By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
At a recent awards banquet, a college track and field program celebrated the achievements of its athletes and recognized the contributions of the officials. A local sports reporter received the team's media award. The head coach introduced the reporter as a former athlete who had thrown well in college. In his acceptance speech, the reporter admitted that his athletic career happened by default. He told the audience that he had failed miserably at every sport. His mother worried for his safety in football. He worried for his own safety in rugby. He was too slow for soccer, too big for gymnastics, too short for basketball and too clumsy for baseball, so he ended up in track and field.
The notion that track and field athletes are leftovers from other sports is prevalent in a nation of spectators. Few viewers appreciate the beauty of a 10K runner clocking 68-second splits on the oval. Few companies sponsor uninterrupted coverage of a cross country race. Few parents sacrifice a Saturday to watch children compete at a high school track meet. Yet, many people pay high fees to watch a boxing match on television, and corporations spend exorbitant amounts on 30-second commercials during a pastime game.
While many successful athletes played games before excelling at track and field, the truth is that their genes may have already predicated their success. In studying the impact of the body on the mind, psychologists classify body types in three categories. The endomorph has a high proportion of body fat and low energy level. The mesomorph has a large muscle mass and explosive energy. The ectomorph has a large heart and steady endurance. The couch potato is the stereotypical endomorph. The full back is the mesomorph. The distance runner is the ectomorph. Our bodies determine who we are, both physically and emotionally. Our fat and muscles affect the chemical balance in our blood and brains, and control our actions and reactions. Body building and large muscles create high levels of adrenaline and aggressiveness. Aerobic running and lean muscles create a high level of endorphins, resulting in gentleness and harmony.
Far from being societal rejects or accidental athletes, runners are the product of nature's elaborate selection process. Runners are blessed with the gift of lean muscles and large hearts. They are nature's praise to the creation and the envy of many. Their beautiful bodies are temples for beautiful souls. They are the carriers of peace and contagious joy. They bring to life the same tenacity and endurance that shapes them on the trails and the track. Their strength brings confidence and trust. They are humble and unassuming. From the beginning of time, their beauty inspired painters and poets, and their feats gave birth to the Olympic Games. Certainly, the Olympic ideal of "faster, higher and farther" did not intend to describe a pitcher, a punter or a three-pointer.
In his closing remarks, the reporter admitted to the student athletes that the media does not give their achievements due credit. He went on to tell them that success brings intrinsic rewards that exceed any extrinsic public recognition.
So, Lindsay and Matt, Jamila and Chico, Mo and Dan, Chris and Britt, Laura, Mel and Betsy: we salute you. You embody the virtues that we value. Your athletic prowess inspires us, and your academic success gratifies us. You came to us as freshmen, full of hope and vibrancy. You depart as graduates in faith and confidence. The world is yours to conquer. Your success is a testament to the staying power of healthy living. You are not the players of a game or the spectators to a show. You are true athletes for life.
Kamal Jabbour played games in college, and won national championships. More recently, he has chosen running for life. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.