I got into this argument with some friends recently. Most of us were runners, and most of those vehemently defended their perception of running as a sport.
Others denied it the title for reasons as superficial as its lack of a court, gear, and most tellingly, a ball. All sports have special equipment. And most non-runners would agree that running requires no skill. This latter idea abounds amongst the participants of “real” sports like baseball, football, and soccer. After all, anyone can run, right?
This debate got me thinking, and I came to the conclusion that running is not a sport.
Put down your pitchforks and extinguish your torches. I do not agree that it isn’t a sport for any of the silly reasons above. My argument rests on the fact that sports by definition require competition. And any time running involves competition, it becomes racing. So, while racing is a sport, running is not.
Please don’t get me wrong. Many runners feel compelled to defend running as a sport because they feel the label gives it validity and recognizes its difficulty. After all, many argue that it’s not a sport because they think that it doesn’t require skill or that it isn’t difficult. These are preposterous. I, on the other hand, argue that running is potentially harder than any sport, and that it is so precisely because of the characteristics that distinguish it from that time-honored title.
In any sport, the competition is between you and someone else. Your might against theirs. And there’s always a point where your might proves greater or lesser. At that point you need exert yourself no more. The demands placed on you are limited to your opponent’s abilities.
Wrestling, for example, is a sport that I highly respect (real wrestling, not the WWF crap). It locks its participants in a contest of wills, and it typically involves a long, wearying struggle– things that distance runners can understand. The difference is that it’s over as soon as you prove to be the stronger or weaker competitor.
In serious distance running, however, the demands placed on your are limited to your own abilities. When you run (whether training or racing) to the upmost of your abilities, your only limit is full-body failure.
There is no interpersonal competition in running– we specialize in beating ourselves into the ground. To do that, we need no gear, no ball, no ESPN covers. We don’t even need talent. All we need is to push ourselves harder than the rules, harder than the boundaries allowed by any sport.Share on Facebook