Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are we off-putting?

So I’m reading an article on the NYC Marathon PR disaster in the January issue of Runners World.  This is what I do when I fly; I read.  I read a lot.  There is a short blurb asking runners a very important question: Are we living in a bubble?

It got me thinking.

I love being an athlete, and more specifically, a triathlete.  I am part of a very special/elite group of people.  Like being a pilot, being a triathlete takes a specific skill set that 99.9% of the population cannot do.  I have heard estimates that less than 1/10th of 1% of the population can currently be commercial airline pilots.  So I would say that puts me in pretty elite company.  Even though I downplay my job a lot, because honestly, to me, it is just a job, to the majority of the population, it seems pretty cool.

I guess I have often felt the same way about being a triathlete.  To me, this is just my hobby.  I don’t do it for a living.  I’ll never win a race, and I am certainly no elitist.  I’m an age-grouper, grinding out the miles one day at a time.  But I do love it so much.  I love it the same way a knitter enjoys knitting, a pianist enjoys playing the piano, a woodworker enjoys carving wood…well you get the idea.

But are we, as athletes, getting to a point where we are no longer seen as special?  We put the stickers on our car, get the M Dot tattoo when completing an Ironman, brag about our accomplishments on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.  We wear shirts in public signifying our past races and visors advertising the last 70.3 we did.  We encourage those around us that our lifestyle is more healthy and that people should be thinking about “buying local” and joining a Crossfit class.  Shouldn’t this stuff impress the non-athletes?  Shouldn’t people be looking at us in awe and saying “I want to do that?”

Or are we isolating ourselves?

I like spectators at my events.  People who will cheer me on and wish me well on the course.  A lot of these spectators are non-athletes and will never achieve what we have.  I don’t want to scare them away by being too “elitist” or snobby.  Personally, it’s why I’m not a fan of vegans.  How do you know someone is a vegan?  They’ll tell you!

I think the important thing to remember is this: for most of us, this is not what pays the bills.  Simply put, this is our hobby.  In the same way that dog-owners get excited about their dogs and Red Sox fans remind you that they are not the Yankees (screw that, you have the second highest payroll in MLB and it took you 86 years to achieve relevancy again) we should perhaps tone down our giddiness over what we do.  Remember, 99% of America, and perhaps the world, doesn’t have an interest in achieving what you do.  No one is saying that what you are achieving isn’t monumental.  The racing community is proud of you.  And maybe, just maybe, that’s enough.


  1. Hey Brandon!

    Somewhere buried in a drawer is my first tri-tee-shirt!I have a feeling that the shirt my flight instructor cut the tail off of that I wore the day I soloed is keeping it company! They could probably share some stories about which was more, or better, or braver, but I'm hoping they are too humble for that.

    Some roads are only known best and appreciated most by those who have traveled them.

    Courage is a highly discussed subject. True courage just is, never discussed. That's for those who live on the sidelines and are left to wonder.