Faris al-Sultan is known for his strengths in all three triathlon disciplines. In the running segment, he has a consistent but uncommon form of a long stride and loose arms, described as "looping." In competition, he typically wears a Speedo and half-singlet. His interest in triathlon was inspired by Thomas Hellriegel, a German triathlete.
Faris was born 21 January 1978 in Munich, Germany to a German mother and an Iraqi father. He started out as a collegiate swimmer before taking on triathlon. His first Ironman in 1997 was Lanzarote Ironman, which he completed in a time of 10:33. Al-Sultan achieved his first Ironman win at the inaugural running of Ironman Arizona in 2005. He competed at the Ironman world championships in Hawaii in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2004 before finally winning there in 2005. The favorite that year, fellow German Normann Stadler, withdrew due to flat tyres. In al-Sultan's return to defend the title in 2006, he placed third. At the 2007 championships, Faris did not compete due to a case of gastroenteritis the morning of the race. He said choosing not to compete "was one of the hardest decisions of my life." He was the winner at the 2013 Ironman Lanzarote on 18 May, completing with an overall time of 8:42:40.