November 07, 2017 - Sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we do it in the first place. What does sport mean to you?
I recently read an article written by a professional runner about what it means to be a runner, and who he considers a “runner”. I will not dive into what I think is wrong about his harsh judgement. Instead I want to explore the idea of what running or being a runner should mean. More importantly to take a minute to re-evaluate what it is about sport and athletics that captivates us so much.
Those who know me well know my struggles physically when I was young. Born with underdeveloped lungs I spent my first moments of life on a artificial breathing machine. Plagued by chronic pneumonia well into middle school. I could often be found at birthday parties sucking on a asthma vapor release machine. I was unable to even run across a room until I was older. Improper bone development and other issues made it tough to do anything. However, athletics changed my life. I have a very deep and unique appreciation for sport.
We live in a time of immense athletic talent, that most of us can only dream of possessing. The athletes are glorified and revered as Gods. We live in a time of elitism, where those less fortunate are often belittled and looked down upon. It is easy for elite athletes who worked and fought tooth and nail to achieve their greatness to under-appreciate the struggle of lesser athletes. For example: who is more of a runner? The man/woman who runs a sub-2:15 marathon, or the man/woman who is struggling to break 5 hours? Now the question asked was not who is faster. It is quite obvious who the faster and more talented runner is. The elite runner may not consider the 4 hour marathoner to be a runner by any means. But that person Is missing the whole point of what being a runner means. It is not his/her fault. We are a performance driven country. In any facet of life, especially in athletics you either are a winner or you are a loser. However, expectations do not reflect the nature of sports, and often make us lose sight of why we are doing it in the first place.
Take coaching for example. What is the true purpose of a coach? All too often we are coming across coaches who have lost sight of what the sport means. I understand that it is your job to help an athlete improve and ultimately try to win. Many coaches take pride in “breaking,” athletes. These coaches are sometimes revered as gurus or masters. It brings us back to the question of why are you doing it in the first place. If you are a coach and your athlete ends up hating the very sport they once loved, you have failed. A coaches job is to build up an athlete, to nurture and guide the athlete to understand themselves and understand who they are within their own sport. Motivation must be intrinsic. It may seem too philosophical, but the athlete-sport relationship is just the surface of the essence of sport.
Back to our example with the two different runners. The beauty of the nature of sport, no matter running, cycling, swimming or football is how it can change lives. Both of our hypothetical runners have a story behind the face that leads to their individual passion for running. The pain, the tears, and the obstacle ridden path of the professional runner, cannot be understood by anyone but that individual runner. He or she has overcome immense odds to achieve their prowess. The elation painted on his./her face when they fight and claw and emerge victorious is what we all love so much. Ask any athlete. They don’t remember the numbers, they remember the journey. Now our runner who just managed to break 5 hours in the marathon…what is his/her story? He/she may be struggling and barely surviving the fight against cancer. The very act of waking up and facing the day may be a struggle. However, they want to show their family and all those struggling with cancer that there is indeed hope. That you cannot give up. You must fight on. This person’s pain and agony also cannot be understood by anyone but that person. His/her journey as he/she races through a marathon brandishing a glowing smile worn over their immense pain is equally impressive as the elite runner.
That is the beauty and essence of sport. Let us not forget why we are doing it in the first place. Remember how powerful of a tool sport can be. Remember that you may be able to change someone’s life without knowing it.
-Christopher J Lee
Strength & Conditioning Coach
Corrective Exercise Specialist
Functional Movement Systems lvl 1
Stages Cycling Certified
Fomer Head Coach: Swimming University of Colorado Boulder