I'm the Genetically Challenged Athlete.
Growing up in Singapore, I was never an athletic or sporty kid. I did ballet for years and when I wasn't at the barre I had my nose in a book. I spent most PE lessons running away from the ball, after getting beaned in the head too many times and spraining my fingers more times than I have fingers. (Oh, the tyranny of PE lessons to the genetically challenged!) I thought I was a lifelong bookworm with not a single shred of athletic talent.
But somewhere along the way I discovered that I liked to run. (Maybe it was all that running away from the ball that did it.)
However I am VERY genetically challenged - short legs, not much muscle, not much speed, not much endurance either. I have never won a race in my entire short life, nor placed, nor age-group placed, nor...you get the idea. In a race with three women in the 20-29 age group I would probably come in fourth.
Now I also do triathlons. That's THREE sports to be genetically challenged in.
Here is a great essay by one of my favourite writers on running, Kristin Armstrong.
Like her I have never won a single race in all my life, and like her sometimes I ask myself why I run. Why I sign up for race after race, haul myself out of bed at 5.30am on weekends, watch as everybody else disappears down the trail ahead, or show up at the track and be the last person to finish the set, week after week. (But as they say, if you don't think you're good enough to deserve a coach, how will you ever get good enough?)
I'd say that I do it because running is fun, but that's a lie. It's fun, but it's never all fun. Sometimes it's just sheer work. Sometimes you just have to show up and work, and work and work and work. Isn't that how life functions, though? You show up, you work, you do your best. You go home with your dignity intact knowing that you were professional about it.
I'd say that I do it because finishing the run I set out to run makes me feel a little more accomplished, makes me feel like less of a loser (this can be a very dark place). Even on the days with the really bad workouts. And on the good days, it can be pure joy.
I'd say this is a curious kind of love.