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am I a real athlete now?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I think I have calmed down enough now for a coherent blog post. The other day I was feeling pretty low. I just finished downgrading to the Buffalo Half marathon instead of the full I have been training for since January. I decided let my awful knee injury heal instead of suffering through the marathon next week. So in my less than stellar state, I decided I would check my email and then just lounge with some TV, something I only do when I don't feel like thinking/or I'm depressed. I'm not a TV person - I do not have even have cable.

Imagine my shock to find this letter in my email box:
"Congratulations! We’re pleased to announce that you have been selected to become a member of Team MARATHON® Bar. Your athletic accomplishments and individual interests were a perfect match for the sponsors’ goal of building a dedicated team of passionate runners who are committed to staying active. Your 2011 goals, past achievements, future motivations, and overall dedication to the sport and product best demonstrated this commitment. Please see below for important details to getting started with the sponsorship."

Well, let's just say I didn't stop screaming for a whole hour. I called my parents and super-blasted Facebook. Now let me explain how this happened. Back in January or February I applied for this with no hope of getting it. After all, I'm by no means the first in my age group at local races. I'm no local superstar. I don't do triathlons (yet!) and I'm surely no Ultramarathoner. Did I mention they only take 200ish people to the team each year and some of them are from previous years? From over 2500+ applications. Why on earth would they want me?

Better question: Why would I be so unbelievably excited about this? I mean they basically pick people to do free advertising for them. Well, besides from the obvious fact that you get free stuff (clothes, bars, etc.) I was excited because it gave me back my validity as a runner when I was feeling my worst. I looked back over my application and saw it through their eyes. I'm either a dedicated runner or a crazy person. I mean, I do as many events as I can get my hands on. I keep trying to get better and I don't give up. I plan all my vacations around running events. I even left a job I really like so I could work at a running store and spend more time training. When I am not running events, I am volunteering at them.

I have always been under the influence that I was "pretending" to be a runner. I didn't do track in school. In fact, I hated running until I realized what it could do for me. I came to running in 2007 for the sole purpose of losing weight. I'm not athlete. I'm just a fat kid trying not to fall over at the finish line. But looking at those words and that application I realized that I am an athlete. You can't complete a Marathon or even a Half without training and become an athlete. National companies with a world of athletes at their fingertips don't pick non-athletes to represent them. It just doesn't make sense.

So I guess you never really see yourself as valid at something until someone else does. And it helps if it is someone important (like a national company). So I guess now that I have a sponsor I am a real athlete right? Well, no - I always was. From the moment I crossed that finish line at the Komen for the Cure 5K back on June 9th, 2007 I've been an athlete. From the moment that victorious breath of oxygen hit my lungs, I've been an athlete. The cheering spectators knew it, and I should have too. I crave the adrenaline rush in that final mile kick, the excitement of hoisting that finisher's medal, and the wild unknown of where you will end up on a training run. It has finally hit me.

I am a runner. And I am an athlete.
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