|My first tri (which became a du for water conditions), |
I used to look down on people who seemed like they were merely ticking accomplishments—marathons, triathlons, ironmans—off of a bulleted list, regardless of finish time, or whether they walked all or a portion of it. You’re not "really" doing a sport unless you’re doing it well, right?
But maybe all those naysayers, including me, were wrong. By now I’ve logged enough hours and won enough (bike) races to count myself among the faster, more serious set. I’m also experienced enough to look back and see where I missed what was truly important. You’re good at a sport? Great. You have the time and the money to do it? Fantastic. Now ask yourself whether you love it, and figure out how to keep loving it. Unless you’re making a very healthy salary being an athlete or winning gold medals, those are the only two things that matter. In some ways the one-and-doner gets more at the heart of amateur athletic competition than the veteran athlete does—participation may be short-lived, but it's always fun.
Human life, at some very fundamental level, is about learning. It’s what we were built for. We like to touch and see and taste new things. We like to take those things apart and put them back together again. We enjoy testing ourselves and finding out what we’re made of. And that’s why sport exists. It’s an expression of our humanity, a catchall for emotions and energy, a celebration of what makes us tick, physically and mentally. Yes, there’s honor in hard work and focus, but there’s also a great deal to be said for experimentation. It takes courage to try something new, especially if you suspect (or know) that you’re not particularly talented at it.
|2015 TT nationals, photo by Ali Whittier|
Most of us started from the same place, even if we no longer care to admit it. We saw a challenge and we thought, "hey, that would be cool." We went into it blundering and clueless, and somewhere along the way we found our feet. Wherever you’re at on that timeline and no matter how short it may be, hold on to the joy that was its reason for being and share it with others.