I read a post on a Facebook page that I follow and the poster made an interesting statement: they said that all athletes are runners but not all runners are athletes. Their reasoning was based on an obstacle course that they had recently participated in. Along with the other competitors, there was an elite-level ultra runner. This poster beat the elite which they interpreted as being in superior physical condition.
So naturally I got thinking about that. There are quite a few assumptions that this person was making, not the least of which was that the elite was trying to win or at least push themselves to the max. For all we know, they were just there to try something different.
There is also the assumption that the elite runner were in prime condition. They could have been nursing an injury or an illness. Or maybe they lack upper body strength to tackle those obstacles. Or were there for emotional support for someone else.
Who knows why this person finished the course faster than an elite distance runner. The point is: at what point do you consider yourself, and by extension others, an athlete?
I work with several people that no one could argue were athletes: former professional lacrosse players, a former globally ranked (as in top 10) Muay Thai fighter, Grey Cup winners, nationally ranked CrossFit competitors, people that have actually made their living playing sports. There are other folks who run marathons for fun or play sports several times a week. I would consider them athletes as well.
Now what about me? I don’t even really consider myself athletic much less an athlete and for the life of me I cannot figure out why that is. Perhaps it’s that tendency that I have to down play accomplishments. I’m not very good at selling myself (OK that sounds a bit weird but I think you know where I’m going with this) so it makes sense that I wouldn’t embrace my athletic accomplishments.
I mean since only 2014, I’ve done an eight km race, two 10 km, a 15 km, three half marathons (two on the coldest days of each year), two marathons, and a 50-mile race. I know that’s not a lot compared to other people but considering that at the start of 2014, just running 5 km was an accomplishment. I lift weights several times a week, and do yoga as often as I can. I can hike all day long with a pack on my back. And yet, I still find it hard to consider myself an athlete.
Maybe it’s because I think of an athlete as being someone who is dedicated to pushing themselves harder and farther than anyone else. They monitor every morsel that crosses their lips and work out for hours a day. They live, breathe, and sleep pushing their fitness level. Well my friends, that ain’t me.
As far as I’m concerned, the only person I compete against is myself and that stupid little voice that says I should give up. As much fun as the races are, I don’t run to race. I know some people thrive on the pressure and need a race to get their shoes on and out the door. Heck, if I actually trained better I’d be doing a lot better when I do run in races.
But as I’ve said before, I run for me. I run for the benefits to my mind and my body. I like having a body that can do most of the things that I ask of it and a mind that for the most part says “yeah we got this”. Maybe in the end, that’s all that really matters.