Owning it

I only do sprint tris. It’s not a big deal.

I find myself saying things like this a lot. When people learn that I am a triathlete, they seem impressed. For some reason, I feel the need to disabuse them of the notion that I am doing something worthy of their awe.

And so I backpedal, downplaying the significance. It’s the shortest distance. I only do one race a summer. I’m not fast. I don’t like to run far, so I do tris instead. I have a million reasons that I’m not all that impressive.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who does this. But why?

Well, for one reason, I have this strange bias toward accuracy. I think when people hear “triathlete,” they think “Ironman,” and so I feel that I need to clarify what it is I actually do. (And, heaven forbid, explain that every distance is a “full triathlon.”)

But, underlying that is the imposter syndrome that many of us weekend warrior, fitting-it-all-in, triathmoms feel. Why is that? Again, I also have a million reasons why this might be. You’ve heard all the stats about men taking credit for things women won’t, for applying for jobs for which they’re only partially qualified. Maybe. But I hate to chalk it up to easy gender stereotypes. Because I’m an introvert who hates to draw attention to myself? Maybe. And the list goes on.

Whatever your reasons are for downplaying your own success as an athlete – whatever that success means to you – you don’t need to listen to those voices.

No matter what distance is your jam, we are doing something that few other people do. According to USA Triathlon, there were 432,447 annual and one-day memberships in 2015. (One-day memberships are what you need to participate in a single race; this is what I get.) (See this and other interesting tri demographic stats at https://www.teamusa.org/usa-triathlon/about/multisport/demographics.) According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population is more than 320 million.

If you are a triathlete, of any distance, you are one of just over 1 percent of the U.S. population.

So, repeat after me: I am a triathlete. Yes, that is impressive. Yes, I am a big deal.

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