Monday, September 25, 2017

What is an athlete?

A few days ago my daughter Kristin asked me a question. “Do you think of yourself as an athlete?”

Hmmm. I had an urge to seek a definition from google before I answered her but the google dude was not immediately available so I was on my own.

I had to say, “No.”

Then I asked, “Do you think of yourself as an athlete?” She took less time than I did to answer, “No.”

Both of us have been physically active for a long time. She was a swimmer and tennis player in high school and has been hitting the running trails for at least three decades. She has done more than a dozen marathons and more half marathons than she can count. She has been a dedicated and consistent stretcher and weight-lifter for long enough that she has beautiful rippling muscles in her arms and legs to show for it.

I’m getting a little ancient for this running game, but I’ve been at it for a few years longer than Kristin has and I plan to do it for as long as I’m able. A run in the morning makes my day.

So. Why don’t either of us see ourselves as athletes? What is an athlete anyway? I did go to the google-dude and here’s what I learned.

“An athlete is a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of exercise. Synonyms are “sportsman, sportswoman, sportsperson, jock, Olympian, runner.”

Checking on the word “athlete” the old way—in a paper dictionary, I learned that athlete is derived from the French, athlein, to contend for a prize. The meaning is listed as “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina.”

Neither of us has ever had a trainer but that does not mean that we have not trained. Runners like to talk about going on “training runs,” which means that they are practicing—no doubt for the next race coming up on their schedule. We both do that but more often than not, we go out to run despite, wind, rain and cold, just because we like to. It makes us feel good. It is a time to think, a time to chat, a time to take a look around at the world and see what is going on.

I do remember being quite surprised a few years ago when someone said to me, “You look like a runner.” I liked hearing that. I hadn’t thought much about what a runner looks like, but I was happy to fit the image, at least for one person.

Maybe Kristin and I don’t think of ourselves as athletes because neither of us have dedicated a large portion of our lives to the act of running. I for one, have a hard time getting into the technicalities, though I am quite fascinated with the people who do. And it would probably do me good to do so.

So. Do you think of yourself as an athlete? Would you choose to be one? Does it matter at all how we define ourselves?

Something to think about.

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