I am an athlete. . . .

Stop thinkin' you don't belong here.
You are where you are 'cause you hardly move.
The music is not gonna stop, take your eyes off the chair
Cause there are others who are under the same impression as you
How many seats can the rock bottom accomodate?
One too many people who share nothing but views

Misery is willing to keep company with those who don't ever walk a mile in their own shoes
-Sage Francis, Stuck

If you can't relate to the lyrics of this song, let me break it down for you the way I do, in two parts: the first is about belonging. It ties nicely into the second part, but before we get there, think about this: in almost every race I enter, I feel like a fraud. Like an imposter. I don't belong here. I'm not fast or experienced and I'm probably likely to come in Dead Last if I'm not careful. But this is the case with many age group athletes. A lot of us feel we're not as worthy of racing as our faster, leaner colleagues - or as the elites and pros. Like we're not real athletes because we aren't out breaking records and cashing checks.

Which leads me to the second part, which is all about accountability. Self-accountability. This is not to be confused with self-pity, nor is it to say that part of being fast and lean isn't genetic or financial. I'm sure all of us could be speedier with better genetic structure and fancier equipment. But the truth is, we all belong where we put ourselves, especially when we're "hardly moving," or not capitalizing on the strengths we DO have. Accountability is not woe is me. Accountability is about being true to yourself, even when it hurts. (Go visit that link for a coach's take on keepin' it real - she elucidates those thoughts a lot better than I do.)

Remember my saying "there are no victims, only volunteers"? Well, that's what I hear when Sage Francis says 'misery is willing to keep company with those who don't ever walk a mile in their own shoes.' A constant self-assessment (standing back and examining ME as if I were NOT me) has always been a significant part of my attempt(s) to better myself. Basically, if you're not where you want to be, and you carefully examine how you got there, you'll uncover that you were at the helm of the ship the entire time, Captain. You may not have chosen the port, but you sure as hell laid the course that brought you there.

Over the past year, I've met a few other remarkable athletes who suffered from similar health problems to mine, and I can't tell you how refreshing and inspiring it was. One of them was at the Marine Corps Half last winter, which we ran in rain and mud the whole way. When he discovered I had health issues, he completely agreed with me that training keeps him feeling "normal," and he confessed that he was severely diabetic and ran to help lose weight and control it. He was a twig,so he must have lost plenty, and he was fast, so he smoked he around mile 6. Last weekend, it was Matt at Fort De Soto, who has the opposite problems I do: FAST heart beat, diabetes and HIGH blood pressure. He had also lost weight and gained perspective through his training.

The important part of this whole dissertation is cleverly hidden in the very first sentence: "a few other remarkable athletes." What's so special about that sentence? Well, for one, despite the odds against them, these people were, indeed - ARE, indeed - athletes. And by calling them "other" athletes, I'm admitting what The Dude and many others have been trying to get me to admit for the past two years.

I do belong here. I am an athlete.

My very first blog on the Hal Higdon forums was called "Against All Odds." My Story here on blogspot was also called "Against All Odds." And now I have to walk a mile in my own shoes. I have to keep it real. I have to put down the Martyr Flag. It doesn't make me any more or less courageous that I triumph over tragedy. It doesn't make me any more or less motivated, engaged, energetic or important. It just makes me human.

I am an athlete.

Strip away all the mental and emotional turmoil. Remove all the medicines and struggles. Take away the degrees, honors and awards. And what you have is exactly what you have: an age-group athlete trying to enjoy a few races. Not despite anything. Not against any odds. Just because it makes me feel good and I like to do it.
Maybe I'm not winning awards and money. Maybe I'm not able to do everything the other athletes do because of my physical limiters. But I'm still doing it, so thinking I don't belong is going to get me where it's always gotten me - not belonging. Walk a mile in your own shoes, Meggan Ann: you'll find out pretty fast that you're an athlete.

I forget who said it first, but what you think becomes what you say, what you say becomes what you do, and what you do becomes what you are.

I am an athlete.
And a pretty damn happy one, judging from these pictures.

3 tidbits of wizdom:

Tea said...

GO MAJ!! WOO HOO!!!!!

Have you ever read "Thinking Body; Dancing MInd"?

Oh....and I had a really deep thought while swimming my 4500 this morning. I posted it on my blog. I think you more than anyone else can relate.

CPB said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. You say it better than most, and it is good to see that you're finally seeing yourself as an athlete. You are.

Alili said...

What a great post. You ARE and Athlete:)

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