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What is USA Triathlon Sanctioned & Certified?

A majority of what you will read below was written by CapTex Triathlon & High Five Events. They did such a great job explaining things on the sanctioned and certified topic we figured it best not to reinvent the wheel, but we have to give them credit where credit is due. Good job!


What does an event labeled as a “Sanctioned Event” with a “Certified Race Director” mean? Why should you care?


USAT means USA Triathlon. USA Triathlon is the governing body of the sport of triathlon in the USA, part of the overall Olympic Committee, making USAT officially part of Team USA. This means that they must adhere to a strict set of rules put forth by the Olympic and Paralympic Committees. When you see that an event is “USAT Sanctioned” it means they have to complete a thorough application process drawing out all aspects of how they plan on conducting the event. Everything from permitting, to safety, to water quality, course design, and more! As a participant, seeing that an event is sanctioned by USAT should give you at least some confidence that the event is at least meeting the minimum standards concerning fairness of competition and overall safety of the competitors.

Annual Memberships or 1-Day Licenses to Race

In order to participate in a USAT-sanctioned event you must have a current USAT membership. This can be in the form of an annual or one day membership. Most registration platforms (we use RunSignup) automatically link to the USAT database to real time certify the validity of your membership status. During registration you will be asked for your USAT membership number. Once you input it you will be permitted to continue with your registration without any additional info or fee.

If you do not have a current membership you have two options:

  • Option #1 - Purchase a $50 Annual Membership good for 365-days from the date of purchase

  • Option #2 - Purchase a 1-Day $15 License good only for the race you’re registering for. If you plan on racing more than 3 times in the next 365-days, it’s worth purchasing the annual license.

Please Note: this fee and license (annual or 1-day) does not go to the race. This fee is to help pay for the events insurance, national ranking system, education of coaches, directors, and officials, etc.

Most adult triathlons in the United States are sanctioned by USA Triathlon. This helps the individual event. It also helps keep the national governing body strong so that it can support race directors, growth of the sport initiatives, and Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Participant benefits of a USAT-sanctioned event:

  • Access to the collective wisdom of over 35,000 sanctioned events over the past 30-years.
  • Giving the peace-of-mind with industry-wide Safety Standards.
  • Ensuring a fair race governed under industry-wide Competitive Rules.
  • Providing the Gold Standard of event insurance for the event, athlete, and venue.
  • Regional and national points and ranking system awarding annual designation of USA Triathlon All-American status.
  • Opportunity to qualify for the National Championships and then possibly the World Championships as a member of Team USA.

USAT-Certified Race Director (Level 2)

USA Triathlon has a Race Director Certification program that goes above the standard sanctioning process. Those Race Directors who choose to become certified go through approximately 16 hours of coursework and complete an exam. They are required to recertify every two years and complete a background check through NCSI and take SafeSport training. The recertification and coursework ensures that the race director remains current in their knowledge and engaged in the triathlon community. There are two levels of Race Director Certifications.

Aaron Palaian of ÖTILLÖ SWIMRUN is a USAT LEVEL 2 Race Director, the most difficult to obtain. Only the most qualified reach this level. He was one of the first to receive this certification and has since used his knowledge and experience to produce events all over the USA, and world (Texas, Maine, Michigan, Washington State, Alaska, Hawaii, and Iceland) for the last 15-years.

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