Over the past few years I've developed a habit of running, and with that habit came races, and my next race is a half marathon. When my registration check didn't clear within a couple weeks, I went to the race website to check on my status, and there it was. Athlete Name: Karen Magnuson. Athlete. Me?
I have had many identities, but "athlete" has never been one of them. Sister, daughter, friend, student, girlfriend, ex-wife....the list is long. Athlete has never been on it. Athletes have their picutres on Wheaties boxes and endorse Gatorade. Athletes are lean and lithe and break finish line ribbons with their arms held high in victory. Athletes are not the urban middle-class with self-esteem issues. Athletes have coaches, not trainers, and are interviewed on tv sports shows. Athletes don't huff and puff at an embarrassingly sluggish pace and are simply proud to "finish." No. Athletes compete, and compete to win. Or so I thought.
The label forced me to reconsider my definition of "athlete" and determine if I can really put myself in that category. I am certainly active, with exercise of some form happening nearly every day. Over the past ten years and especially the past four, my fitness has increased significantly. Since taking up running, I have participated in several running events and have tracked decent progress at middle distances. I find my weight training routine is designed to support running muscles and have even incorported yoga here and there to keep those muscles limber. I buy special gear, and eat special foods. When I take a true look at my lifestyle, I seem more and more "athletic" although I don't consider myself an "athlete."
Then it hit me. It's the label "jock" I'm trying to avoid. And while I'm certainly a far cry from being an elite athlete, there is nothing to stop me from living an athletic lifestyle and reaping all the benefits it has to offer. Bring on the sweaty workouts, lean protein, and copies of Runners World magazines. I'll take it.