Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Being An Athlete

So in my last post about my experience with the Fall Classic, I mentioned the post-race low feeling many experience, including myself. Running the Fall Classic certainly helped alleviate my own post-race gloom. But yet now, a week later, I am still feeling this odd sense of blah, looking ahead at my racing calendar and seeing that what's next isn't until April and May of 2012. Then I look at the calendar a little harder and realize that January 1st, 2012 I do actually have something planned. January 1st, 2012 is right around the corner too. It isn't a race, no, but it's the official start of my 18-week marathon training program: the most intense and most important training program I will have put myself through to date. That indeed is something to look forward to, and a great way to bring in the new year. In the meantime, I'm running for fun and building up my mileage so it isn't difficult to jump into full-on training mode.

So why isn't it feeling like enough?
I think what it is isn't so much an obsession with racing itself. In fact, a good hard training run can be truly satisfying; it keeps me coming back, day in and day out. Running a new, longer distance on a long-run Sunday morning than the previous Sunday, or tallying up a week's worth of mileage and seeing the numbers get higher one week to the next: these too give a great sense of satisfaction. And knowing that it's only me and my own motivation that's pushing me out the door rain or shine, daylight or twilight, warm or cold, that too reminds me that I have something to be proud of.

I've decided the answer is two things. First, the obvious one, racing is FUN! It's a celebration of running as a sport, a gathering of like-minded people who enjoy the sport, and a chance to run within a community, and cheer one another on. This type of fun doesn't go along with most every day runs. While I enjoy the silent, meditative nature of running, it can be a pretty lonely sport.

The second reason occurred to me the other reason when I was doing the Fall Classic at -3 degrees. It's racing that makes me feel like an athlete. Running around my neighbourhood, I see many other runners on most days. And then some days when the weather isn't desirable, I don't see many at all. Each time I go out to run, I notice the time of day, the type of weather, and who's out there running the same routes as I am. I wonder what they think of or wonder about me (if anything at all), whilst I'm wondering about them. What's motivating them to get out the door and run today too, I question. Are they too training for something important? Do they love running? Do they loathe it? Are they new to running or experienced at it? Are they just running simply to get in their prescribed amount of daily physical activity? Will they be running again tomorrow? What sets this person apart from anyone else looking for some exercise?

....Okay Zahida, get to the point.....

I think what I'm saying is that on any given run , I could look at that run as being just for exercise, to feel good, and because I enjoy it on some level. The same could be said though if I were out swimming, cycling, walking, or doing yoga though - other forms of exercise that I enjoy (but of course, they are not as superior as running :) ). When I push myself in my running or in my overall training, it's one step up from there. I'm not just getting exercise because we all must exercise to be healthy and it's enjoyable to do so; I'm running because I LOVE IT and I HAVE A GOAL that I've pushed myself to achieve. But racing is one step up from that even. It's the ultimate step up. It's me saying to myself that I'm not only running because I love it, I'm running because I'm a RUNNER, and as a runner, I am an ATHLETE, and this running thing, I truly LOVE IT, I'm DAMN GOOD AT IT, and I've WORKED HARD to get here! I'm so good at this, in fact, and have worked so hard too, that I publicly declare this by participating in races (and blogging about them later).

Am I making myself clear? :-) I'm not talking big like I think I'm some pro athlete destined to win an Olympic marathon. No. But my dedication to my sport, it's importance to my identity and my way of life, and my above-average ability to run long distances at a strong pace, all contribute to my ability to say that an athlete is indeed what I am. There, I said it.

1 comment: