There’s one sure way to get me fired up during a conversation: challenge running’s validity as a sport. I caught up with my roommate this morning as she told a very animated story about one gentleman’s opinion that running is not a real sport—”all it takes is stamina.” Alcohol-induced stupidity on his end and my emotional attachment to running aside, this argument immediately struck a nerve, mostly because it’s not true at all. Running is a sport…right?

This naturally led me to a larger conversation with a coworker when I got to the office. It started with, “Well, anything that is a physical activity is a sport.” But what about hula hooping? Scratch that. We then ventured to, “Ok, so it must be anything that’s televised at some point.” In that case, all reality competitions must be sports. Never mind. This went on for probably 20 minutes, and I was totally dumbfounded by how neither of us a) knew the literal definition of “sport” and b) could not find a valid reason why running was or was not included in that category. Baseball, football, gymnastics, running, even competitive cheerleading—why do we automatically know these as sports?

Naturally, I googled it and broke down the answer. To the random gentleman that dare challenge my patience and first love, this one’s for you.

A sport is…

  1. An activity involving physical exertion and skill… I think we can all agree that running definitely involves physical exertion. You sweat, you sometimes bleed and you’re always breathing hard at the end. It’s arguably the most basic form of physical exertion for human beings. Assuming that other mainstream “sports”—football, basketball, baseball—are sports, what is the common denominator for the physical portion of each of those things? Besides catapulting a ball in various ways, it’s running. Sure, there are plenty of sports that do not include running during actual competition–wrestling and golf for example–but I bet those athletes lace up their shoes and hit a few miles to stay in shape.  As for the skill component, I would argue that running quickly on extremely technical trail takes some massive skill. Competing on a track and knowing the intricacies of each turn or the stride patterns of your opponent—that takes serious skill (and patience!) When you’re rounding off 20 miles during your first marathon, skill comes into play when mind over body is the only way to survive. Tricking your legs out of being tired is definitely a practiced skill.
  2. …in which an individual or team competes against others… When you’re crammed into a corral with 300 other anxious competitors, you’re competing against other individuals. When Team USA toes the line at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, they are running both individually against each other and as a team representing their country. However, this does raise the question: What about all the runners who never don a bib and run recreationally? Is it still a sport then? Yes. The option to turn recreational running into the sport of running as its literal definition is always there for them, even if they choose not to participate. Besides, raise your hand if you’ve never in your life had an inkling of competitive spirit when running with your buddy. If the answer is yes, congratulations, you’re competing!
  3. …for entertainment. Perhaps the easiest, most diverse part about running today. Faceplant Fridays—that’s the ha-ha version of entertainment in running. For the inspiring side, tune into any major marathon and watch your fellow runners grit their teeth and tap into the deeper meaning that those 26.2 miles has for them when the physical side burns out. It provokes the question, well, why do YOU run? I would guess that every runner on the planet could defend their own version of an entertaining answer. To entertain my competitive side. To entertain my friend when I trip and fall. To entertain my coach’s faith in me. To entertain myself. To entertain the possibility of doing something I’ve never done before. Don’t take the word “entertain” only for its humorous side—that baby can mean anything you want to, just like running.

That’s my defense for our beloved sport. I’m of the opinion that any opinion—inebriated or otherwise—is worth consideration. So I will consider this gentleman’s (lame) opinion, but I will not agree with it. (I also do not agree with his follow-up statement that baseball players can beat any athlete at his or her own sport, but that’s for another day.)

Agree? Disagree? Tweet me at @caitpilk because I’m open to your opinion!