Do Black people compete in Triathlons?

I’m going to start training for a Warrior Dash event in the coming week. Looking over the brochure for a similar event to the Warrior Dash (basically a team-style obstacle course that pushes ones physical and mental endurance) I was blown away by the sea of white faces.

It’s that swimming part that dissuades Black people from Triathlons

Intrigued by this, I decided to look up the statistics of those who compete in triathlons (a similar activity to the Warrior Dash) and found this demographic breakdown:

Race and Ethnicity
88.2% are Caucasian/White
3.2% are Hispanic
2.1% are Asian
1.5% are Multi-racial
0.5% are African-American
1.1% are other

One can only postulate that Black people are excited about participating in this type of activity, but that swimming part must be the deal breaker. Remember that any event, activity, movement, vocation, movie, television show, etc., that lacks Black participation is inherently discriminatory, racist and in dire need of a Black face to bring integration (an legitimacy) immediately.

A Black presence at any event can quickly quiet an accusation of racism and triathlons are not immune from the negativity that always follows any activity that lacks Black people:

That’s a question that Brian Shields can answer. Last year Brian and his friends Gershon Blyden and Steven Raymond completed the inaugural Ironman 70.3 in Miami, Fla.

All three friends are triathletes, and all three friends are African Americans. Next month they have new documentary coming out that chronicles their experience in the Floridian half Ironman race.

I was amazed how few African Americans were in the sport, and I knew this was a great opportunity to take control of our health,” Gershon Blyden said.

The stats are pretty interesting. According to USA Triathlon African Americans comprised of only 0.5 percent of the triathlon community. You have to admit that’s a pretty tiny percentage.

Brian recently sent us an email in which he wrote, “12 months ago, I and two other young black professionals decided to complete the inaugural Ironman 70.3 in Miami. We found the triathlon to be incredibly rewarding, as it has created lasting memories, experiences and life-lessons that truly transcend the sport itself.

My friends and I took on this challenge after learning a disturbing fact. Although the triathlon is the fastest growing sport in the world, African Americans comprised of only 0.5 percent of the triathlon community.  Motivated to address this disparity we challenged ourselves and others to complete an Ironman event.

You can watch the trailer to their documentary entitled From Ordinary to Extraordinary below.
After watching the trailer we couldn’t help but wonder why there were so few African Americans in the sport of triathlon so we asked Brian.

According to Brian, “Honestly, I think its 3 main reasons:

1) Expense. As you know, tris are incredibly cost prohibitive, and not everyone has access to a mentor that can explain to them how to back their way into a tri through rentals, etc.

2) The Swim. As a stereotype, African Americans don’t do well with swimming, and part of that is because a lot of us just didn’t get exposed to it growing up. A lot of inner city/urban home environments, poor facilities in neighborhoods, etc. contribute to that

3) Advocacy. In my opinion, there hasn’t really been a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods figure to catalyze attention and really drive interest in the sport. I mean there are African Americans all over cycle sports and running, but there haven’t been those guys that just make you want to do them all at once. No Julie Moss for AA’s, per se.

It’s unfortunate, but since the event we have individually signed up 3 or more people to race in endurance sports (running, tris, etc.), and we are just trying to make a dent in the fitness culture of African Americans.”

Running, lifting weights, swimming, watching ones caloric intake, exercising and any physical activity requires dedication, determination, a strong will and above all else an attitude that no matter how difficult the day may have been, tomorrow offers another opportunity to get stronger and better.

It is these inner-battles that define who we are and ensure growth as individuals, both physically, mentally and yes, even spiritually. No one forces you to get up and go run at 5: 30 a.m., to throw up another set of 225 on the bench, go parallel on heavy squat day or put down that extra slice of pizza but you.

That Black people decide not to participate in triathlons is a decision on their part. Training for one requires an intestinal fortitude that apparently only a minority of Black people possess. I’ll never forget reading in the book on Pat Tillman how he was one of the only NFL players (or professional athletes for that matter) to participate in a triathlon.

He did it for the hell of it; just to push himself.

Work, hard work is the hallmark of greatness. Nothing in life worth achieving comes easy or free and looking at that brochure of white people struggling to get through mud pits, rope courses and hurdling over fire, I realized that it is the rare Black individual who will participate in such an activity as a Warrior Dash or a triathlon (or for that matter, extreme sports).

So the answer to the question posed above is yes, Black people do compete in triathlons. But like that Black person who excels in academia by studying hard, those who train for triathlons are acting white.



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