First triathlon on a budget

I completed an Olympic triathlon i.e. 1500 metres swim, 40km cycle and 10km run. Triathlons are expensive, because you need special equipment, but assuming most people have running shoes and a bicycle helmet, it can be done for less than €500 including buying the bike.

Training costs tend to be very cheap for cycling and running, most people have access to an outdoor space or are a maybe a member of a gym. Swimming is more expensive but public pools tend to cost 2.50-4 (at least in Belgium) so overcrowding not cost is the main consideration.  


I started training at the end of May for a September 9th triathlon. I was reasonably fit after a season of rugby and occasional jogging. The swimming was generally awkward and although I did around 10 sessions in the pool, the best part was when I found outdoor swimming in Rutselaar (Belgium) which had 125 metre lengths marked out, that was really helpful but I only went there 3 times because we found it at the end of the training period. I did approximately 20 runs from 5km - 20km. I also did 15 cycles with distances of 10km - 40km. I only tried cycling and running together once and it was useful. CLEARLY what I prepared for was to finish a triathlon not get a great time!


- Surfing body suit €30 – Decathlon

- Bicycle €300 – Decathlon “Hybrid” (note a racing bike is also €300 but not sturdy). You can use this bike day to day. Advice: Can you buy a second hand racing bike for same or similar budget? Then do so!

— Shorts €10 – worn underneath the surf suit and used to cycle and run, with a “lycra” feel

—- Running top €20 – they come cheaper, even as low as €5 but €20 is a nice balance of budget and quality

—- Swim training €50 – that was three sessions in a lake and 15 sessions in a public pool

—- Event €50 – Triathlon Huy (Belgium)

Total = 460


It was on the 9th of September in Huy, Belgium. It was a scorching 28 degrees, which was scary. The swim was a “floating start” and was beautiful seeing 230 bobbing white hats. It took me less than 40 minutes, there it was clear that my less than optimal suit wasn’t that big a problem. Most people did have proper cold water swim suits that cost 100-300 and my friend swore it made a big difference to her and also swimming behind someone helped immensely. Coming out of the water was bizarre, my legs gave way, so I think it is very important you train the transition from water to cycle (I didn’t). If you can afford a triathlon suit under your swim suit, then pay for it, it will save you 30 seconds to a minute on the transition.

The first transition I plodded slowly to my number where the bike was and was so tired I struggled at first to take off the swim suit and then to put on my running vest. It also took a minute to put on my running shoes.  

The cycle was incredibly difficult, around a quarter of the course was on hills meaning at least 5-6km of climbing. On my heavy bike I suffered, but even so, people where comfortably taking me over on the flat. BUT it got me to the next transition where one of the guys said I had done well with “that bike”

The next transition and run was non-eventful and slow. The only part that was problematic was getting food into me and drinking, I see why people bring energy tubes. Normally I can do 10km in under 50minutes but it was more like 65 minutes this time. Here’s the rub. If you have a better bike the run will be easier, simply you may have more energy after a less traumatic cycle. 

In the end, I finished! My total time was just over 3 hours 30 minutes. It was an elite race so I was at the back of the field. I know I can do better, but I will need to invest more money into equipment and do longer swim and cycling training but that’s OK…