Joan Benoit Samuelson on Pleasing Yourself

In Chapter Five of her autobiography (Running Tide) Olympic marathon legend Joan Benoit Samuelson talks about life-balance and burn-out:

I like to compare Joan Benoit, the athlete, to a pyramid. I started my running life with a wide foundation in sports — tennis, skiing, baseball, and all the others. Slowly, my interests narrowed. The pyramid rose and headed toward a point at the top. I haven't reached that point yet, which is why I'm still running. Other people — some of the products of the Cape Elizabeth swimming program, for instance — reversed the pyramid. They started with an obsession to swim and tried to build the infrastructure of an athletic career on top of that tiny little point. The giant complex teetered more and more frequently as they got older until it finally came crashing down on itself. No one from that program has gone on to become a world-class swimmer, though the talent seemed to be there in a couple of cases. Of course Maine isn't exactly a breeding ground for swimmers, and not everyone has the drive to stay with a sport — especially one as demanding as swimming. But these kids were beautifully coached and appeared to be dedicated. My best explanation is that they woke up one morning and began to wonder if their lives outside the pool had any meaning. Where had they been while the rest of us played pickup basketball games? Why were they chasing a dream whose origins they could no longer pinpoint? Had they really tried to build their whole lives around swimming? My theory is that they weren't swimming to please themselves. Satisfying yourself is the key to any success, but especially in athletics. You have to know, deep inside, that you love what you are doing — not because the coach or your parents want it for you, but because you desire it for yourself.

(cf. Joan Benoit Samuelson (2008-01-06), ...) - ^z - 2008-02-23

(correlates: Inventing a Running Machine, InvisibleWriting, MagnaFortuna, ...)