Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Can't succeed unless you try

Who you see in this picture are real triathletes swimming. Who you do not, however, is Jonathan Raymond. Courtesy Yas Marina Circuit
Who you see in this picture are real triathletes swimming. Who you do not, however, is Jonathan Raymond. Courtesy Yas Marina Circuit

Jonathan Raymond‘s failure at mini-triathlon gives him new-found respect for those competing in endurance sport. Read on.

The 2014 TriYas Triathlon will take place on February 28, 2014 at Yas Marina Circuit. Information about the event can be found here.

The sun is setting serenely over Yas Island. It can’t be anymore than a temperate 24°C at Yas Marina Circuit. The Yas Marina water sits below me, inviting me to take a dip.
And all I can think is, ‘What am I doing here?’, and ‘Why am I doing this?’

I jump in and let the cool seawater wash over me. By the time I climb out of the water, I’ll have something else washing over me: unrelenting shame.

Hand-picked myself

The event is the tri.your.self mini-triathlon, a media event of sorts to promote the TriYAS 2014 Triathlon. I have signed up as The National’s sport section guinea pig, being reasonably young and healthy, if not especially active in endurance sport.

It is billed in the promotional e-mail as a 30-metre swim, a three-kilometre cycle and a 500-metre run. Nothing too onerous. Exert yourself a little bit, take a few pictures, help promote physical fitness.

Piece of cake.

The signs were not good

The signs are there for me. Literal signs, even. As my taxi crawls onto Yas Island I see the Ikea sign and think, “That’s where I should just go. Tell them I got lost.”

No good can come from this.

Either I embarrass myself and lose a mini-race to a bunch of men 20 years (and more) older than me, or I simply fulfill expectations as reasonably young and healthy, if not especially active in endurance sport.

Then I arrive at the circuit. I’m about 40 minutes early, but in that time I’ll go the wrong way about twice before I even get into the circuit, then go the wrong way and backtrack a few times before a young woman, who clearly thinks I’m an idiot, picks me up and takes me to the media centre.

Let the battering begin

It’s at the media centre where I realise I wish I had just stayed lost.

As I’m the last person rushing in, I’m told the swim is actually 200 metres and the run is three kilometres. The cycle, I think, is still 500 metres. But who’s counting?

So there I am, swimming along in Yas Marina with the pack, thinking this isn’t so bad.

Then the pack starts to leave me behind.

I look up, and I’m nowhere near the other end of the marina where the swim is supposed to end. I don’t swim very often, and it turns out that while everyone has been leisurely mowing through the first 50 metres or so, I’ve been swim-sprinting without realising it to keep up.

We are 50 metres into this event, and I’m already gassed.

I manage to keep up appearances for another 20-30 metres before I realise I’m not making it to the end of the swim unless I change tactics. About 10 minutes of a kind of backstroke got me most of the way, before I turn and swim the last few strokes to freedom.

But not before a lifeguard comes over to check I’m not drowning, and then laughs at me.

In addition to the shame washing over me as I and two men about twice my age bringing up the rear climb to safety, the realisation that I am not in shape is also very much sinking in.

Nothing left to lose

As I trudge back to the starting point, I know there’s no going on. Every fibre of my body has rejected this activity, and the last thing it’s about to do is bike or run another centimetre, let alone a couple of kilometres.

My two middle-aged companions soldier on with their bikes, while I slink away to find a cab before I have to look any of my ostensible “competitors” in the eyes as they return.

Eventually I do hail one, and as he drives me away he plays one of those 1980s anthem-rock songs that would accompany one of those fitness montages in ‘80s movies where a slob would turn into an athletic machine in about 35 seconds.

One thing I’m certain about is that I’m going to need a lot more than a montage to rediscover my pride.


I started this thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Now all I can think is, ‘People do this?’

Want to see a real athlete? Go check out a triathlon.

Updated: November 26, 2013 04:00 AM

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