I’m here to compete: Donovan van Gelder

Momentum Duathlon #1 - Bike 2 860

Hi, my name is Donovan and I like to compete.

This unsubtle statement is completely intentional. I believe that Alcoholics Anonymous meetings start with this introduction and acknowledgement of an addiction. I may have it wrong, all I know about this I have learned from that window on the world, the television.

The reason I chose to begin with that was because I find, more and more, that competition is something that people are embarrassed to admit, almost like an addiction to a controlled substance.

My question is: Why is that? I read and hear how people are just out to enjoy the scenery or to appreciate nature or some other hippy ideal. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy a pretty route as much as the next person but I also enjoy a good battle with that person as well.
To suppress your competitive spirit is to deny human nature.

I believe that to suppress your competitive spirit is to deny human nature. We are, by nature, competitive. That is why we are at the top of the food chain despite our relatively frail little bodies in comparison to our adversities in this battle.

don v gelder run 400I see this trend in schools now as well. There are no winners, everyone gets a medal. That is all fine and I’d like to see more children doing sport but not acknowledging a winner and pretending there are no losers is making more of an issue out of losing in my opinion. I never won a thing at school. In fact, in one season of club soccer, my team never won one game. That didn’t mean I stopped trying and it clearly didn’t affect my self- esteem, I just tried harder. I think it is just laziness on the part of teachers and parents, that they don’t want to spend the time explaining that we can’t always win and that there is honour in competing full out.

I have learned a lot in my 28 years of competing and much of that came from getting my ass handed to me rather than when I did the handing out. I have been fortunate enough to win some races with relative ease at times but the ones that I remember most fondly, and recount in boring detail at braais, are the ones where the struggle lasted until the final few metres. Win or lose, those are the races that I can remember with absolute clarity.

Now genetics, available training time and, something I’m personally coming to terms with slowly… age, all play a role in who and what we can compete with. I am not saying everyone should be out there trying to win. Pick your battles and be realistic but set your personal targets high and don’t be ashamed to have a go. There is no embarrassment in getting beaten but I’ll mock the hell out of you if I see you not trying.

Race your age-group, your mates or your previous best time. I don’t care. I am just tired of hearing “I’m just here to enjoy myself and the time or position means nothing.”

So know this, if you and I line up at the start line of an event in the future, I’m there to have fun and fun for me is racing you. So be prepared because I don’t care if you’re there to look at the scenery, If we pin on a number, strap on a timing chip and pay an entry fee, we’re there to compete as far as I’m concerned.

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