Escape From Alcatraz – A Triathlon Like No Other

All you need to know about an awesome triathlon event that actually let you escape from none other than Alcatraz prison!

Everyone loves a good escape film, right? And Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay is perhaps the world’s most famous prison, starring in films such as ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, ‘The Rock’ and ‘Point Blank.’ But you’re probably thinking, what on earth does escaping from a prison have to do with fitness based travelling?

alcatraz prison

Well, worry not, because we’ve discovered an awesome triathlon event that actually let you escape from none other than Alcatraz prison.

What does it involve?

The event starts with participants lined up along a huge ferry right next to the island before taking the plunge and swimming a not too shabby 1.5 miles to the shores of St Francis Yacht Club. From that point, there’s an 18-mile cycle followed by an 8 mile run through trials of the golden gate recreation area. The open water swim is particularly tricky as there are pretty high currents, not to mention that the water is a brisk 12-degree centigrade (55 degrees Fahrenheit) which is a good ten degrees colder than recommended for fitness swimming. Wetsuits are allowed and definitely recommended.


On the upside, the event offers spectacular views of the golden gate bridge, not to mention the opportunity to cycle past the Palace of the Legion of Honour and through the beautiful Golden Gate Park.

What are the fitness requirements

The run has attracted some of the world’s top talent, including none other than Ironman champions Chris McCormack, Michellie Jones and Miranda Carfrae, as well as Olympians Simon Lessing and Barb Linguist. But it’s not just for elite athletes, in fact, the event is open to anyone that wants to take part. The process involves filling out a registration form, but since the event is so popular the number of racers is capped at 2000 and every registered runner is put into a random draw for the places.

sport cycling

Obviously, though, you’ll need to be at a high level of fitness to take part. You’ll need to have an efficient swimming style, plenty of endurance in your legs and a well-developed set of lungs to deal with the hours of cardiovascular work.

The History of the course

The race first began in 1981, and the idea of ‘escaping the island’ was inspired by the story of Frank Lee Morris, the mastermind behind one of the most famous prison breaks of all time. On June 11th, 1962 he managed, along with two other inmates, to find his way out of the allegedly inescapable prison, with all three men disappearing without a trace. It was this idea, along with the unique and exciting history of the prison, that gave the event its popularity.

Throughout the 80’s there were various changes to the route, some parts added and some parts taken away, but since 1995 the route has remained the same. By 1989 NBC had started filming the event, and today it draws over 20’000 spectators, plus hundreds of thousands of more viewers tuning in from across the globe.

The race is done, how else can I get fit in San Francisco?

The triathlon might only take a few hours, but there’s still plenty to do in San Francisco for the travelling fitness fanatic. Here are three of our top suggestions:

1) SoulCycle at the Marina. If you hadn’t got enough cycling already, then why not try out the fitness craze taking San Francisco by storm. Classes are intense 45-minute sessions of instructor-led cycling.


2) Shaolin Temple USA is located in San Francisco and provides completely free classes taught by actual Shaolin monks. The classes run every day except Monday, and give you the chance to learn the 1500-year-old arts of kung fu and chi kung

3) Monday Night Beginner’s Hip-Hop with Allan Frias, former star of ‘so you think you can dance.’ A great chance to develop your coordination, balance and cardio fitness without even realising you’re doing so.

A couple of non-fitness suggestions

Since you’re in the area (and you can’t possibly be exercising all the time) why not check out some of San Francisco’s coolest features. There’s Golden Gate Bridge, Day trips to Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, China Town, Union Square and an awesome cable car system. Or if you want some scenic views you can climb the Coit Tower for 360-degree views of the entire area.

For the museum-minded fit traveller, you’ll also find a cable car museum, Asian art museum, the museum of modern art and the California academy of sciences.


San Francisco is an area bustling with activity, and you’ll find plenty to do there whatever your level of fitness. However, if you truly want to call yourself a fitness traveller you’ll have to make sure you register for the ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ triathlon.

Board the ferry, feel the excitement, jump off and swim for the shore! And feel free to chat more in the comments section.

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