he first thing to know is that duathlon is a sport in its own right, rather than just a handy addition to the triathlon calendar. It has its own National, European and World Championship events for sprint, standard and long-distances. Each country has it's own qualifying events and you can compete in all of them as an amateur athlete, with bronze, silver and gold medals for the winners of every five year age-grouping. That includes juniors all the way to 80 plus years. If you fancy representing your country, this might be one of your best routes in. You can find more information about age-group teams at britishtriathlon.org.
Bearing all that in mind, you could potentially avoid triathlons altogether and become a duathlete, especially if you really dislike swimming. This works well for a lot of people, particularly those who want to be as competitive as possible from limited training time. Cutting out swimming also cuts out the time you waste travelling to the pool and back, so you can spend that extra time riding or running.
Perhaps the only downside of duathlons compared to triathlons is that they are most commonly held in spring and autumn, rather than all through the summer. That said, if you look hard enough you can find races all year round, including during the winter months. As well as a variety of distances there are also several duathlon types to choose from. First up, you get race-track duathlons. These events are held at venues like Silverstone, Thruxton, Goodwood and Castle Combe. They are all primarily motor racing circuits, but they make for excellent duathlon locations. The thrill of these events is that everyone starts together so you really feel like you're in a race. You can see things unfolding in front of your eyes and it motivates you to push yourself harder than ever.
In addition to race tracks, duathlons are held on public roads. Often the run section is held in a country park or round a lake, while the cycle is on scenic country lanes. These events have a different feel, because you can't see all the other competitors at once, but they do offer a greater variation of terrain and scenery. And at least you won't need to count your laps like you do at a race track.
If you're looking for something a bit different you can also find off-road duathlons. These involve running off-road and riding a mountain bike over a variety of distances. They are harder than you'd think, but great fun too. A good example is the Rempstone Roast off-road duathlon series held on Dorset's beautiful Jurassic Coast, organised by resultstriathlon.co.uk.
Whichever duathlon type and distance you choose, our advice is to dip your toe in gently. Do a few events over shorter distances before you start getting too competitive. Over the next few pages, we'll point you in the right direction when it comes to training and racing.