Am I an athlete?


People tell me all the time that I’m an athlete. I run half marathons, after all. Go drive 13.1 miles in your car — even to me, suddenly it seems like a long distance.

But am I really an athlete? Let’s take a look at the definition:

a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise

And now let’s look at the definition of proficient:

competent or skilled in doing or using something

It seems I am left with a catch-22 here. Am I proficient in sports? I’ve never won a race or an age group award. In fact for most races I am solidly BOTP (back of the pack). Everyone thinks they’re slow — even the elites, I’d wager — and yet I posted that photo of my view of my group run in my Weekly Wrap: the pack getting ever further and further away from me until they disappear altogether.

There’s the pack, way ahead of me (while I could still actually see them)

Doesn’t sound (or look) particularly competent or skilled to me!

Is finishing proficient?

I want to say that simply finishing a race requires some skill. And it does; it definitely does. Yet what percentage of runners who enter a race DNF (did not finish)? I don’t actually know, but my guess is that it’s a very small percentage.

The same with DNS (did not start). More people sign up for races than actually race. Life happens: illness, injury, family affairs. I’d still wager that if you combine DNSs and DNFs it’s only a small percentage of the number of racers.

But how about all the people that never start running at all?

And there are plenty. Or the people who try and give up — there are plenty of those, too.

Just continuing to do something doesn’t mean that you’re competent or skilled at it — it simply means you’re stubborn. Guilty as charged.

My Conclusion . . .

No, I don’t think you’re an athlete just because you run. Or swim. Or bike; well, you get the idea.

If you sing, and do it all the time, but can’t carry a tune — I’m sorry, you’re not a singer. You’re simply someone who enjoys singing and isn’t very good at it.

At what point could I call myself an athlete?

I’m a fitness enthusiast. I’m a runner, a swimmer, a yoga lover. I lift weights. None of those things makes me an athlete; I am just not gifted that way.

I don’t know that I could ever call myself an athlete. I doubt it.

So let me know in the comments:

Would you call yourself an athlete?

Why or why not?

What do you enjoy doing but are not very good at?

I’m linking up with with MCM Mama Runs, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and My No Guilt Life for the Tuesdays on the Run linkup.

Tuesdays on the Run

34 thoughts on “Am I an athlete?

  1. I’m definitely not good at running. Sad but true, but it doesn’t discourage me. I do what I do for my own reasons. If you had a choir you wouldn’t let someone who couldn’t sing into it- they would spoil it for everyone else. In running though people are generally kind and accommodate everyone!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Maybe we shouldn’t try and classify ourselves, rather celebrate the participation and personal goals… I think all runners who just try are the winners, regardless of time, position etc. And if you’re happy doing what you do…. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You bring up some great points and I laughed at the comparison of the singer who is not very good..haha.

    We can all enjoy things that we aren’t very good at and that doesn’t make the accomplishment of doing it any less. I know I wouldn’t consider myself an “athlete” either only because I have a vision in my head of what a hard core athlete is. But then again people who do not run or do what I do may look at me and think the opposite. Hmm, I really don’t know Judy, but keep doing what you’re doing regardless! You have a good thing going on!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mmh, that’s an interesting thought… I’ve always called myself an athlete, because I’ve done sports (some competetive) all my life, I have a degree in physical education, but was I ever number one? No.

    It’s a good question – where do you draw the line?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, I found another definition: An athlete is a person who competes in one or more sports that involve physical strength, speed and/or endurance.

    What do you think? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think to be an athlete you do need to be good at it. I think there’s a difference from someone that does something, but not well, and someone who excels at something.

      Not that there is anything wrong with running when you’re not a good runner — there are so many benefits! I would never stop running, not if I didn’t have to.

      But I do think there is a difference between a recreational runner, such as myself, and an athlete. Even if I do race!


  6. This is a question I’ve pondered myself. No, I probably wouldn’t call myself an athlete. My husband wouldn’t either. But, it’s all about perspective — I guess some people might? But, I’m the person who doesn’t caller herself a runner either…

    I think I need therapy!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ummm, Yes, I think your an athlete! You don’t have to be a “competitive” athlete to still call yourself one. Even though you say your at the back of the pack…it takes a lot more determination and endurance to do something (like 13.1 miles, for example) that others might be able to do in half as much time. Chin UP!! And be proud!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know, front or back of the pack, I think most of us are trying pretty hard (although some of the BOTP is just there to have a good time), some of us just try harder for far longer. 🙂

      I’m not down on myself, but I just got to thinking about what I thought athlete meant, and throwing it out there for everyone else.


  8. I disagree. I agree wiht Deb & Kim.

    I think we are athletes. We train. We run races. Not all athletes win. But we all go out there and do our best.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I found this definition:
    1. One who participates in physical exercise or sports, especially in competitive events.
    You participate, therefore you’re an athlete 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’d say without a doubt you’re an athlete because you’re Do-ing an athletic activity because so many people do nothing. Proficient? Yes, to keep doing the things you’re doing requires knowing the skill well enough to do it for a long time. Many people pick up running for a few weeks or months and can’t continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. People have called me an athlete when I was a competitive figure skater and I have to admit I chuckled to myself because it sounds so serious and I do not take my athletic endeavors seriously. But ok, if someone wants to call me an athlete, I’ll own it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny, I do take my running seriously! Just my personality, I guess.

      I love to skate, but boy, if you’re competing in skating, you’re surely an athlete, cause that’s hard! I could never do any jumps, for instance.


  12. I think when you get to the point where working out – or a specific sport – takes up a lot of your time and it’s something you focus on and try to improve in, you become an athlete. You might not be elite, but you’re an athlete. I think being an athlete is a mentality as much as it’s about physical prowess or ability.

    Your definition makes sense and is totally fair…I think it’s okay to love sports and not consider yourself an athlete. But if I say I am one, I’m going to fight with anyone who tries to tell me otherwise :o)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Love this! I also do not consider myself an athlete — despite my efforts to try to get faster. However, I do consider myself athletic: I do the same workouts and put in the same effort my husband does (who more often than not places in his age group), but have come to terms with the fact that I am just not built for running and will never be in the front of the pack!

    Liked by 1 person

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