Stop Asking Me Why I Run

In one of my classes the other day, we had an editor come in to talk about his experience and listen to our story pitches. He was funny, a former high-flying New York writer who succumbed to drug problems back in the day and is now on the rebound.

It was all cool until we got to my pitch. I had decided to write about what it’s like to race as a pro triathlete, yet never quite be good enough to actually make it. I thought it’d be interesting to people and interesting to talk about the system of never-was athletes underneath all the successful ones.

I got one sentence in — “I raced as a professional triathlete for three years.” — and he interrupted to say, “As an addict, you know what it sounds like to me, it sounds like you’re addicted.”

Um, yeah, I dunno, shrug, shrug.

He kept going: Why else would you do it? You must be addicted to it. Endorphin rush and stuff, right? I’ve heard of that.

Everyone thought this was genius. I kept shrugging — yeah, I dunno, this sounds more about you than me — until eventually I got really annoyed. Later, the rest of the class couldn’t quite figure out why it was really annoying, what if he just called it “passion” instead of “addiction.” And, anyway, they just all find the question of why anyone would do these sports so fascinating.

It’s not.

People tend to think that comparing a desire to run (et al) to an addiction is super witty. So original. So funny. See it’s supposed to be healthy, but it’s an addiction, so it’s not healthy; you’re addicted to being healthy. Hahahaha, I am so clever.

It’s actually probably the second or third most common thing people say. The first being, “Oh my god, that’s just soooo amazing. I could never do that. I don’t even know how you do that. It must take so much discipline.” Not that I’m not amazing, obviously, but there’s a creating of otherness here that I find strange. At the highest level of sports, yes, there is a degree of commitment and self-sacrifice that is not normal and that is also no different from what you would find at the highest levels of music or dance or writing or competitive holding your breath to see how deep you can dive. Any of these things are exceedingly hard and require a stunning degree of discipline, talent, and luck. But, I am not at that level. Neither are most of the people who run or do triathlon or bike or swim or Crossfit or whatever. I have very little insight into what it takes at that level. I am, most likely, at the same level (in our respective interests) as you, as the person asking the question and acting like I am so different from them.

Some people play video games. Some people sing a cappella. Some people are in competitive chess leagues. Some people are recovering drug addicts and former hard-partying New York writers. And, some people run. We are not so different, you and I. And, we are not all the same either.

Here’s the answer to your question: People do sports for all the different reasons that people do anything.



USAT Elite Triathlete Bulletins and the 2013 Prize Money Calendar

When you’re a registered “elite” triathlete with USA Triathlon (what most people call pro, but pro sort of denotes that you, like, make money), you receive monthly Elite Beat newsletters. I received my last one this month, since I absolutely did not renew my license for 2013 and really only did two local triathlons in 2012.

There was a big debate last year when the Olympic qualifying for the US triathlon team turned into a bit of a shit show, with some high-level athletes saying they never knew they needed to officially submit their names for such-and-such qualifying race, as opposed to just telling the coordinator they wanted to be on the list, or they didn’t know that the start lists procedures had changed. The counterpoint, at the time, was that USAT communicates with it’s elite athletes every month, so they should have known.

I’m pretty sure that we all get the same bulletin every month. I’d kind of assume there’s some other communication with US Team athletes or people living at the Olympic Training Center. But, the fall back is supposed to be that all 400-or-so of us get this same bulletin every month. I, generally, read the bulletins, because they’re fascinating. But they’re also usually a few thousand words long with lots of lists and odd information (ie. Want to try out for Olympic Sprint Team Triathlon? A new sport hoping to premier in 2016!) and it’s hard to pick out what might be relevant to you or what you absolutely need to know.

I thought other people might be interested, so here are most of the topics covered in the January bulletin, with each having a heading and some having multiple sub-categories underneath it in the email:

  • 2013 Elite National Championships
  • 2013 Non-Olympic World Championships
  • MEDEX International Insurance
  • 2013 Membership Renewal
  • 2013 Elite Money Calendar
  • Venue Change for ITU Santiago Continental Cup
  • ITU PanAmerican Cup Events
  • 2013 ITU World Cup Schedule
  • 2013 ITU World Triathlon Series Schedule
  • ITU World Cup and WTS Series Start List Creation
  • ITU Rolling Points Calendar
  • 2013 ITU WC, WTS, and PATCO Calendar with entered names listed for each event and deadlines to enter each event.

The most relevant of these — if you want to make money, I guess — is the money calendar. It’s a round-up of all the races with big prize purses this year. The PDF is too big to embed in the post, so here is the 2013 Prize Money Calendar.

The thing to keep in mind is if it says $50,000 prize purse, that means $25,000 per men and $25,000 per woman (yay equality!), which then  is broken up typically like this:

  1. $10,000
  2. $5,500
  3. $3,500
  4. $2,500
  5. $2,000
  6. $1,500

So, if you get 7th at a big $50,000 race like Vineman or Oceanside, you’re walking home with no money. And it’s not like 7th place is easy — 7th woman at Vineman was Joanna Lawn and 7th man at Oceanside was Chris McDonald. No slouches!

(And, yes, sure, they may get sponsorship deals depending on who they are and who they know and all that. But, remember, this is triathlon. It’s not like companies are paying out lots of salaries.) I’m not saying you should feel bad for anyone; I’m just saying this is how it is. Thought some people might find this information interesting.