Why the World Needs Endurance Athletes

runners

 (as first published on TheLolaPapers.com)

Endurance athletes, the world needs you.

It may not say it. It may not even know it. But in the midst of the chaos generally referred to as daily life, the world needs to see your reflective vests and blinking armbands and spandex-clad bodies clipping down the roads and bouncing through city streets. It needs to see your waists girded with water belts and your wrists fitted with enormous GPS watches, the attestation of a long journey and of miles not soon traversed. It needs to see you early in the morning before the sun comes up and late at night, long after it has slipped beyond the horizon. It needs to see you in the scorching summer heat and in the bitter arctic conditions of winter, in the pouring rain and in the blanketing snow.

The world needs to see you out there– in all weather, in all seasons, at all times of day– because you represent something it craves. In your diligence and constancy, you are the manifestation of something vital to its very existence.

Purpose, persistence, and the successful application of hope.

Endurance sport is a microcosm of life. In a very tangible way, it presents athletes with challenges and joys, monotony and adventure, failure and triumph. In a single week you can experience the elation of a nailed workout and the disappointment of a blown race. You can know the loneliness of the miles and the camaraderie of a training buddy. You can feel physical exhaustion and mental depletion. You can love the sport—and you can hate it. It breaks you down physically, mentally, and emotionally. It tests you spiritually. It is humanity concentrated into mere hours, and you are constantly prompted to respond to a never-ending succession of circumstances and challenges. Will I force myself out of bed to train this morning? Will I run this final lap? Will I push through the discomfort to stay on pace? Will I keep going even when my goal time has long come and gone? Will I accomplish that which I have set out to do?

It is a battle. Day in. Day out. And yet, you are propelled to action. You wake up early. You defy the natural elements. You push your body to collapse. You sacrifice. You accept Spartan habits and come to terms with such strange concoctions as energy gels and bizarre rituals like full-body ice baths. You employ self-discipline on a daily basis. You endure discomfort and disinclination. Sometimes you feel like training. Sometimes you don’t. Always, you do it anyway.

Why?

Because conviction drives the endurance athlete. You are propelled to action by faith. You believe that what you are doing will work, and because you believe, you act. It is a strong undercurrent of conviction that drives you onward. Running is a sport, but training is a faith. And every step is a testimony to its strength.

The world needs endurance athletes because people long for something to admire and respect. In a world of ever-increasing impassivity and cynicism, endurance athletes are beacons of resolve and purpose. They are heroes who stand in the face of resignation and persist despite obstacles, who through self-denial, perseverance, and single-mindedness harvest the rewards of hard work. At their very hearts, endurance athletes are real and living examples of faith, of hope, of passion.

That is why the world needs to see you out there, hammering away at the miles. Tired of excuses, the world longs to see people who act. It wants people who face fear, but aren’t stopped by it. Who feel pain, but press onward. Who know fatigue, but continue. Who are inconvenienced, but not deterred. Who lose motivation, but can inspire themselves. Who face daunting miles, but conquer the distance. Who know weakness of body, and can rely on strength of character. Who may not be able to see immediate rewards, but trust they will come, just the same.

It wants people who reveal their faith not by what they say, but by what they do.

Every day, the world is testing you. Every day the world asks, “Will you be out there, even today? Will you continue, even in a time like this?” Hidden in the miles is a profound humanity, and you are the ambassadors of its success.

So, ever onward, endurance athletes. The world needs you.

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