Cut-off Times – why EVERY triathlon event needs them

triathlon marshall with red flag

Cut-off times are not just for ironman and long distance triathlon. Those of us at the back of the pack need to know how much time we have for any race.

When I’m looking at events to enter there are 3 key things I want to know:

  1. The distances for each leg
  2. The elevation profile for the bike course (I’m rubbish at hills)
  3. The cut-off times

Nobody would dream of listing an event without the distances. And it’s rare to find an event page that doesn’t include course maps.

But cut-off times? Long distance events will almost always be up front about these. As will most middle distances. But for sprint and standard distances it’s much less common – and even then they are likely to be well hidden.

As a slow triathlete, cut-off times are something I need to know before I enter.

It’s not uncommon for me to take over 2 hours for a sprint and 4 hours for a standard distance.

It gets boring having to contact the event organiser to find out if the course will be closed by then. I don’t want to part with my hard earned cash and then find out I probably won’t be able to run because I didn’t make the bike cut-off.

last runner on triathlon course
Setting out on the run at Ripon triathlon standard distance. The winners had already finished.

Scenario 1 – There IS a cut off time.

Then please tell us about it.

For many events cut-off times are a necessity. Roads need to be re-opened and local goodwill retained. I get this. Not every event can cater for slower athletes. And that’s fine – as long as I know about it before I enter.

It may be strictly enforced cut-off times for each leg as in Ironman events. Or simply a course closure time. But this information needs to be available to everyone at the point of registration.

Far too many events hide this information deep in the T&Cs – or only tell you about it in the pre race briefing.

There’s nothing more likely to induce panic in me than realising a week before the event that I’m really going to struggle to make it to the finish in time.

Then there’s……

Scenario 2 – There ISN’T a cut off time.

Are you sure?

Event organisers – are you seriously going to keep the course open and all marshalls in place all day until the last person crosses the line? Even if they take 2 hours longer than anyone else? And it’s pitch dark? 

It’s unfair on the volunteers. And it’s disheartening for the competitor to finally arrive at the finish to find a deflated arch and marshals who are clearly desperate to go home.

It’s much better for everyone to have a stated course closure time. One that’s published in advance. Slower athletes can then make an informed choice whether to enter or not.

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