It’s not about taking part

Yesterday I took part in the BUCS Duathlon at Castle Combe, as part of the University of Nottingham triathlon club. It was a great day and probably the highlight of my November, a month where I’ve been applying for jobs, researching for essays and cramming as many Chinese characters into my head as possible.

What I like most about sport, is how it disconnects you from a connected world of mobile phones, laptops and music players. For an hour or two, I can get away from all of that and just concentrate on myself, my own thoughts and wonders. Like how do you pronounce the Combe in Castle Combe, (com as in .com or coom as in coombe abbey?).

I remember very clearly the first long distance race I did, in the military compound in La Palma. It was a 2.5km circuit course which involved running up and down mounds, scrambling up some rocks at one part and the extreme part referred to the blazing sun and lack of shade.

Cross Militar Extreme 2013
Cross Militar Extreme 2013

You had to complete four laps and on my third lap, I was pretty red in the face. I’d only started training a few weeks before and it was my first time running at 28°C. I stopped for water and one of the Red Cross ladies touched my forehead and told me I had heatstroke. I told her I didn’t, I was just hot and wanted to carry on with the race. She wouldn’t let me and patted me on the back saying

Don’t worry, the most important thing is _______?

I filled in the missing word by saying “terminar” (finishing). She wasn’t best pleased, so asked again, trying to get me to say “participar” (taking part) but I refused. Yes I was hot and red, but I could finish this race, I was fit. I started crying, as per usual when I don’t get my way and want the sympathy vote. She relented and got a man to walk around the course with me, saying I wasn’t allowed to run. This guy took two 2l bottles of water and proceeded to throw them over my head, back and face… soaking me and my mp3 player. I was determined to finish and managed to ditch him at the end of the third lap when he ran out of water and I ran the final lap, anxious to get to the finish line, take my England flag and run with it to the finish line.

And that’s exactly what I did.

You can see my leg glistening from the water I'd had thrown on me
You can see my leg glistening from the water I’d had thrown on me

There’s no way to describe that feeling after an hour or so of racing to see the blow up arch and your team mates cheering you on as you cross the finish line. People often say “It’s not about winning, it’s about taking part” well I disagree totally.

For me, taking part would be no fun if I wasn’t surrounded by supportive people and my team. In every race I’ve ever done, there has always been a team behind, alongside and in front of me. It’s the team spirit and good human nature and sportsmanship that keeps me going, keeps my feet in the pedals and my mind on track. Here is a list of things that are important to me on race days, more important than winning or taking part:

  • It’s about picking up my race number and feeling pride in myself and my number
  • It’s wearing the same kit as my team mates (and face paint too)
  • It’s not about my team mates overtaking me, it’s about them telling me “keep going” and me finding that I have enough breath to shout “you too” back to them
  • It’s the people who aren’t racing, who cheer me on and say my name
  • It’s about getting to a point in the race where I’m alone in the forest, or the track and although my legs are hurting (and nobody would see if I stopped for a break), having the self-motivation to carry on and keep running
  • It’s when I think I’m all burned out, but I see the finish line and find that extra energy within to go for the sprint finish
  • It’s realising that I am capable of great things, as is everyone if they put their mind to it.

I had such a great day on Sunday, it made me realise that I’ve missed racing a lot. I started doing trail running on my year abroad in Spain and had to stop in China because of the air quality and it’s affect on my lungs. But now I’m back in Britain, with a great team surrounding me, I’m ready to take on the challenge of training for a sprint triathlon next year and achieving a dream I thought never possible.

Castle Combe Duathlon Finisher
Castle Combe Duathlon Finisher

A special thanks to all the members of the University of Nottingham Triathlon club and committee, especially the president Ben and women’s captain Jess.


2 thoughts on “It’s not about taking part

  1. Pingback: Training Solo | My L(e)onely Planet

  2. Pingback: First Athletics Meet [1500m] | My L(e)onely Planet

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