By Julian Yeates
Jonathan Benjamin, a 25-year-old Environmental Sciences Masters student at Rhodes University, competed in the Africa Duathlon Championships in Windhoek, Namibia recently. The race entailed a 10km run, 40km cycle and ended in a 5km run. Jonathan competed in the elite category which had 15 athletes competing.
The hot, sweating Namibian sun beat down on Jonathan as he raced through the Windhoek cityscape. He bolted through the course in one hour and 56 minutes total. “I was wearing the biggest smile on my face when I realised I placed third,” Jonathan recounted, grinning with nostalgia. This achievement is made even more monumental upon learning that this was the first time Jonathan competed in the Africa Duathlon Championships.
Placing third was not the only highlight for this sportsman, meeting an Ironman World Champion and a runner who almost competed in the 2021 Olympics were at the top of the list too. When standing behind the start line, all athletes were made equal, Jonathan noticed. Knowing there were impressive competitors amidst his ranks, Jonathan felt intimidated but empowered to deliver his best. “I wanted to push myself,” Jonathan affirmed.
While racing, Jonathan’s mindset was focused on the tactics and statistics of the race. He closely monitored his speed and timing to incrementally increase his position. In order to prepare for such a rigorous race, Jonathan trained for two to three hours a day as a break from his Masters research. He also cut out alcohol and refined sugars which was especially difficult for him because of his notorious sweet tooth! Jonathan funded his trip to Namibia himself with sponsorship from the Rhodes University Sports Administration which makes his victory all the more rewarding. Cheering him on from the sidelines at the Africa Duathlon Championships was Jonathan’s mother and girlfriend who regularly make an effort to support him, wherever his sporting ventures take him. “My girlfriend claims she is the team manager,” Jonathan boasts with a chuckle. Clearly, the arrangement is working!
Jonathan was inspired to pursue outdoor athletics from his father’s legacy. “My father was part of the first group to compete in the Ironman World Championships,” Jonathan recalled. The multi-sport community enticed Jonathan as it offered him room to change and evolve throughout a multiplicity of sports from running to cycling to swimming. Jonathan is passionate about nature and the outdoors and has found a hobby that perfectly fits his interests.
On the horizon for Jonathan is the Ironman World Championships in Europe in 2023, a race where he may follow in his father’s footsteps. Jonathan has already qualified for the Ironman World Championships, but the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately, halted his plans to take part. Looking a bit closer to home, Jonathan plans to compete in the South African Duathlon Championships in Gqebeha as well as the Grahamstown to Sea MTB Race.
Jonathan imparts wise advice to anyone wanting to dabble in running as a hobby or competitive sport; “Remember to enjoy it and have fun, it shouldn’t feel like a chore.” Jonathan reminds us to listen to our body and to “do the best you can and not compare yourself to others.”
Despite his spectacular achievement, Jonathan remains humble and focused on the true reason for racing, his passion for activities in the open-air.