The dumbest thing I’ve read in weeks appeared on Trifuel.com today: an article on Lance Armstrong’s effect on triathlon. Bottom line up front: Armstrong did well at the Panama 70.3, and a lot of national and international media were there to see it.
And y’know, that stuff is all fine. Armstrong was in the Tour de France just two years ago, he did well in the early going, and I have no trouble believing that he’s capable of putting together a good single-day performance in a half-Iron-distance triathlon. The issue here, at least in the Trifuel article, is whether or not all the publicity in the sport is good.
Folks, publicity is good for our sport. It’s good first because I like to watch triathlon on TV, and it’s barely ever on, so if having Lance means having more triathlon TV, then I’ll take it, and thank you.
It’s also good because triathlon is a niche sport, and it doesn’t need to be. Almost everyone knows how to swim, bike, and run. There is no reason why more Americans can’t get up off their fat asses and give tri a try. Too many newbies on the course? Who cares? This is not a problem. Everybody has a first race, and frankly, I’m happy when I see new folks out there. First, because I am usually faster than they are, and that makes me happy, and second, because triathlon is an awesome sport, and I love watching people discover it. Yes, this is my fifth year of triathlon. But y’know what? It’s not a secret club. I’m happy as all Hell when newbies come out and give it a try.
Frankly, this idea that too many people are gonna come out and become triathletes is utterly insane. Americans are fat as Hell, and frankly, we can only hope that the masses will come out and start training. I would LOVE to see that. I doubt it’ll happen, but it would be awesome to see.
Finally, triathlon is a great sport, but despite that fact that most Americans have at least some knowledge of all three disciplines, it’s still almost totally unknown except amongst serious adult master-level athletes. It doesn’t have to be that way. In Australia, they teach triathlon as a regular sport in high school. Imagine that! High school triathlon teams! You ask me, this is what we ought to be shooting for. Rather than worry about the sport getting too big, we ought to be thinking about making it a regular part of mainstream athletics. That’s what I want to see.
We need to flush this idea that every triathlete needs to do an Ironman on a ten-thousand dollar bike and get back to basics. Swim, bike, run. Make it easy, make it fun.