Are marathoners athletes?

Have you read this article yet?  (I forgot how I came across it)  Though it focus on the NY Marathon, the content applies to all of us who have run a marathon (or are currently training or planning on running one…).

I’m far from having a good finishing time at a marathon, and am one of the “stragglers” they mention.  Yet, though I consider myself athletic, I can even understand why they don’t consider me an athlete.  But calling me a straggler it’s of a long way from not considering me an athlete, isn’t it?

I learned how to swim when I was 2 years old, and used to consistently swim until I moved to the US.  I played tennis (4 times a week — yep, I hated my parents for it) for 7 years, then I dropped it for another sport I was already playing, volleyball.  I played volleyball a big part of my life, except for the years I lived in NYC (and took a break around May or June of this year, when I quit my league because I just didn’t have any more time with all this running).  A couple of years ago, I was playing volleyball 5 to 6 times a week, for hours at a time.  I’ve been biking my whole life.  I’ve been consistently running for the last two years.

Yet, am I just not an athlete because I’m not olympic material in any of these sports?  I’m not a professional athlete for that reason, sure.  But not an athlete at all?

My cousin, who’s only a few months older than me, just “retired” from her career and she’s now a tennis coach.  Her whole life she was a tennis player, then for a decade later, a professional tennis player.  What differentiates her from the other regular tennis players?  Well, she had sponsorships and earned her money by traveling the world and playing tennis, and winning matches.  She’s been to the US Open a couple of times, she was on the Brazilian Olympic team.  Her 9 to 5 job (or whatever hours she kept) were spent working out and training.  Her life revolved around tennis.

Now, she’s a college student (since college was not on her radar during those years), and a tennis coach.  She’s also big into “beach tennis” and getting it marketed around Brazil.  Is she no longer an athlete because she’s not competing against the world’s best?  Just because now, instead of training for 8 hours (or more) a day, she does it only for a few hours a week?

What are YOUR thoughts on that article?  Do you feel like you’re participating on a parade when you’re running your marathon?  And that since we didn’t win the marathon, we’re all losers?

Heck, I consider myself an athlete.  I’m not a good athlete, which is why there’s no chance of me winning anything (except local volleyball leagues — I have a collection of t-shirts for that), but an athlete nonetheless.



Filed under Random, Runs

16 responses to “Are marathoners athletes?

  1. AL

    “But someone exercising their inalienable right to see what they can handle physically is not something I need or want to see.” – then don’t….

    Bleah. They’re like the guys I used to work with. They were all former All-American college track runners, they’d tell me all the time I wasn’t a “runner” ’cause I wasn’t running 5 minute miles. (One of them ran the NYC marathon as his first marathon, with only a couple of week’s training in 2:30…sorta good.) They could not understand how I couldn’t go faster. I think because they couldn’t see how it was so difficult, they had no empathy whatsoever. Whatever. They used to say on the Appalachian Trail, “hike your own hike”. I think that sort of thinkin’ probably applies here too.

    Maybe as these people get older and things get more difficult, they’ll begin to empathize more.

    • Thankfully I never met someone like that in real life. The runners I’ve encountered all seem to be supportive of everyone regardless of their pace. I’ve actually seen the opposite — as I was cheering for the leader on a half marathon on the part of the course that was out and back, this girl running next to me said “they don’t need cheering, they’re fast” I was in awe of that mentality! For the leaders is just as hard as it is for us! The only difference is that they’re faster, but they struggle just as much! Actually, for them might be even harder because they’re giving everything they have since they have a lot more at stake.

      I’d get pissed if someone couldn’t understand why I can’t go faster, but sounds a lot like the Boston Marathon debate now, on lowering the qualifying times for women, because “if you need to run 10 minutes faster, you’ll just train to run faster and do it” — that’s not true. Some people give all they have, and still are slow (like me!).

  2. Beki

    I read about a paragraph and a half and stopped, that article was written ENTIRELY to antagonize. There was no other purpose.

  3. Danielle

    First of all, I don’t consider you anything close to a straggler. 🙂 And yes, I consider myself an athlete. I know I’m way behind you in the number of races and in my finishing time but I’ve done a 10K, a half, and a full and am signed up for 6 more in the next 5-6 months. How does that not fit into an athlete category? I consider anyone who trains for an endurance event an athlete because of the amount of mental and physical strength it takes. So basically…the people who wrote the article are idiots.

  4. I call myself an athlete (a slow athlete but still an athlete lol). I train for my races..I don’t just put my shoes on in the morning and decide to run a race. Training is hard work. There are days and sometimes weeks where I don’t want to run, but I run b/c I don’t want to die during my next race. 🙂

    I think they are just jealous. 🙂 I am sure both of the authors could not train months for a marathon or 1/2 marathon…I do agree with them that sometimes we get really wrapped up in an up coming race and it consumes us (I am sure that is very annoying to non runners).

    So no matter how fast or slow, if you run a marathon you are doing something that most people will never do. 🙂 You are an athlete.

  5. Thank you so much for your comments!! They make my day, and they help to put things in perspective.

    I, like you, couldn’t quit reading the article. What a bunch of jack asses! Just because I’m slow doesn’t mean that I’m not doing the best I can! I only started “running” a year or so ago, and then one minute at a time was tough! I am proud of how far I’ve come, whether it’s at a fast pace or not! I have worked hard and challenged myself, just as the super fast people have. I have a TON of respect for them, and I’m in awe of their abilities, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t worked hard too! Ugh. What a bunch of douche bags.

    Congrats on your marathons! I’ve sucked at commenting, but I have been reading! I’m way impressed with what you’ve accomplished, and I know I’m not ready to cross into that category yet. Much respect to those who have, regardless of the time it took to cross the finish! It is tough not just physically, but mentally as well, so I have a huge amount of respect for all that have crossed the finish line.

    • You’ll see — soon enough you’ll be signing up for a marathon. If only because of peer pressure (because, yeah, I decided to go through that torture completely on my own? Yeah, right! Ok, the second time was all my fault…)

  6. Any one that takes that first step in training for any marathon is a ATHLETE!! Way to go girls and guys

  7. wow. screw them. that article is a fucking insult. “marathons are the last refuge for those that couldn’t cut it in other sports.” who the hell are these dudes anyway? have they run a marathon? i have so many comments about this but im so heated right now that i need to let it sink it. or just not think of it ever again. my goodness!

  8. People like that annoy me. I’ve also been told many times that I’m not a “real runner” because I can’t pull 5-6 minute miles. Whatever. Running takes training, and mental and physical toughness. Whether I’m running 11 minute miles or 5 minute miles, I still get up early in the morning to do training runs and spend many hours on the weekends doing long runs to be able to endure the 26.2 miles. Just because we’re not getting paid an exorbitant amount of money to play a “real sport” or running up front with the Kenyans doesn’t make us any less athletic. Screw the haters 🙂 I’d like to see them get out there and run 26.2…

    • And the funny thing is? I highly doubt that Kenyan runner who is winning the races is looking back at all those people behind them and making fun of us! Heck, what the pro-athletes do wouldn’t be as impressive if there weren’t the rest of us to show how hard it really is!

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