Selfish pursuit of selfless achievement

The pristine locker room shakes with the pulsing beat of the blaring music. You’re all suited up in a sweet, brand-sponsored uniform and pumped from your pre-game meal.

As you make your way through the tunnel, you can hear the dull roar of the announcer above. Coaches and trainers are by your side, stocked with coolers of Gatorade and sweat towels. Upon entering the arena, the dizzying phosphorescent lights illuminate the 15,000 screaming fans.

This is it. It’s what it’s all about.

The dingy morning is cold and uninviting. Clouds mask the sun and refuse to let its warmth be felt. You’re bundled in old, mismatched sweats with an unidentifiable stain. On the way out the door, you grab a banana and a bagel.

There are a few cars milling around as you arrive at the park. You greet your teammates as the coach lays out a tarp on the grass to sit on. Minutes later, you don your nasty shoes and begin a warm up.

This is it. It’s what it’s all about.

Endurance sports in general are less spectator friendly and so attract fewer fans. Fewer spectators equal less cheering and therefore less adrenaline from external sources. So you get no glory. You get no constant feed of encouragement from the crowd. No sweet warm ups or pre game meals. Why would you have any desire to be an endurance athlete? The answer really isn’t one.

To scavenge any sort of reasoning from the minds of such people involves prying back the lid of initial confusion and diving right in; determining for yourself whether the insanity lies simply on the surface or penetrates beneath.

Endurance athletes of all kinds are arguably the most selfless. The very nature of endurance pursuits requires an amount of humility unparalleled in other types of endeavors. Therefore, by their very nature, endurance athletes must possess inordinate selflessness. They must also be willing to accept the inevitabilities that come with that selflessness. But it goes beyond the obvious lack of attention endurance athletes get.

They are the unsung workhorses of every team. They sacrifice mornings in bed to squeeze their workouts in, even though no one may be looking.

But if endurance athletes don’t do what they do for glory, fame, warm-ups or food (though that last one might be true), what do they do it for?


Endurance athletes are so consumed with themselves that they are willing to do whatever it takes to make them better, confident enough in themselves and possess enough self-worth to provide their own satisfaction. Such a rare and delicate balance is struck between boldness and poise so as to not appear the least bit selfish, but rather the polar opposite, which indeed they are.

So, are endurance athletes selfish or selfless? Perhaps neither. Perhaps both. Is it their selflessness that contributes to their selfishness? Or is it that they are so selfish that they are actually selfless? Or can both seemingly contradictory attributes conflict harmoniously within the soul?

Only the souls can tell.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!