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December 15, 2014

2015 Athlete Manifesto

I hope that 2015 will be known as the year we went from goals to experiences, from results to journeys, as the base experience. I am not averse to winning or walking all over my goals, but it’s the way athletes pursue these things that has me concerned. I want to crush you on race day, but I want to be a gentleman about it, stopping to help you if you crash and allowing you into the single track first if you are faster there than I am.

Our blindness is matched only by our absolute willingness to be ignorant in the face of marginal gains. We choose to ignore the obvious warning signs and we choose to not investigate rather than REALLY know what’s going on, because it’s more comfortable like that. This is the human condition and to apologise after the fact is easier than being the bigger person in the moment.

Where do we draw the lines with these ‘marginal gains’ we hear about? Do you take badly labelled weight loss products before race day to help you shed the last 500g, hoping there isn’t anything ‘funny’ in that badly labelled bottle?

Are you taking responsibility for your endocrine, ligament and skeletal systems for the long run or are you destroying your future for a few extra places in the field right now?

Does your performance system rely on hope, dreams and unspoken bending the rules rather than hard facts, work and determination?

When athletes test positive for substances they didn’t knowingly ingest, I get frustrated because they are likely on a slimming supplement of sorts, or taken a tablet which will “boost endurance” from something off the shelf, from a company that promotes bodybuilding products. Have you even researched the company who make that product? Do you really need that ‘marginal gain’ and were you 100% sure of what it says on the label?

Hindsight is the only perfect science, but it seems to me like many athletes are running around blinded by their ambitions. When athletes take shortcuts to win a race, or behave like rabid dogs in a sprint for the line for 125th place, I wonder where else they are taking shortcuts to get ahead in an unethical way.

When I see athletes being sponsored by a brand, while openly promoting other brands, I know that at some point, that sponsor might withdraw from the sport entirely because of that athlete.

With these things in mind, without pointing fingers or giving attention to any unnecessary situations, here is my athlete manifesto for 2015:

1. I will train with purpose, with goals and with focus, while always being aware that the journey is far greater than the outcome.

2. I will research what I put into my body never take a product that puts me at risk of any doping violations.

3. I will thank every marshall on the courses I race.

4. I will treat my fellow racers with respect.

5. I will not cut corners, draft off other athletes, unzip other athletes’ wetsuits or ‘switch’ athletes in trails. Cheating or breaking other athletes down is not a part of my racing arsenal.

6. I will show other athletes new routes, help them with technical skills improvement and offer up honest advice whenever asked.

7. I will be on time for training sessions if other athletes are waiting for me.

8. I will treat my niggles before they become injuries, and not complain like 24/7 via social media channels about it.

9. I will respect the rules of the road, including stopping at red lights, giving way to pedestrians and riding in a way that allows normal traffic to flow.

10. Above all, I will be an exemplary athlete who promotes the idea of sports as a holistic experience that improves your life.

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There are other, more humorous ones, but they do not form part of the serious ones above. Really, we want to grow now just our sport, but all sports, and the best way to do so is to lead from the front.

But please, avoid compression socks in public, and stop hashtagging like a drunken teenager.

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