Recently I attended a talk with Chrissie Wellington, four-time Ironman World Champion. Chrissie is an incredibly inspirational speaker and I always come away with food for thought after listening to her speak about her career as a professional triathlete. This time, the one word which stayed in my mind was endure. She said that in essence, triathlon is an endurance sport and as triathletes, we condition our bodies and mind to endure.
Endurance is defined as the ability to sustain over time, to call from ourselves renewed commitment and effort when we are confronted with challenges or hardship. Endurance often requires tolerating discomfort, fatigue, stress and adverse conditions. It means that we remain steadfast even through criticism, monotony, and discouraging odds. This is certainly applicable to the life of a triathlete!
We endure monotonous training sessions…. staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool or grinding out endless reps on the turbo.
We endure awful weather… riding in the driving rain and running in the bitterly cold wind.
We endure pain and discomfort… burning lungs and screaming muscles.
We endure obstacles and problems…. punctures, nutrition fails, injuries, cramps and rough swim starts.
We endure mental battles and negative self-talk.
We endure exhaustion and fatigue- both mental and physical.
It may seem strange to choose a sport which requires us to tolerate so much discomfort and adversity. After all, there are easier ways to keep fit!
We endure all these things because we know there is glory to be had on the other side of the finish line. Overcoming a personal challenge brings with it immense feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment. It’s only when you push yourself to your limits that you discover what you are truly capable of.
Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory- William Barclay, Scottish Theologian
Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes- Buddha
Chrissie also said that she has wanted to quit every Ironman that she has ever started. I admire her honesty as I think it’s something that many of us can relate to- the constant battle between giving up and pushing on. She has developed strategies to cope with self-doubt, including mantras and breaking the distance down into manageable sections. Chrissie also reminds herself that the discomfort is temporary- as soon as she crosses the finish line the negative feelings will be replaced by those of elation and pride.
When does sport become endurance sport? Is it determined by the distance of the race? Is a 5k an endurance race or is it just marathon and beyond? This website defines it simply as an event where you have to eat to finish. Personally, I wouldn’t take on any nutrition during a Sprint triathlon, but anything above that distance requires fuelling during the race.
Triathlon develops qualities in us which apply to other areas of life. Determination, persistence, ambition, discipline and patience are all characteristics which are relevant to other goals, such as our careers. Endurance is a state of mind which can get us through any of life’s challenges, it’s about seeing the bigger picture and not letting obstacles derail you.
What does endurance mean to you?