What Makes Professional Athletes So Good?

We all know them.  Those kids we grew up with who were destined for athletic greatness.  Whether it was the high school cross-country team or the US Olympic Team, they were the ones everyone else envied.  Their natural ability, the seemingly lack of effort from the starting gun when everyone else around them were bent over with stitches in their sides, the ease of running a football 90 yards like there was no one else on the field.  Some were bound for greatness and others – well, not so much.  But how they made it look oh so easy.

What exactly is it that separates elite athletes from the rest of us lowly weekend warriors?  Watching athletes who are tops in their field can make anyone green with envy.

How does he DO that?

How DOES he do that?

In a quest to quench my never satisfied thirst of all things inconsequential, I thought this was actually a subject with some teeth.  If, at the end of all this, I came away feeling I had found the keys to the kingdom, (or at least to King James), then perhaps my next mile might just end up being a little bit faster.  Maybe not, but this Disney princess can dream, can’t she?

It was rumored Michael Jordan built a basketball complex in his home for no other reason than for his love of the game.  Not being a BFF of Jordan’s I can’t verify the reasons for why he had it built.  But in this day and age of steroids, crazy salaries, and competition for endorsements, it’s nice to believe someone might have actually done just that.  Play a sport because you love it?  Who ever heard of such a thing?

In all the miles I’ve logged, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever hit that, (what’s for me anyway), elusive runner’s high.  I would give anything to catch it, bottle it, shoot it up, market it, offer it at water stations.  The ability to hit that high more often than not is the stuff dreams are made of.  How I envy those endorphin/adrenaline junkie’s dreams who think nothing of pushing the limits, both mentally and physically.  What an awesome power that must be!

One of the greatest runners ever.

One of the greatest ever.

One thing I think every athlete, whether amateur or pro, has in common, is the desire to overcome adversity.  If it’s nothing more glamorous than getting off the couch to lose weight, or the thrill of having a medal hung around your neck and hearing your national anthem played, we all have a monkey we want off our back.  Some more than others…

Drama aside, he's still one of the best.

Drama aside, he’s still one of the best.

From a relatively small town in Ontario, to an island nation, to a tiny ocean side village on the Pacific, one thing is for certain – the drive and determination of athletes the caliber of Gretsky, Pujols, or Prefontaine, can be an inspiration to us all.


The Great One

The Mang

The Mang

Go Pre

Go Pre!

So the next time you find yourself thinking you can always do those fartleks another day, you really don’t need to finish up those last three miles you planned on running tonight, or what harm can another margarita do, think of the gifts you’ve been given – the gift to move, run, and breathe.  Many are not so lucky.  As Pre said,

“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”

Enjoy the ride.

What drives you to excel?

(All photos courtesy of Google Images.)

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