and fell running rather than road biking and running. The standard format would include a 10k run, followed by a 40k bike ride, and then a final 5k sprint to finish off. These are all done consecutively, so as you can imagine it is quite a test of endurance. Unlike others on this list, the duathlon doesn’t involve swimming, so is a popular one for winter time. 

A biathlon is another variation you may come across and is considered a winter sport. It involves cross country skiing and rifle shooting, and is extremely popular in regions known for snow such as Canada, Scandinavia, and certain northern states in the USA. Competitors will skii a certain distance and will take part in five rounds of shooting. During the shooting segment, a missed target incurs a time penalty that is added onto their finishing time to determine the winner.


The triathlon is one of the most common ‘athlon’ events, and will see competitors face three different sporting challenges. Many competitors will use triathlon supplements to help keep them going during this type of event, because it can be difficult to find the time to eat, and a lot of athletes find they cannot tolerate meals while taking part in extreme endurance events. A triathlon is a classic multi-sport event, including running, cycling and swimming. There are different kinds of triathlon, such as the sprint, Olympic distance, half iron man, and middle distance events. 


A lesser known ‘athlon’ event, the quadrathlon includes four sports: swimming, kayaking, cycling and running. Swimming and kayaking are done on open water, so wetsuits and other protective gear are needed in colder regions, though this is a popular event year-round in places with milder climates. 


A sporting event that includes five different disciplines, the pentathlon is an ancient-inspired event that is designed to test the skills that a soldier would have needed. The sports included in a pentathlon are swimming, fencing, showjumping, shooting and running to create a true all-round test of skill and endurance. 


Heptathlons are usually spread over two days and are made up of seven sports. Designed for female athletes, it has become popular recently due to the outstanding successes of female Olympians. As equality becomes more important in sports, there has been recent calls for a women’s decathlon event to be introduced at the Olympics, as this would allow female athletes to test themselves at the same levels as the males.


Men don’t take part in heptathlons, instead they take on the ten event decathlon. Like the heptathlon, it is spread over two days and also features in the Olympic Games. There are several other ‘athlon’ events that are lesser known, and they include the tetradecathlon and the icosathlon which have 14 and 20 disciplines respectively.


Sharon Willis
Zupyak is the world’s largest content marketing community, with over 400 000 members and 3 million articles. Explore and get your content discovered.
Read more