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So, Do Slow People Ever Race?

By Steve Jonas | Aug. 13, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)

Well, yes we do.  And if you are slow, you can too!  It’s one of the wonderful things about our sport: there’s room in it for everyone.  Now, I am not advocating going slowly in the races.  If you like to go fast, great.  If you have the potential to go fast or go faster than you are going now and want to that, go for it.  And there are many books, articles and USA-T certified coaches which/who can advise on just how to do that. 

However, I've been slow and have been getting slower as I get older (I’m now 76), in my 31 years in the sport (with, as of this writing 236 tri’s and u’s under my belt, up to and including the ironman distance [although that was some time ago!]).  Believe me, “staying within myself,” which for me means not only going slower (fast-walking rather than running the run) but also going shorter (Sprints only) I am having as much or even more fun than ever.  Nevertheless, I also want to tell you that every once in a while I'm in an event and I do find myself racing.  There's someone coming up behind me who I want to keep in front of or there's someone in front of me who I want to catch.  Sometimes I "win" and sometimes I don't.  But as long as I keep it in perspective, actually racing, every once in a while, does indeed add to the fun. 

One time was in the USA Triathlon Age-Group National Championships at Kansas City, MO, back in July, 2006.  I was cruising along at the back of the pack, knowing that if I just finished I would qualify for the International Age-Group World Championships that year in Lausanne, Switzerland.  (That's because there were fewer men in my age-group than there were available slots for TeamUSA for the Worlds, so I just had to cross the finish line and I would be on my way to Switzerland!)  I came around a turn on the run (and I was still running back then) and saw a hefty hill in front of me.  "Well I guess I'll just walk up that one," I said to myself. 

And then I spied a man about half-way up the hill, going even slower than me.   And he looked, from a distance at least, as if he might be in my age-group.  "OK. Let's see about that."  So I started actually running, well jogging, up the hill.  When I got to within a few yards of him I could see that he was very likely in my age-group and he was definitely struggling.  And so I picked it up.  I was racing.  I steamed past him, in relative terms, and just kept going.  In the end I finished about seven minutes ahead of him.  Oh what a feeling as I pounded down to the finish line, on that day as well ahead of my own projected finish time.  And that's how I met my good racing buddy Ed Alexander.  Happily we both went to Lausanne that year.  And oh yes, at those Age-Group Worlds, on a course with a very tough cycling leg, Ed finished about one-half hour ahead of me!

Then was the New Jersey State Sprint Triathlon just a couple of weeks ago.  I was way back after getting out of the water, but I still spied someone on the bike not too far ahead of me.  “Well, let’s see how many passes I can get today” I said to myself.  And I started pumping.  In the end I made it to ten.  And that felt good.  And yes, for the next couple of days my quads did hurt a bit, something that usually doesn’t happen to me.  Yes indeed. Do slow people race?  When we get the chance, on occasion you bet we do.  I had raced, and as far back as I was overall, it did feel good.

No. 5, 2013, 8-8

This series of thoughts and recommendations for beginner and recreational triathletes and duathletes by Dr. Steve Jonas is drawn in part from his book, 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), text used with permission. The book can be purchased at:” Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals.” His original book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd. Ed, can be found at, and Barnes and