When I participated in my first triathlon, like so many people, it came about largely because a little bit of a mid-life crisis moment had crept up on me. Combined with the amount of time I spend in offices, and behind a desk, I felt it was time to find a physical activity that provided some balance. So far, perhaps, so unsurprising. What usually seems to excite comment when I talk about it is that I chose to take up three different sports simultaneously, when, arguably, one would have sufficed. A fair point, perhaps, but for me, a triathlon is more than simply the sum of its parts; alongside the fitness and health benefits, in many ways, the sport serves to remind me of some of the most important business lessons I've learned during my career.
Certainly it can be challenging to take on not one but three elements at once. But, once you get over the initial physical hurdles of triathlon training, the multiple challenges required become a huge part of the attraction. Triathlons have a reputation for being pretty hardcore but in practice they're actually a lot more feasible than you might think. In my case I primarily choose sprint events. Having the separate elements - a 750 metre swim, a 20 kilometre bike ride and a 5 kilometre run - means you're looking at manageable chunks of activity rather than long stretches of any one thing. You break it down into discrete tasks and think "yes, I could probably do that"; and you're on your way! It's then a case of putting the individual sports together and building up the whole, piece by piece. A lot like putting together a successful business, it's an overall end goal, achieved by efforts around each of the key components.
Nor do those key components have to be achieved on your own. Whether you compete alone, or as part of a team, triathlons provide a great opportunity to network and build up a sense of community, as you join the hundreds of other people all pushing themselves to achieve the same outcome. In my case, the sport has given me opportunities to forge relationships that have had significant impact and benefit professionally and personally. A couple of years ago, outside of my day job, I set up the Leaderboard Triathlon Challenge which has created something of a movement in the business triathlon world. In our first year we had 30 of the UKs top CEOs take part in the Blenheim triathlon and together we raised £300k for Sport Relief; this year we are looking to raise half a million.
And while I love being able to improve my charity contributions through fitness, unsurprisingly, more than anything, I enjoy doing triathlons because of the sense of accomplishment it gives me. Unlike many other sports, triathlons aren't competitive in the traditional sense. They're focussed on personal goals and achievements, rather than being about winners and losers. In the business environment it can often feel like dog-eat-dog competition is the only way to get ahead; triathlons are a great reminder that it's important to maintain your own objectives and integrity; and to evaluate success based on your own definition of it.