Let’s play Triathlon


“Football is fun, Triathlon is not”

A few weeks back when I got home from one of the worst bike rides I had ever had, my parents asked me how it went. After using tons of words that aren’t ‘blog-friendly’ I finally said: ”You know what, football is fun, triathlon is not”.
A few days  later I thought back about these words and wondered: If triahtlon isn’t fun, then why do I (and with me thousands of other people), do it? Why do we get out for morning swims, 6 hour bike rides and 30+km runs?

First let me explain what I mean with the football-triathlon expression. Football is fun because:

  • You’re in a big team with lots of people that are already or will become your friends
  • You play for the reasonable time of 90 minutes
  • If you don’t really feel like playing you can either take it easy or sit on the bench
  • Training usually involves showing up 2 times a week for an hour or so
  • Afterwards you go for a few beers.

Ironman Triathlon is not fun because:

  • Besides some weekly training session with your tri-club, training (especially Ironman training) will be done alone for the big part. When it comes down to myself I do all my training on my own, so no big team with lots of friends.
  • An Ironman is done for the not-so-reasonable time of anywhere between 8 and 17 hours. Even an Olympic race involves 2-4 hours of racing.
  • If you don’t really feel like racing you are up for the worst possible deathmarch that you will ever experience. No taking it easy here.
  • (Ironman) training involves showing up 6 days a week, for 2-3,5 hours each day. If you fail to do so repeadetly you are up for that deathmarch as explained above.
  • Afterwards you go for an ice bath.

Back to the question, if it isn’t ‘fun’ then why the hell do we do it?!
The only answer that I could think of is that it rewards us with something more then just fun. To quote Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

“Whatever reason motivates the athlete, the crux of sport is the quality of the experience it provides. Contrary to what happens in most of life, sport can offer a state of being that is so rewarding one does it for no other reason than to be part of it.”

This is what I think is the reason, (Ironman) Triahtlon offers such a great state of being that we basically get addicted to the state that we are in. The more and more we train the more we get to be into that special state of being and the more we want to keep on training. Eventhough football is also a sport, i think it’s different. I’ve done football myself and it does not really offer that special state of being, simple because you don’t get the chance, you’re constantly focussed on the ball, attacking, defending etc. etc. While all you do during a 5 hour training ride is just being. You don’t think about your taxes, you don’t think about homework, children, the fact that you still have to cook and all that stuff. You are just in that special state of being that is so rewarding in itself that you don’t need to think about anything else because that state of being is, just enough

Ironman Triathlon may not be ‘fun’ but that  may be a good thing, because otherwise it probably wouldn’t be so damn special.



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