200 reasons to train even harder if you are South African

As athletes, we are creatures of habit with our movements predictable.

Every other day, at about 5am, I head out for the usual cycle routine, which takes me roughly an hour and 30 minutes – or two hours – depending on the route.

Without fail, there are a few familiar faces that I get to see along the way, usually at the same spot and at the same time.

We usually exchange pleasantries, like “hello”, “it’s a beautiful day, today” – and so on.

One of these familiar morning people is a 50-plus-year-old, I will just refer to as Makhi (neighbour).

You see, Makhi moved into the neighbourhood way after I did, which is just shy of seven years.

Makhi obviously did not know me from before.

He has no idea I was a hefty 120kg, inactive fellow.

All Makhi sees is this guy who goes out in the crazy hours – and returns drenched in sweat.

So Makhi clearly had his mind made up about my reasons for this training regimen, and what I was doing, because soon after the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, Makhi asked me: “So, how did it go in Brazil?” In his eyes, I am Olympic grade! Take another athlete, who is obviously new to triathlon.

She asked me how my 70.3 world champs qualification was going. The thought never even crossed my mind. Why she thought so, I don’t know.

I bet it has nothing to do with my nutrition supplier’s payoff line, “train like a pro”.

I mention all this, because everything in life is relative and very much so in sport – your greatness is easily someone else’s average – and it is conversely true.

Every Ironman will tell you that anything is possible, so doubting yourself is not acceptable.

I believe in this mantra too. However, I always say “possible, within reason”.

You cannot just believe you can complete the 226km of an Ironman by simply believing it’s possible. You put the work in first.

So, what is my point? The conversation above started to inspire a little belief that maybe, just maybe, there is a possibility to line up with the rest of the world’s best triathletes, when they descend on Nelson Mandela Bay next year to race in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. So what are the chances? Consider there are about 100 global races collectively offering 4 500 spots to the Bay in September.

There is a belief that if you leave it until late enough, you will find all the strong athletes would have qualified already, making it possible for some of us middle-of-the-pack triathletes.

If you are in South Africa, you have 200 reasons to believe. The Ironman 70.3 in East London and Durban will collectively offer 200 slots for the World Championship.

Unlike previously, the two races, or slots, are now open to all – no longer exclusive to South Africans.

So prepare to battle the Brits, the French and just about anyone for a right to race in your own country.

To make the race a truly African experience, we need plenty of us to qualify in big numbers – it is our home race after all.

Even more importantly, we need diversity. An African race with no Africans is unimaginable.

Ironman has no colour preference, and rightly so, those who race must earn their privilege.

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