Triathlon q: "ultra" = iron distance aka full distance?

I was talking to a guy this morning who told others and me about the race he did this weekend. It was an Ironman distance race, aka full distance (aka “long course” in the European dialect of tri), but he insisted on calling it an “ultra” distance triathlon. His reasoning was “Ironman” is a brand name, which I totally get (don’t get me started on “Ironman 70.3”…), and this was not an M-dot event, so he called it an ultra and claimed that was a normal label. Having done Ironman-distance triathlons from 2000 through 2019 and and at least a dozen ultramarathons, I’ve never heard a mere Iron-distance triathlon referred to as an “ultra” nor does it make sense to me (unless your point of reference is “Ironman 70.3” I suppose).

My question: have I missed an evolution in the lingo? Is calling 140.6mi triathlons “ultras” a thing now?

Maybe it was an ultra mega epic triathlon?

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AFAIK, a 140.6, non-branded triathlon is referred to as “full distance”. “Ultra” has always referred to anything over that distance, whether it is a single-day ot multi-day event.


Nope. That’s what I assumed when he said “ultra.” I confirmed it was a 140.6 event and he defended the use of the term saying that’s what it’s called. He doesn’t know that I’ve done a tri, let alone iron-distance, and he’s never asked,* though he helpfully explained what a tri is recently. He’s done many, he was at least near ten it seemed when he rattled off what he’s done and this was his second (at least) full this year.

He actually made a point that this “ultra” of only (my word) 140.6 wasn’t a double, deca, whatever. He’s not done those, but I guess he figures he’s done an “ultra”?

*it never seemed appropriate (i.e., not to sound like whatever) to interject, though today I was tempted (but I figured I’d sound like a dick by correcting him). I’m also dragging in the pool after 3.5yrs out of the water, managing 1-2 days / week for the last 6 or so weeks, and >25lbs over race weight (with all the muscle gone), so I’m not looking like I’ve done an IM…

In that case just full distance then. He’s trying to do the equivalent of calling a marathon an ultra. Ultra is to go beyond, beyond the full distance triathlon.

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Sounds like he did a Full.

Edit: He might be correct, its in the table a a single ultra

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Recently starting/coming out of (2014-2019) racing triathlons we always called/ used the terms; full (140.6mi), half (70.3mi), Olympic (32mi), Sprint (16mi)

However - we referred to a full distance as an ultra style event… so thats confusing haha.

Would this mean that a 70.3 is a half-ultra?

Always been full distance or iron distance for me.

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Not an “ultra distance triathlon” no, but it is regarded as an ultra endurance event, along with ultra marathons and so on and athletes are considered ultra endurance athletes amongst other things.

Long course is the international, not European, description that covers Ironman-distance and similar.

I love that you can use the phrase “mere Iron-distance” with a straight post :wink:

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These are “short course” and events vary in total distance

Oh crap, how do we fix Wikipedia? That table is rubbish.

Contradicts other Wikipedia pages too:

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Maybe this guy or his friends put the first line into that table? “Single Ultratriathlon”


Its on the same page you linked. Are there others?

It does contradict the main body, “more than” and then states single which is equal too.

You can submit a correction :wink:

Anyway, I’m happy, as on this basis I might be doing half an Ultra-triathlon next year… lol :grinning:

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Maybe ultra works like infinite numbers, and half ultra is still ultra :joy:

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I know USAT doesn’t speak for triathlon around the world, but they use ultra to describe 140.6 mi triathlons. Long course is 70.3.

For instance, the USAT ultra distance is Michigan Titanium, a 140.6mi race. Long course nationals is at Clash Daytona, a 70.3 mi event.

Ironman has been litigious in the past and gone after non-IM events that use “Iron” in their name or description to protect their “IP” (that the lease from Marvel no less).

to further muddy the waters, in 2001, USAT were calling this their “Long Course National Championship”, and it was about the time that non-branded IM distance races were being called “iron distance”. this was way before the 140.6 and 70.3 titles popped up. “Ultra” has historically been used for “longer than -x”. Ultra marathon = longer than 26.2. Ultra triathlons have (to my knowledge) always been either the double IM distance in one day, or a 3 day combination of swimming, biking and running totaling well beyond 140.6