Yesterday evening, around kilometer eleven of a 17K scheduled easy run along Toronto's MGT, battling a slight headwind, slippery surfaces, and the now all too familiar cold (-20 with the windchill), I found myself asking the always difficult and quintessential question of 'why'. Namely: "Why do I do this to myself?"
I tried to silence my increasing anxiety and agitation with simple and seemingly straightforward responses. I do it for my health. For my fitness. For my mood and mental well-being. For my sanity! I do it to get better. To be better. To run faster and further than I have before. I do it because I enjoy it... Or do I?
Distance running is an immensely demanding activity. It requires weeks, months and years of progressive training and preparation. It demands more and more mileage, harder workouts, and faster paces. Attention to diet, sleep, rest and recovery. Aches and pains, injuries and discomfort. It can be physically and mentally draining, not to mention the social (or lack there of) implications.
So why do I do it? Why do I put myself (and others) through this day after day, for weeks and months on end?!
I still struggle to put forth a solid response to these questions. Some days I fail altogether to justify this crazy commitment and tell myself I want to quit. Obviously I don't. I won't. I can't!
When I did eventually finish my run and arrived at home, I instantly felt relieved. It was over, at least for now. I was satisfied with myself and the anxiety seemed to disappear completely. I then spent the evening watching the Olympics and hearing stories about the athletes (and their families, friends and communities) who give and sacrifice so much to realize their dreams. I envy them for getting to where they are. For getting the recognition and appreciation they most certainly deserve. I can't know for sure what it takes to be an Olympian and often I wonder what it is that they have, that I do not?
To be an Olympian, to be the best at a given sport or activity, an athlete requires a great deal of drive, devotion and determination. It requires the relentless pursuit of excellence and a constant commitment to the task. A skill set and mastery that is perfected over time through rigorous practice and endless energy.
But being an Olympian also involves a great deal of luck. It requires being in the right place at the right time. Born into the right family, with the right combination of genes/genetics. Raised in the right way. In the right location with the right access to facilities and opportunities. It requires having the right amount of support (especially financially).
Sorry kids, but being the best is not simply just about wanting it or dreaming it. Anything is NOT possible; not always. It is infinitely more complicated than this.
Despite my daily dedication to self-improvement and a sincere desire to be the best I can be; I will never be an Olympic athlete. I will never represent my country or stand on a podium and hear my national anthem being played. Perhaps this is because I chose the wrong sport. Or was born in the wrong country to the wrong parents at the wrong time. Perhaps it's because I didn't start early enough or have the right amount of support...
Ultimately it doesn't matter. Being THE best is not my goal or aim. Rather it is to be MY best! To commit to being better. To being the best I can be. To spend the time and energy required. To test and push my limits and capabilities. This is why I run. Why I train. Why I compete.
I hope this post will inspire everyone to find purpose in their pursuits and a passion to be better. To commit to self-improvement in some way. Some might say that this is selfish. And it is! But by being better, by being our best, we inspire others to be better too. That is why I love (the idea of) the Olympics. The spirit of sport and the exhibition of excellence.