Who do you think you are?
I had the topic for my first column of 2013 planned out in my head for weeks. Months, even. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been salivating over the New-Year opportunity to whale on a certain group of people: The Resolutioners.
You know who I’m talking about, right? The hordes of uncoordinated folks who descend upon our gyms, and sidewalks, and pools every January, taking up valuable space from real athletes, the ones who will still be running come February. The entire month of January is a sweaty, allegorical West Side Story: Us versus Them (snap, snap, snap).
Yes, this column was slated to be all about mocking “them.”
That is, until one of “them” taught me a lesson.
Last week, I was at my gym. Having arrived too late to secure my spot in spin class (those damn Resolutioners!) I put on my trainers and headed for the treadmills. They were all occupied – every single one. Making matters worse, there was a group of “them” congregating in the corner, joking around and taking self-portraits on their cell phones while they waited for an open treadmill.
Disgusted, I went to the locker room and changed into my swimsuit. Surely, I reasoned, the pool would be empty. Swimming is too intimidating for The Resolutioners! Let the real athletes have the pool! I laughed to myself as I tucked my hair into my swimcap.
Oh, boy. Was I ever wrong. The pool was filled, most lanes occupied by one or more Resolutioners. They were everywhere: bouncing, floating, sidestroking, doggy-paddling and who knows what else…but certainly not working out. Of that, I was certain. I paced along the side of the pool, with my goggles, my paddles, and my pull buoy, hoping one of them would recognize me as a real athlete and empty a lane for me.
In hindsight, as I’m typing this, I cringe at my behavior. I was acting like a complete and utter asshole, and I fully deserved what happened next:
Lane 3 was occupied by only one person, an awkward, slightly overweight woman in a bikini who (as best as I could tell) was doing some sort of aqua Zumba. I thought I recognized her at first, but dismissed that notion as I moved closer.
I stood at the edge of Lane 3 and dropped my gear. The Resolutioner continued to bounce, oblivious to my presence (perhaps I should have had an orchestra of tiny violins to announce my arrival). I sat at the edge of the pool and dropped my legs in the water, sighing loudly. She glanced in my direction and flashed me a smile.
“Hey, do you mind moving over to the other lane?” I asked. “I need to swim.”
“I’ll be done in fifteen minutes!”
“What about sharing the lane? I’ll swim on this side, and you can…” I waved my hand dismissively, “uh, do whatever it is you’re doing…on that side.”
“But there’s not enough room!”
“Listen, lady,” I snapped. I dropped into the pool with a splash. “You need to move. Some of us have real workouts to do.”
Stammering, her face turned red. It was glaringly obvious I had crossed a line, and it wasn’t the black one at the bottom of the pool.
“Who do you think you are?” she spat. “Michael f—ing Phelps?”
In a huff, she climbed out of the pool and stormed off to the locker room. As I stood there, stunned, I suddenly realized how I recognized her.
She was me.
At midnight on January 1, 2009, I declared with bright-eyed optimism (and several glasses of champagne) that I was going to run a 5K without stopping before the year ended. My friends laughed, and I’m sure I laughed, too. After all, when I said it, I was drunk, overweight, and holding a cigarette.
But that morning, I dragged my hungover butt to the gym and awkwardly ran on the treadmill. I did it the next day, and the next. I still haven’t stopped. This is true, by the way, for both running and awkwardness.
I’m sure the real athletes in the gym in 2009 were annoyed with me, wishing February would arrive already so The Resolutioners would clear out. But if they were cursing my very existence, I never would have known. In fact, the friendly nature of the endurance community was what kept me coming back every day. Had someone treated me the way I treated the Lady from Lane 3, I probably wouldn’t have kept going, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
I’d venture a guess that if each of us took a moment to think about it, you’d see a little bit of yourself in The Resolutioners, too. Every one of “us” started as one of “them” – awkward and unsure, yet so full of potential. Yet somewhere along the way, many of us forgot those roots.
Complaining about The Resolutioners is a pretty easy bandwagon to jump on, especially if we’re making the leap from a self-made pedestal. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to be smug, or we can choose to welcome the new athletes in our midst. I certainly know which route I’ll be choosing from now on. The Lady from Lane 3 was right about something:
Who do you think you are?
About The Author:
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke