What Makes You a Triathlete?

Last week when I went for my paratriathlon assessment, I had to sign forms. I signed above the line that said “Athlete”.

Hm.  I have never really thought of myself as an “athlete”.

I mentioned this to my coach on Sunday.  That evolved rather quickly into a discussion about when someone can be considered a “triathlete”.  “It’s not like an Ironman – no one announces “You are an Triathlete” and definitely that’s it…” I quipped.

He turned it back around.  “At what stage are you considered a negotiator?” he asked.  That is my job – I flippantly replied “One deal doesn’t make you a negotiator. Maybe 10 does.” 

“So then you need to have 10 triathlons under your belt to call yourself a triathlete,” he said.

Really?  At what distance?  10 sprints?  10 Olympics?  Or is the process that matters (e.g. the training) rather than the number of races completed?  So 10 seasons of training?

A rather quick exchange illustrated a much discussed point… How do you define a triathlete?

What do you think?

6 responses to “What Makes You a Triathlete?”

  1. I considered myself a Triathlete only a year ago when I started to take the swimming more seriously – got some coaching, started drilling, breaking swims down into sets rather than just swimming length after length etc. I had done a number of Olympic and Sprint distance Tri’s but just ‘survived’ the swim knowing that I was a strong cyclist and above average runner but when I entered Ironman I decided I wasn’t going to finish unless my swimming improved dramatically.It wasn’t finishing IM that made me think I was a triathlete it was several months before with all that time in the pool and when one of the lifeguards, who organises a small local Tri, approached me at the pool with the opening line “you’re a Triathlete right?”.Stephen(mr_fast)

  2. It is largely determined by the intersection of attitude and action. Having the mindset that you are an athlete—and then following up with all the hard work that an athlete’s lifestyle requires, makes you an athlete. But if you take away one of these two factors, I believe your claims of athleticism are greatly undermined. “Training” with no mental focus or goal; or having the right mindset and plan, but little or no follow-through disqualify you from the title of athlete.

  3. I found your blog!!! hmmm-10? really? if I equate that to running-you’re not a runner until you run 10 races-I disagree! I think if you put in the training and time then you are that athlete!

  4. If you’ve completed a triathlon and continue to train for triathlons that you’re going to complete then you’re a triathlete. My opinion.Having said this, I am confident that those of us who have completed full Ironman events may be to differ. I guess at the end of the day, YOU are the only one who can answer the question. All the best!

  5. Like many who have already posted, I think a “triathlete” is someone who is focused on the training for the sport, and has a commitment to that training and racing. I don’t believe there is a magic number of races—or length of race—that makes you a triathlete. Your focus, commitment makes you the athlete. Good post! Provocative.

  6. I’m seeing a theme emerging…If you do a job, you can place criteria that “qualify” you to be a profession.  Be it a test (like a CPA or Bar exam or teacher certification) or just the number of times you have done something…  But you can have a view on an objective criteria that “makes you your profession”.But, unless you are a pro, being a triathlete is not about objective criteria.  A pro earns their card, places in races, has time objectives.  But an amateur, a hobbyist…  Categorisation becomes harder.Perhaps just the love of doing it makes you a triathlete?Thanks for your comment Maria.  It got me thinking again.

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