What Inspires So Many To Complete A Triathlon?


We investigate the mystique behind this sport that has a classic sub-culture and yet captivates the imagination of the planet.

Most people don’t think they are in a position to finish an event that comprises three different sports, without resting, for various reasons. The motives that hold people back are personal and varied but the one truth is that we all aspire to complete a triathlon, or “to be a triathlete”. We look at some of the factors that have spawned the global growth in the sport over a relatively short period of time.

The long distance format of triathlon has its beginnings at the 1977 awards ceremony for the Oahu Perimeter Relay (Hawaii), in an attempt to see whom the fittest person was; swimmers, cyclists or runners. Combining all three disciplines into one would be the ultimate test for athletes; at least this was the thought of US Navy Commander John Collins back then. Little did he know that this would inspire millions to train on a daily basis with the goal of completing any one of a multitude of races around the globe consisting of a swim, a cycle and a run.

The heart wrenching stories

Was it Julie Moss crawling across the finish line in 1982 or was it Paula Newby-Fraser crawling just to finish after being dethroned as Queen of Kona? There have been epic race rivalries between great athletes across the globe, including the Dave Scott-Mark Allen rivalry all the way to today with the Javier Gomez-Alistair Brownlee rivalry on an Olympic stage which have inspired millions, but more realistically it has been the true heart wrenching stories of triumph over adversity which we have identified with and said “I too can do that.” Maybe the most significant of stories comes from those triathletes who have crossed the finish line with a physical or mental challenge that inspired us, knowing what courage and determination it took just to get to the start line, not the finish line.

Finding out what your limits are and then challenging yourself to push them further:
Humans are not all equal in their physical abilities but do have equal parts of courage, tenacity and determination. This mix of abilities is what results in the various places, positions and times it takes athletes to complete a similar challenge. The question each person has to deal with is what his or her personal potential limit, in terms of performance, is and then starts to work on making that a reality. This takes persistence and patience over a long period of time, very often the biggest motivating factor for triathletes, simply to find out just how far and fast they can go. Is there a limit, and if there is, can you go beyond it?

Iconic events

Challenges mapped out before us globally have inspired millions to train for and complete a triathlon. Iconic locations (Robben Island) or iconic mountain passes (Alp de Huez) host triathlons, or the distance itself (like Australian David Holleran who swam 26 miles, cycled 1242 miles and ran 310 miles) or amazing city venues (like Nice, Durban or New York) all add to the mystique of completing a triathlon. With a plethora of events worldwide athletes are spoilt for choice and the discerning triathlete is looking for an entire experience out of the event. Race Organisers have responded and the challenges range from tropical coastal festivals to mountain top altitude challenges. There is an event out there to inspire everyone.

Your own time

Training for three different disciplines in the sport requires time; time spent doing each sport and mastering the different skill sets. The juggling act of balancing the time spent on these 3 sports starts becoming an art in itself to produce the best result on race day. Every event done is a test of the training and analysis of the result will allow athletes to enhance, improve and focus on specifics. This keeps them motivated to race themselves and improve on their best, regardless of the level.

Connection with nature

Today’s busy lifestyles and workplaces create stressors beyond our abilities to cope and manage. So an opportunity to have time to do your sport, either alone or with friends, is an opportunity to connect with the outdoors, with nature and re-ignite the passion and fire in your soul to be healthy and happy with your life. Swimming, cycling and running is the perfect opportunity to be outdoors, connect with Mother Nature and enjoy the real beauty of the world. A swim in the ocean or a river satisfies the soul more than just training the physical body. The wind blowing in your face, full-speed down a mountain pass on a bicycle is a treat we all live for. Running through a forest, with freshly fallen leaves and moist underfoot is an experience that must be had by all.

But all of these can only be experienced if we take that first decision and leap of faith to “be a triathlete”. More often than not you join forces with a friend in an attempt to finish your first event or you are just simply inspired to achieve what many people dream of. The reason for the motivations are varied but the real goal is to get out there, be part of it and to simply to “Be a Triathlete.”

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