What I like about triathlon and related endurance sport most is the opportunity to feel like a champion for as long as I compete. Let me clarify. I don’t expect to be winning races at, say, age 55, but I do expect champion effort and behavior from myself. It rings like a overused, formless platitude, but to me being a champion doesn’t necessarily mean winning races.
What is a Champion? I’ve given it some thought and think that what makes a champion is exhaustive preparation and focused execution with a clear demonstration of values even when the pressure is on to bend the rules to gain a particular outcome, no matter who’s watching or what “everyone else” is doing.
Endurance sport feels like a great venue to practice this. The pressure to race faster than others exists and we can do that through smart training and practiced execution. We can also influence our results by making choices related to our willingness to adhere to principles of fairness and the spirit of competition. Gordo describes these choices in his recent blog post on cheating far better than I ever could:
There is a cultural component in how games are played around the world, or even within the same peer group.
- Do you play far from the limit of the rules?
- Do you play to the limit of the rules?
- Do you play to the limit of the enforcement?
- Do you play to the level of your competition?
…If we have shared values then it means that we interpret the rules in a similar fashion.
In sport as in other domains of life, there will be people with which we share values and those we do not. It is not reasonable to expect otherwise.
Others’ perception of you as a champion doesn’t require an exact match in competitive cultures, but it does require your standards to at least equal the perceiver’s in rigor PLUS result in admirable performance.
Admirable performance, while not necessarily the same thing as winning your age group, is not without risk– it involves pushing your limits in your preparation and execution without imploding when it matters most. This is not easy to achieve.
Being a champion is available to anyone willing to do the work. The work it takes and the standards you must adhere to vary in the eye of the beholder. Think about the standards of the those you hope to impress. This is the kind of challenge that excites me. How about you?