Am I an athlete?

Now let me preface this with these are completely my own thoughts and feelings – so read with a grain of salt or pass on reading altogether.  If you are reading this then I actually hit post!  Which, truth be told, doesn’t always happen with posts like this.  Many times they just sit, gathering dust, in the draft phase, never to see the light of day.   Poor little posts.

I happened to catch a random observation about “real triathletes” and it caused me to pause.  Because labels are something that I have struggled with.  Am I a real athlete?  Am I a runner?  But the label I hadn’t had a problem with before is that of triathlete.  Until this comment.  Now if the observation had  been about “serious triathletes” I would have had no issue and would have agreed completely and gone happily about my day.  I do think there are tiers and I am at the very bottom tier.  Or maybe even a tier below that!  Ha!  The one reserved for beginners.  And the one reserved for very slow beginners, who still don’t quite know what they are doing.

While I haven’t had a problem calling myself a triathlete, I am always quick to caveat with sprint distance triathlons, I don’t do long course.  I only do the baby version.  I also add how slow I am.  I know I am not a serious triathlete – I don’t own a wetsuit, or bike shoes for that matter.  I don’t have a coach.  My bike is a hybrid (not a road or racing bike), and I don’t even know what the aero position is (okay, so that last one is a slight exaggeration).  But I love triathlons.  I love race morning.  I love the feeling of finishing the swim and getting out on the bike course (well when my bike & I are on speaking terms).  And even better I love T2 and getting out on the run course.  I never questioned that I was a triathlete.  Once I completed my first triathlon, I was a triathlete.  Not a serious triathlete, but a triathlete all the same.  I know because Sally Edwards told me I was.  In the water, preparing for my very first swim, Sally Edwards asked us what kind of triathlete we would be when we crossed the finish line.  And my group were going to be wonderful triathletes!  I crossed that finish line and I was a triathlete.  I never questioned it – until now.

But what makes a person an athlete?  A triathlete?  A runner?  Especially someone like myself – I mean I have to look at each race to see if there is a time limit that I can finish in before I even sign up.  And right now I have to make sure they allow walkers.  I have not been under any illusion that I will finish anywhere near the front of the pack.  But does that mean I am not an athlete?  Or maybe aspiring athlete would be a better term.

I agree there are different levels of athlete.  And on any other given day I might have just passed this off but something about it struck deep in me.  Maybe because I have been feeling insecure with my knee injury.  (Or maybe I’m just REALLY tired and completely overreacting.)  But there is a small part of me that thinks I’m just a pretender – I am dressed like a runner, but really I am a walker.  Maybe because I have a hard time thinking of myself as a runner.  If someone were to call me a runner, I am usually quick to jump in with no, I do run but I am not a runner.  Runners do hill repeats, know what fartleks are, and do speed work.

All these thoughts basically boil down to one question.  What makes a person deserving of the title “athlete”?  Professionals?  Fast and speedy participants?  People who take their sport seriously?  Or do you just need to finish a race to be called a runner, a marathoner, a triathlete?  Or is it somewhere in between? 

When did you feel you had earned the title of athlete?

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5 Responses to Am I an athlete?

  1. Fruit Fly says:

    Hey now! I must interject. I don't do hill repeats. I don't even get what a fartlek is really. And darn it, I AM a runner. I'm not fast. I walk A LOT in races, but I'm a runner….So…. that means you are, too! AND a triathlete! So you pull rank. I'm too scared to even try swimming or biking – aero what??I always check time limits too. And I check to make sure they take walkers. That way I know I should finish before I am disqualified. I can't even imagine being a pro, can you? Jeff Galloway said last weekend that he was running 140+ miles A WEEK! I can't even do that over the course of months. In conclusion, We are awesome athletes!

  2. Emily says:

    See, sometimes you just need someone else to set you straight! Thanks for that!! You are definitely a runner!! And an awesome athlete!!

  3. Fruit Fly says:

    Thanks – and you are, too! I mean you through yourself off an Italian cliff and still kept at it and are racing all the freaking time now! We might not run only in underwear and do Boston every year, but we're still rad!

  4. Mandi says:

    You are SO too an athlete! It takes an athlete to be able to compete in three different sports in one race, speedy or not. That's something that even many "real" runners can't or haven't done. Plus, your training schedule every week is proof that you're more active and athletic than most people.So don't you doubt that you're an athlete!

  5. Emily says:

    Thanks Mandi!! I appreciate that.

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