Anyone CAN Be An Athlete

Am I an athlete? I run for a multitude of different reasons but fun and personal satisfaction are the two reasons I push myself to get faster and stronger. In the three years that I've been running, I've never entered a race to win. Every single time I toe the starting line of a race, my goal is always to have the best time possible. Does that make me less of an athlete?

I ran my first marathon in 4 hours and 40 minutes (and change) and I ran my fifth marathon, 1 and a half years later, in 3 hours 59 minutes (and change). Why does that matter? Because the only reason I kicked my ass to shave off 40 minutes to get my time under 4 hours was because I was competing with myself. I wanted to see if I could do it and honestly, I didn't believe I could. Is it my times that make me an athlete?

I want to show you something that I find really disappointing.

CLICK HERE to go to see it for yourself. (The above text no longer appears on the website.)

First of all, I'm confused. Who are these people who are slapping "I'm an athlete" bumper stickers on their car's or adding "Athlete" to their twitter bios and LinkedIn profile's, "robbing" actual athlete's of their pride, work, and identities? (Insert eye roll here.)

Second of all, who the f*ck cares? Since I started running, I haven't seriously competed against anyone but myself. I run for me. I'm not an impressive distance runner in the grand scheme of things. But I push myself to put my strongest, happiest and most confident foot forward because I'm invested and I'm passionate about running and my health. I was equally impressed with my 4 hour 40 minute marathon as I was with my 3 hour 59 minute one because they both felt impossible. And that, to me, is what being an athlete is about. It's about pushing yourself to places that don't seem possible. It's not about winning or losing, it's about showing up and giving it everything you have.

No, having a body doesn't make you an athlete. A body is a canvas, full of opportunities. It's ads like what you read above that make running feel unattainable to people like me. I used to read or see an ad like the one above and think, "You're right. I don't belong. I'm so slow. This is hard. Why bother?" And it's bull sh*t! Do you want to know the athletes who inspire me most are? They're the one's who overcome adversity. They're the back of the pack runners and walkers who finish hours after the official cut off time. An athlete is someone who is determined and practices a willingness to succeed, whatever that means to them. 

My favorite part about the running community is it's fierce supportive and inclusive nature. Kathrine Switzer said it best, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” There you will see 2 hour 30 minute marathoners or 5 hour 50 minute marathoners who have spent months, sometimes years, pushing themselves, their bodies, and their minds to places that they believe are impossible. And you will see people show up to support them, celebrate them, and help make their goals a reality. For most runners, there isn't a title or prize money at stake, they're doing it because they feel compelled to. That's what being an athlete is all about, putting your strongest foot forward and supporting one another as we do it. It doesn't matter if you run a 30 minute mile or a 5 minute mile, if you show up and give it your best, that is my definition of an athlete.

I know that isn't how everyone sees it. Of course there are people in the running community who don't like the influx of people running half marathons or marathons for fun. They don't understand why anyone would want to run solely to finish. They don't understand the selfies or the walking breaks. To those people I say, cool bro! You do you! We're going to go over here and enjoy the journey. I'll still happily give you a hug and a high five when I cross the finish line.

Running isn't unattainable. It isn't a club for only the fastest runners, its for anyone who loves to run and wants to see what they're capable of. Personally, I don't like seeing how fast or how far my friends are running. If I want motivation to run faster or further, I join them at the track or on a run. I let their actions, not their stats, motivate me. That's what works for me. 

Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.

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Kelly Roberts

It all started when a silly joke made headlines back in 2014 when I took selfies with hot guys “hottie hunting” my way through the New York City Half Marathon. But ironically enough, I haven't always been a runner. As the self-proclaimed former President of the "I f*cking hate running club", I spent most of my life finding ways to avoid physical activity. Growing up, I missed over 70 days of PE my senior year. Working out was something I thought I had to suffer through in order to lose weight. 

Then, in 2009, my younger brother passed away unexpectedly and struggling to manage my grief, I gained more than 75 pounds. With the weight gain came a new fight to regain my sense of self and learn to love the body I saw when I looked in the mirror. Then one Thanksgiving morning, drowning in grief and self doubt, I decided to go for a run. I didn't make it half way down my street before I had to stop to walk but for some reason, struggling forward made more sense than getting back into bed. It turns out that running is a lot like grief, neither ever really get easier, you just get stronger. 

Over time, I realized that while some people are in fact born runners, others are made. I created this blog Run, Selfie, Repeat and my new podcast by the same name with the hopes to inspire others to say yes to themselves while making them laugh hysterically because laughing, in my opinion, is the solution to everything. 

Named by Women's Running as one of twenty women who are changing the sport of running and by Competitor Magazine as one of 12 Influential and inspiring runners under 30, my mission is to inspire others to get embrace a healthy lifestyle and pursue the strongest version of themselves possible.