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Permission to Tri

Today’s guest post is by Julia Jones – triathlete, running coach and co-creator of Up & Running online running courses for women.  This post is about “permission,” a topic that I recently touched upon, so I think her post is timely. Up & Running offers e-courses for super-new and seasoned runners tackling 5K, 10K and half-marathon runs with expert coaching, awesome training plans and vibrant community support. SwimBikeMom was asked to be the first stop on the Up & Running Blog Tour.

Julia ready for some swim action!

In my first years of running I used to do my longer workouts at the seaside town of Viareggio. It had what I deemed to be “perfect” training grounds. The course was pancake flat with a separate waterfront lane for pedestrians. The route snaked along the coast for miles, with water fountains along the way. Best of all, there were plenty of coffee shops open with public restrooms! If you could put up with the scent of fresh croissants it was the ideal training scenario.

One July morning I’d just ended a long run when I came across some sort of race. I sat down on the beach and watched as hundreds of participants in wetsuits flung themselves into the water and swam out to bright orange buoys. I was instantly enamoured and knew, whatever they were doing, I wanted in!

As they emerged from the water and rushed to their bikes I spotted a guy from my running club. “Go go go!”, I cheered.

Now I knew who to ask for information.

Later that week I bumped into him during a run and quizzed him on the race, which I now knew was called a Triathlon. From all my questions he guessed what direction I was going in…

“The swim is the hardest part!” he insisted, “All those waves; no lanes… I don’t know if you’ll be able to handle it. I mean, I almost came last…”

I didn’t question that at all, or at least not while I was standing there.

But as I ran home I mulled it over. What waves? I hadn’t noticed any waves. Sure, I hadn’t been in a pool since my high school P.E. class but I had one strong point going for me: I’d learned to swim in the Pacific Ocean. I grew up on the coast near San Francisco where the water is freezing ass cold. And the waves? Well those are waves.

Even with these memories I still had doubts about my current ability, so I looked up the maximum time for the Olympic triathlon in Viareggio (50 minutes!). The next day I started training in a pool so that I could make the cutoff.

When I did my first triathlon the following summer, swimming was the best of my three events, waves and all. That was fifteen years ago and I’ve enjoyed triathlon racing, swimming events and many marathons since.

I often still recall that swim conversation, because it taught me a huge lesson:

When people try to discourage rather than encourage you, it’s because they’re projecting their own fears.

My triathlon buddy never even asked if I could swim. He just assumed that since it was difficult for him, it was the same for everybody else. Since that first triathlon I’ve changed my decision making tactics. The first person I ask  whether I can, could, should do anything is myself. I always know it’s a “Yes!” if I feel excitement or a strong gravitational pull towards the endeavor.

After that it’s just a matter of applying myself, with both mind and body. When those two are in sync I’m capable of anything and there’s no need to ask anybody for permission.


Julia Jones lives in Italy and is coach at Up & Running. She’s has rocked 33 marathons, 2 half Ironmans and numerous triathlons and is a columnist in Italy’s most popular running magazine.


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