I'm sorry....Daft Punk seems to have the song of the summer and I just think the lyrics are so catchy...and let's face it....so human. The song has literally been stuck in my head for a week and now I am sure it is stuck in yours. Welcome to my world :)
Anyway, the later part of this week has been one of rest. No, I am not injured. I am just being lazy, which I often get when someone comes to visit me (this weekend it was my Daddy!). It has allowed me to catch up on some trail running reading and begin to plan and dream about my race out in Colorado in four months time. While I have missed the trails...I really can't complain...it has been enjoyable and I can always start back up running tomorrow ;)
This break has also given me plenty of time to reflect on the sport I love and all sports in general (yup...here we go!). It all started while discussing my race with a friend earlier in the week. I was explaining how I was going out to Breckenridge a week before my race to acclimate to the altitude when they asked a simple question: "Oh! Why don't you just get one of those tents to sleep in to get used to the altitude at home?". Now, I am just about 110% sure the question was in jest but I still responded with "no...that would be cheating" (not to mention too scary and out of my budget!). It is what she came back with next that left me a little deflated: Why? It is not a drug or anything is it?
That "why?" left me with a lot to think about. Now...I don't want to get started with the whole drug doping thing. Lord knows we beat the subject to death on an almost daily basis in the world of sport. It is a topic that gets people very angry and I have found that not many are easy to forgive. It hits people on a very personal level and has kind of left me questioning the whole meaning of "sport".
Not following? Let me explain....
When we are young and start playing sports...everything is simple. It basically breaks down into two groups: those who have talent and those who have to work for it. In most instances, this is obvious from the start and basically weeds out which kids will continue to play a particular sport and which ones will "move on". It is almost nature's "Survival of the Fittest" in the sports world. Now, I don't mean that kids who work hard at a sport they are not naturally "gifted" at don't succeed and become awesome players...they do....but for the most part many of those who struggle move on to find other things to participate in.
This leads me to a simple question: Why does this change when we get older?
Why do we go from the most simplistic form of sport...in which humans at the most basic level compete without any assistance for enjoyment... to trying to modify our bodies to perform and recover better for competition? Think about it...what would modern day sport be like if it was just humans at a basic level...without the assistance of ANY supplements, drugs, stimulation, enhancements, modifications, sponsorships, etc?
I think it would be amazing and it angers me that you can hardly find it anymore. Even in my beloved sport of trail running you constantly hear rumors of doping and races having to actually come out and say "no EPO's of any sort." Now you may be asking...what kind of doping can there be in long distance trail running?! Well, I have read everything from altering the body's ability to oxygenate blood (I mean really...what the f*ck?!) to taking recreational drugs to both ease pain and "become more connected" with nature (dammit...I never get to do drugs!!). It really has me just looking around going "if you can't find pure sport in trail running...what they hell is left!?"
That "purity" has me forming opinions about many of the things that make up the culture of trail running (both the good and the bad). Trail running is starting to do more drug testing..which I think is a good thing. A positive "peer pressure" is taking hold and making runners think twice about what they do before races. The growing popularity of the sport in general is having both a positive and what I view as negative impact. It is introducing more people to running in nature and enjoying how the body works in a natural environment. It allows for friendships to be formed between people who care and respect the environment. It is getting more people off the couch and outside where they belong. However, at the same time it is also causing more people to want to compete in the sport....the call for more money to be brought in....and more companies competing to get their market share and profit. As someone who majored in both advertising and public relations, this is what has me deflated.
Even if we can get all the drugs out of sport....I am almost at the point where I want to say "get everything out of it!". I mean everything. Let the friggin human body run like it was meant to. I see more ads for supplements, powders, recovery equipment and stimulation then I know what to do with. I watch these people who have a love for a very natural sport become involuntary dependent on what I almost consider "Corporate Doping". I see athletes who have a genuine love for the sport not be able to compete because 75% of the budget goes to the athletes who bring in the most money. Trail running is a very passionate sport and some of the people who love it most are insanely emotional about it but can't get to 99% of the races to share their experience with others. It is sad and I think it may be hurting the sport because it is not allowing for a level of competition that could allow for progress and "evolvement" (that may be an Andrea-ism).
Now you may be like "WTF?" at this point but hear me out. For me, trail running is enjoyable because it is human and nature...in nature...with nature and sometimes against nature. It is a very primal sport. However, when the sport becomes nothing but running advertisements, it becomes disheartening. What is worse is it is not even the fault of the runner.
Trail running is becoming a global sport and that is a wonderful thing. At the same time, it is an expensive sport that leaves one wanting to travel all over the world to participate in the different races. Travel is something that almost every trail runner wants to do because it allows you to see so many different environments and feel what nature is like in places other than your own backyard. At the same time it is too expensive and those who have a 9-5 job really can't give all that up for their enjoyment. After all, happiness does not keep the lights on. That is where corporations come in. Yes, here comes the word...sponsorships. Right now, I think they help the sport and cause it to loose its basic meaning.
Woah now...hear me out! Once a runner gets a sponsorship things can change in a major way. They can experience things they may have never thought possible. They can all of the sudden afford the travel and expenses and focus on what they love the most, which is running in nature. At the same time they become a walking billboard for profit. Even if the relationship between the sponsor and runner is amazing and they love and support the athlete 100%...in the end there has to be a profit to be made or it is useless. Any sponsored athlete would be naive to think that there is not someone behind some computer in some meeting giving some report on how much revenue that athlete has generated. After all, this leads to consumers running out and purchasing the items they see being used. Eventually, this leads to more companies wanting to get their share and more products being introduced. In the end, a runner, who has never taken an supplement or used a recovery device, is all of the sudden using the products because the sponsorship is making a dream possible. I see it all the time over here in the US. Everyone is pimping their recovery and supplement products on FB and Twitter. Perhaps they really work and that is great. But if they do...is that not creating an unfair advantage on a basic cellular level? Is that not altering the way the body is working? Is that not on some level cheating? It is really allowing the body to act in it's most natural and basic way? Do muscles really recover better with electric stimulation and if so...why are we allowing that in sport? Why can't sport just be the body recovering and performing how it is meant to....and if you are not strong enough at that time you do not win? If your body cannot adapt and perform better over time, then why is it not just "the name of the game"? Should sport not constantly evolve as humans naturally evolve? Shouldn't everyone get a fair shot to participate? Is this not on some level a definition of doping?! I almost feel bad for the 1% of the trail running field who get 99% of the global attention....their basic love for nature and simplicity....trying to share a sport that is becoming so commercial so fast, and it is all our fault. We live for the product. We are being convinced that it will help us downhill better or recover quicker. I guess it is the same in all sports. It is a double edged sword....get to do what you love but literally live with a brand tattooed on your chest. I sit here and complain but would have nothing to complain about if there were not sponsors because I would not know about all the races on a global level.
All these questions have me a little deflated. The sport I love is so basic but the interest and popularity is making it more complicated then I would like. I would love to see one time when the best of the best get together and run without their corporate identity. I'm saying "strip down boys and girls...run with what your mother gave you!!!" I'm sure that would never happen....I don't think it is possible. I really don't think they can break away. My sport is quickly becoming nothing more than "OMG...What shoe is he/she wearing and when can I buy it?!?!". It sucks....(and I mean it....I was following a race on Twitter the other day and the person had to take time and literally answer questions on what shoes an athlete was wearing because that was what all the questions were about.) I don't give a damn what shoe they are wearing and I am becoming a little concerned as I don't think any of them purchase clothing that does not have their sponsor all over it. Is that really healthy for an individual? At what point are they lost and nothing but the name on their chest? How can they keep it separate and how can we...how can children who idolize any athlete tell the difference? I get it. I understand the "bottom line" of profit but it still does not mean I cannot express my dislike. I know I would not be able to enjoy my sport at the level I do in terms of spectating without the influence of sponsors. At the same time I am left confused. Trail runners are very basic people....sometimes it is disturbing how basic they are (brushing the hair is 99% optional on some days ;) ) but I love it. They have the same love I do for nature and if given the choice would most likely just live primal in it. They love being with friends and sharing their experiences just like I do. But it seems like at the same time competition and corporate influence is causing multiple levels of doping to occur....from drug doping to money doping. That is what I don't like. I think it is making the common consumer a bit idiotic. If you think I am wrong just go on your favorite athlete's FB or Twitter page. People literally think these guys are G*ds. They literally think they are the best and most amazing people in the world. I don't understand it. I look at them and am like..".ok...your body is obviously made to run". It is your basic natural make-up and instinct. It is what nature decided you would excel in. You are not curing cancer. Those people have to fight night and day for "sponsorships" and they are the one's that I will consider G*ds if they can come in first in their race. After all, it was a former customer who introduced me to the world of trail running....and while I "loved him to death" like I did all my customers, at the same time he was a very basic human when we were in contact. He is sponsored and works....so he is influenced like many of the elites in the sport but to me in the end he is no different or better than I am. If he is the same as me then why can't the sport compete on the same level I do when it comes to the subject of doping (which is nothing....unless you count beer....because I do run at a brewery one night a week...so I guess that is a recovery doping ;) ) Why can't we all just get lucky when it comes to sport and go basic body to basic body (hey now!) ? I know...money....it makes the world go 'round. Without Salomon there would be no Salomon Trail Running Team....without North Face there would be no North Face Trail Running Team....which would mean no sponsored races....no price money....no way for the athletes to survive financially....which would mean people like me would have no form of porn to enjoy (have you seen their bodies people?! Actually...never mind...I am the only one who likes it....and all my friends agree ;) ) Thank G*d for side projects (SOML).
I say we all strip down people....strip down to our basic natural abilities and compete....like we are made to do!
*Disclaimer* I do want to make it clear....I am not attacking any athlete or sponsor. I am sharing my opinion on the sport as a whole. Many of the elite athletes in my sport are also pursuing other projects and are not relying on corporate sponsorships for many of the reasons I have mentioned...and I find that very respectable.
That is all. I am now stepping off my soapbox. Sorry if you found this to be obnoxious. I just can't stand the idolization of things sometimes! I am a basic person living in a way to complicated world!