Professionals and Amateurs. Races which we participate in are the same in triathlon.
Apparently the same sport, same starting line, same course, same distance.
The only differences seem to be in the finishing times, in the equipment and perhaps in the more or less perfect appearance of our bodies. Nevertheless, between the space that separates amateurs and professionals there exists a huge gaping hole.
The differences cannot be resolved. They are differences in mentality, behavior, speaking and in ultimate purpose.
Amateurs are often people looking to reinvent themselves. It’s not uncommon for them to intentionally lose themselves in sports and discover another dimension where they can forget themselves and where they can search for inspiration, new passions and new motivations. They often take up a sport in desperate need of a distraction for a specific period or just to turn off their mind and immerse themselves in something. And that is why each day they find themselves swimming, running and pedaling furiously. They find themselves sticking their head underwater in the pool to drown out their inner thoughts. They find themselves slipping their feet into a pair of running shoes, with the hope that these shoes will take them far away. And rest their butt on the bike saddle hoping that this uncomfortable position would reveal itself as a nice rest from which their heart beats and emotions will start accelerating.
And during all this, you go through elated moments which you narrate with the limited awareness typical of the intoxication of sudden happiness.
You forget anxiety, fear, problems, the hard circumstances of life.
For a professional, the situation is more complicated. He plays another game. He’s on a different ride.
Triathlon for a pro is lifestyle, it’s their existence. It is the obsessive desire to write a new story; his own story and the story of his sport. It is a professional growth, it is a self-construction of an identity with a stronger meaning.
His everyday life is not yours. At times he feels like his sport is his job, something necessary for his personal growth
For amateurs freedom in sports is also the freedom not to practice, to leave for periods, decompress, do something else, to rest their body and mind.
For a professional taking a break is impossible, not allowed. It is a continuous maniacal obsession.
It is the discipline and the methodical approach which makes the professional something you can never be, even if you wished it.
But do not be misled, the life of a pro is not simple. It is easy to be tempted to identify with them. From an amateur’s perspective only the positive aspects of a professionals life are seen. It looks like a movie full of special affects or an amusement park made of dream destinations.
In reality it’s not all so straightforward. The life of a pro, especially in endurance sports, like triathlon, running and cycling, is certainly an opportunity to experience invaluable emotions, strong and all-encompassing. But it is also a tiring route, made up of discipline which is not alway easy to keep up.
It is a daily investment that goes on for years, looking to reach a goal that may never be achieved and indeed, for most of them it will never be realized.
And too often there is the constant fear that if the dream is never realized everything will have been for nothing. The fear that when the limelight fades and the carousel stops spinning, there is a future to be built from scratch, and reinvent themselves again without any guarantee. And they’re probably not 20 years old anymore.
To become a pro it’s not enough to have natural talent and drive; it takes courage to be a pro. You must accept the risks without being scared. You have to believe in yourself and never look back. Ever.
To be a pro you must always be something exceptional and be that as it may, for better or for worse, not all of us were born for it.