Wish You Were An Elite Runner?
We fell into the same pace.
He was new to our Tuesday night trail running group and we were getting acquainted as runners do by sharing resumes, when he asked the oddest question.
“Are you elite?”
I’d never thought about it because...isn’t it obvious? There are elites and there are the rest of us, and elites, as someone recently said, “live in a different world.”
Should I laugh it off? Take it seriously (and if so, what was my answer)?
I settled for a safe, “Ha-ha, no,” but felt like I'd put myself down. I definitely couldn’t say “yes,” even though I wasn’t sure why.
The question came up again recently when a smart group of non-ultrarunning friends challenged me to explain exactly why someone who’d run 100 100-milers wasn’t elite. My fumbling rationalization sounded lame even to me. They didn’t buy it.
So I did some research and found that...“elite” is a concept, not an official, sport-wide qualification.
In running, it’s generally understood to be linked to fast finish times, but this understanding comes from two places.
Races, typically large road races, sometimes use the term to stratify runners into starting waves, thereby preventing mass chaos at the start. Runners with the fastest qualifying times get to line up ahead of everyone else, and for convenience's sake are called “elite.” But the catch is that each race gets to define eliteness however they want. There's no standard, sport-wide qualifying time at which you automatically become elite.
Companies also use the word in advertising to describe the runners they’ve chosen to sponsor, because it’s, hey, impressive. And still not an official status.
So no official definition, no consistency. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
I could see myself as elite, the way my friends saw me.
And the moment I did that, things shifted.
- I got a little prouder of myself.
- I felt more confident.
- And I saw my craft with new respect. Yes, not just running - craft.
The words you use to describe yourself matter - a great deal.
They affect your confidence, your ability to keep running when the going gets tough, how you prioritize your time, even your results.
What would change if you thought, “I am an elite runner.”
- Would you stop treating your running it like it doesn’t really matter?
- Would you stop making it the first thing to drop from a busy schedule?
- How would you eat, sleep, work, and approach the other parts of your day?
- How would you operate in the world if this was who you are?
Think of yourself as elite and you start treating yourself that way. With respect, pride, and excellence.
You can be elite if you think you are.