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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Do People Do Triathlons?

The other day I saw an interesting question posed on the Trifuel website asking people why they do triathlons. The author has some interesting points and addresses the reason why folks take up this sport. Some do it for the pure enjoyment, some for bragging rights, others to improve their fitness, still others participate just so they can tell their friends that they are athletes. Hats off to Ben Greenfield, the author of that posting for being so inquisitive.

I've been doing triathlons since the late 1990s. My first race was the Bass Lake Triathlon, up by (you guessed it) Bass Lake California. It must have been 1997 give or take a year. I don't even know whether that race is still in existence. A buddy and I signed up as dare and met another friend up there. It was cold and misty on the lake to the point that our friend, who is a multiple Ironman finisher, got "lost" in the lake because he could not see the buoys from the thick fog and, as a result, took several wrong turns. I cramped up from the cold rain toward the end of the bike portion then had a v-e-r-y slow run. When I finished, I never felt more alive in my life. I knew that I simply HAD to do that again.

The reason I still do triathlons after 12 or so years had passed and intend to continue doing them as long as I live can be summed up in the short essay I pasted below. I do not know who wrote it or when, but it describes the reasons many of us get excited before each and every starting horn goes off. Also, it is my answer to Mr. Greenfield's question. Here is the essay, reproduced - credit should go to the original author, whoever you are:
“I love to be alive. I love the gift of life. Never have I felt more alive than when my heart is beating, my lungs filling and my muscles pumping with life - in pursuit of a goal. I'm not in it for the T-shirts, or the "Wow, you're a triathlete?" admiration conveyed by the gaping mouth of the spectator.

Each of us has within ourselves the desire to move from spectator to participant in our own lives. A key to becoming a participant in life is to set specific, measurable and worthwhile goals, and then to pursue these goals with all our heart. Committing oneself to a triathlon is a very special way to set these goals, and to love the pursuit.

Deep down inside everyone of us is a place of terror. This is the place where we doubt ourselves, where our self-confidence dwindles and where our dreams are called into question. During a race, and through this magnificent sport, people have to pay a few visits to this place - at mile 17 of the Ironman run or even at the bike-to-run transition of a shorter race. People go to Doubtsville, and then they return. And you know what? They leave this place behind and come back with a golden smile. For with every heartbeat during a triathlon, we pound away acres from that land of fear, anxiety and doubt.

Through triathlons, I have gained a greater capacity to give and to love. I can feel my soul glow a bit brighter, my smile stretch a bit wider, my self-confidence grow a bit stronger and my happiness penetrate a bit deeper.

It's a way to hug life, to participate in life, to search deep inside and to let life flow through you at 168 beats per minute.

There is a spark to the people involved in this sport. Triathletes are here to pursue a dream, to reach deep inside and to discover how we can all break though false limits.”

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