I was listening to a podcast by a guy called Seth Godin when I got to thinking about at what point do we “become” a triathlete. Godin is something of an internet and business Guru and the recording was made while he was talking to a bunch of aspiring entrepreneurs.

He started by saying that if they wanted to become a neurosurgeon it would take something like fifteen years of study before you would ever be allowed open up someone’s skull. Quite rightly too. Brain surgery isn’t really something that you want an apprentice or beginner practicing on your noggin. Wondering where I’m going with this? Click on through to find out…

However he then went on to say that there was no such exam to become an entrepreneur. Once you decided that that was what you wanted to be and started doing entrepreneurial stuff you were there. You were an entrepreneur.

Are you still a triathlete if you never race?

It got me thinking about at what point do you either become or stop being a triathlete? Is it the day you decide to do one and make swim, bike and run a regular part of your life? Is it the day you cross your first finish line? Or do you only become as triathlete when you’ve done several races and are an experienced and competent athlete?

Cyclist or Triathlete?

I completed my first triathlon way back in 2003 at the Olympic distance, Dublin City Triathlon in the Phoenix park. I was a cyclist who had been dragged into the sport by a guy called Greg Labuscagne. Greg was a good friend and regular training partner who had been racing triathlon all season and eventually managed to convince me to sign up for a race despite the fact that I could only swim breast stroke and couldn’t run at all.

I was hooked from that first race but I was probably in the sport a good eighteen months before I felt like a triathlete as opposed to a cyclist who also swam and ran a little bit.

Losing my Ironman virginity

It was five years after I started triathlon that I did my first Ironman in 2008. It was four more Ironman’s and four years later that I first qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. At that stage I not only thought of myself as a triathlete but as an Ironman triathlete. I was comfortable in my self image as being a reasonably good Ironman triathlete.

Related: How to train for an Ironman

Imposter Syndrome

At least I felt fast and competent and like an Ironman athlete until I landed in Kona. At which point I immediately felt out of place. I was surrounded by thousands of the fittest and fastest people I’d ever seen. I felt so inadequate that I spent the whole week waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and apologize and say “I’m sorry Mr Cummins but there’s been a terrible mistake, you shouldn’t be here and now its time to get back on the plane and go back home. Oh and before you do you have to hand back all of your Kona schwag” Luckily enough no one noticed me and I got away with it.

Related: Kona race report

There’s even a name for it. It’s called “Imposter Syndrome” and I’ve suffered from it a couple of times. Kona was just the most pronounced.

Lapsed Triathlete

In 2014 I had back surgery which meant that I didn’t do another triathlon of any description for eighteen months but all during that period I still considered myself a triathlete. Actually during that time I still thought of myself as an Ironman athlete despite the fact that I hadn’t raced or completed an Ironman in a year and a half.

So as part of the at what point do we become a triathlete blog I thought I’d ask at what point do you stop being a triathlete? Do you ever stop being an Ironman if you’ve done one. After all when Mike Reilly, Paul Kaye or Joanne Murphy call you over the finish line of an Ironman they say “Rob Cummins YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” They don’t say you are an Ironman until the end of the year.

Related: How to train to do a faster Ironman

A runner who triathlons

Ais is firmly in the single sport category despite having done a half dozen Ironman’s and gotten within touching distance of both a Kona slot and an Ironman podium. She still (and I think always will) think of herself as a runner who just triathlons to keep me company.

So which are you? Are you a triathlete? Are you a runner who occasionally tri’s? Do you think that you only become a triathlete when you race a certain distance or cross an official finish line? Do you ever stop being a triathlete if you continue to swim, bike and run but don’t race any longer?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook







Chasing Kona eBook available

From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.

Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy as an eBook on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes

It is also available as a paperback at Wheelworx.