Under-recognized as a genre-defying level-up from triathlon, quadrathlon is a unique multisport event comprised of four disciplines in the order of swimming, kayaking, cycling, and running.
Quadrathlon is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around for several decades and even has a few governing bodies, mostly across Europe. But for most endurance and multisport athletes, the concept of a 4-discipline quadrathlon event is entirely novel and highly enticing.
It’s becoming more and more common to see unconventional triathlon events that include alternative disciplines, like paddling, hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing. These multisport events typically take the shape of the surrounding terrain and season, which adds a layer of adventure and originality.
Although quadrathlon retains the integrity of triathlon by maintaining the three core disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running, the addition of kayaking, makes for a welcomed extended challenge for most endurance athletes.
Although several iterations of quadrathlon exist throughout the world, some of the first events to take shape consisted of a 3.1-mile (5km) swim, 12.4-mile (20km) kayak, 63.1-mile (100km) bike, and 13.1-mile (21.1km) run. As you can imagine, that’s quite an all-day adventure that rivals that of long course triathlon.
|Sprint Distance||Middle Distance||Long Distance|
|Swimming||0.47 miles (0.75 km)||0.93 miles (1.5 km)||3.1 miles (5 km)|
|Kayaking||2.48 miles (4km)||4.97 miles (8km)||12.4 miles (20 km)|
|Cycling||12.4 miles (20 km)||24.8 miles (40 km)||63.1 miles (100 km)|
|Running||3.1 miles (5 km)||6.2 miles (10 km)||13.1 miles (21 km)|
The History of Quadrathlon
Dating back only 30-40 years, the first quadrathlon was in 1987 on the Spanish island of Ibiza. The event, which was started by Sergio Ferrero, was slow to take off, as it wasn’t until 1990 when the first quadrathlon organization was established – the World Quadrathlon Federation (WQF).
Quadrathlons took place all over parts of Europe through the 1990s. In 1997, the WQF became the European Quadrathlon Federation, which is based in Czech Republic. Races today span from areas of Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Germany; however, it’s the United Kingdom that serves as the unofficial capital of Quadrathlon in recent years.
In addition to the WQF, the British Quadrathlon Association (BQA) has become another very dominant governing body in the world of quadrathlon. While the BQA is a member-based organization that’s concentrated in the U.K., it’s a great resource to find quadrathlon events and World Cup Races all over the world.
Quadrathlon Race Formats
Quadrathlon races come in many forms, but are most traditionally in the sequence of swimming, kayaking, cycling, and running. The swim, which is always open water, can range from lake, river, and sea-based swims. Depending on the location of the event and temperature of the water, wetsuits are typically advised, if not required.
For the kayak leg, a fully-functional and serviceable kayak is required. For some events, athletes are required to wear a water floatation device. Just like the swim, there are no rules in regard to drafting. The kayak section is often structured as an out and back segment or as laps, which gives athletes a good perspective of their competition as well as offering a spectator-friendly view into the early stages of the events.
When quadrathletes finish the kayak leg, most events will have aids in the second transition area who help grab kayaks from the competitors once they are back on land. This makes for a swift dash to the bike where athletes will start the longest leg of the quadrathlon.
Most of the bike sections are on paved roads and vary in distance between 12 miles and 60 miles, depending on the quadrathlon event. There are some events that have mostly off-road bike courses where mountain, gravel, and cyclocross bikes are used.
Following the same sequence as triathlon, the final leg of the quadrathlon after the bike is the run. Some run courses are very technically demanding, while others are friendly for beginner athletes. Run courses usually range between 3 miles and 13 miles (or a half-marathon).
Quadrathlon Events Worth a Look
Quadrathlon is certainly not a popular sport. However, there are still many different races that take place. Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, is home to the greatest abundance of quadrathlon events. But you can still find some races in the U.S. as well. Here are a few awesome quadrathlon events worth considering.
The Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon, Scotland
Drawing up 400 athletes in the central highlands of Scotland, the Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon is one of the toughest single-day events that combines swimming, trail running/hiking, kayaking, and cycling. Starting from Ardtalnaig
- Swim 0.84 miles (1.35km) across the freshwater Loch Tay, starting from Ardtalnaig
- Run/Hike 14 miles (24km) over the stunning Ben Lawers range, the highest mountain in the Southern Highlands at 3,983 feet (1,214 meters) of altitude
- Kayak 6.8 miles (11km) from Milton Morenish back to Ardtalnaig
- Cycle 33.5 miles (54km) around Loch Tay.
Quadrathletes will commence their journey to the local sound of bagpipes as they embark on an epic multisport event embedding in the surrounding Scottish Highlands.
This quadrathlon is a great way to experience Scotland’s stunning landscape as well as a bit of its culture. Between whacky aid stations and local fare, like fish and chips or a bowl of haggis, The Great Kindrochit Quadrathlonis more of a soul-enriching adventure race than a highly competitive event.
Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon, New Mexico
The Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon is based in the high desert region of Grants, New Mexico, about 70 miles west of Albuquerque. Mt. Taylor, which is the highest peak in the San Mateo Mountains reaching 11,306 feet (3,446 meters), delivers almost 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) of total climbing for the race.
Athletes start with a 13-mile road ride that begins in Grants and takes participants through low desert cactus and upward to ponderosa pine. The course winds up 1,800 feet (548 meters) of climbing, which is undoubtedly a heavy ride for a 13-mile course.
After the one-way ride to T1, athletes continuing climbing with a 5-mile gravel run that extends an additional 1,200 feet (366 meters) in elevation. Be prepared as the gravel road is typically dry during the first few miles but later turns to snow pack.
Athletes then transition from running to mounting their cross-country skis in T2. What follows is a 2-mile mountaineering-style ski up another 1,200 feet of elevation gain. The final stretch of the ski course includes “Heartbreak Hill,” a steep final climb before races reach T3.
The remaining 1-mile climb to Mt. Taylor’s Summit is a 600-foot snowshoe trek to the top. The Mt. Taylor Winter Triathlon finishes with 4,900 feet (1,495 meters) of total elevation gain. On a clear day, visibility can extend for over a hundred miles from the summit.
The fastest times to finish the Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon are just under 4 hours, so it’s definitely an endurance challenge that will test an athlete’s stamina and climbing abilities. Watch for the Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon in February. Stay in the know via the race’s Facebook page.
Awesome Foursome Quadrathlon, England
The Awesome Foursome Quadrathlon is based in the town of Bude, a seaside village in north east Cornwall, England. Not only is the Awesome Foursome Quadrathlon an established quadrathlon event in both the BQA and WQF, but it’s also regularly the course for the World Cup ranking event or the European Short Course Championships.
Using a swm-bike-kayak,–run format, the Awesome Foursome Quadrathlon includes the following:
- 800-meter sea swim consisting of a double loop within Summerleaze bay, which is protected by the breakwater.
- 30km (18.6 miles) bike ride following the coast road to Widemouth, Wanson Mouth, and Millook before meeting the A39 at Wainhouse Corner and returning to Bude.
- 10km (6.2 miles) kayak paddle, which is a double loop of the Bude canal.
- 10km (6.2 miles) run along the canal towpath to Helebridge, following the marked footpath across the fields to Widemouth and returning to Bude via the coastal path.
The Awesome Foursome Quadrathlon has remained the same course since it started in 2002. The event encompasses Bude’s stunning geography and features and offers a scenic quadrathlon event in a beautiful part of England. Learn more about this event at ShorelineActivites.com.uk.
Are You Ready to Try a Quadrathlon?
It’s without question that unconventional triathlon events – such as paddle, bike, and run – are becoming increasingly popular and more-widely adopted among the athletes. Naturally, it would only make sense for more adventurous triathletes to embrace alternative events like quadrathlon. Not to be confused with the Academic Quadrathlon hosted by the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS), the type of quadrathlons we’re talking about are physical feats of endurance. So, are you ready to try a quadrathlon?