This article aims to look at what motivates athletes to participate in extreme sports whether they be gruelling, dangerous, arduous or just plain challenging.
So Why Do People Participate in Extreme Sports?
- Money: perhaps in some cases. Yet only a few chosen ones will ever make a decent living out of their chosen sport. In triathlons for example the majority of participants are amateurs, who for some non-financial reason have taken time out of their frantic work days and busy personal or family schedule to train for hours and hours, and weeks and weeks on end to swim, bike and run for the limited duration of a race.
- Fame: again maybe, but most people have never heard of Ross Clarke Jones (big wave surfer) or Chrissie Wellington (an undefeated triathlon world champion who defeats most of the top men). Fame is a fickle, fleeting thing. Unless you’re extremely talented, media savvy, a good role model and great at your chosen sport, it will only take a generation and then your forgotten and hardly anyone will remember who you were.
- Ego: I think you can tell in an athlete’s persona when this is the case. Fortunately if your ego is bloated enough and the sport you are doing is extreme enough there is only one thing that will happen. Your ego will get crushed. Or someone better comes along.
- Challenging yourself: Competition with others and with yourself brings out the best . This is the definitive reason or motivation I will participate in any sport. Self-improvement is the main reason people want to challenge themselves.
Striving for Self-Improvement and Reaching Personal Goals
In the 3100 mile race, every moment, every step was taking me closer and closer towards finishing. The feeling I got from improving myself, surpassing miles way beyond my previous personal best, far transcended the physical pain and mental hurdles I faced. The first time I did it, I was basically in agony the entire time, but I was incredibly happy because I was challenging myself.
Self-improvement takes us beyond our present capacities and achievements. It involves staying focused and competing only with ourselves. “If I can improve myself, if I can go beyond my previous achievements, then that is my goal. My own previous record is always what I am competing with” said Sri Chinmoy, founder of the longest ultra-marathon, the 3100 mile race, in reference to his own fitness goals. Many climbers echo the same sentiments “My own previous record is always what I am competing with. I am always looking for goals that are challenging me,” mentioned Ueli Steck, one of the world’s best climbers, “I am not just climbing…I really want to reach my goal.”
Track athletes are no different. 9 time Olympic track and field gold medallist Carl Lewis said:
“The joy that comes from ‘going beyond’ is the most incredible feeling in the world. I have felt it many times. And I have enjoyed watching others experience it.”
It doesn’t really depend on where you are or what you have, if you are short of inspiration you have to seek and find it and it is only going to come from yourself. Challenging yourself in a fitness setting or extreme sport can do this. Self-improvement is the key to life’s journey. Many of us remain stagnant for most of our lives. We get caught by chains of financial and moral responsibilities, stuck in a rut, unable to free ourselves from the monotonous life we are in. The scales get tipped too far and we forget to nourish ourselves and stay positive and happy. It doesn’t take much to turn the situation around, only a desire to extend or better yourself. For some people this might be jogging ten kilometres, studying a new language or taking up a new hobby. For others it might be summiting a peak or riding a hundred foot wave.
Self-improvement involves getting out of your comfort zone but it allows us to smash out of the jail cell or box we feel trapped in. It is going that bit further or taking an extra step or trying that much harder to achieve something, to live our dreams and to become something. If we have faith in ourselves, we can accomplish anything. And with achievement, happiness automatically comes.
Failing and Trying Again
Occasionally we do fail but that is part of it. If do something with one hundred per cent effort, if we put all our patience, devotion and dedication into something without expectation, then we can be happy even if we stumble. We learn from this experience and try again. “It’s not about any records,” mentioned 6 time ironman winner and 2 time duathlon world champion Olivier Bernhard, “As long as I reached my full potential I would be happy at the finish…it’s not about winning, it’s not about the money, it’s about making constant progress and becoming a better person on the lasting journey.” On a personal level, in my four 3100 mile races I have bettered my time every year. My 2012 finish was a week faster than my debut. I won it one year, but the satisfaction from going beyond my personal best was far greater than standing on the podium. Someday I won’t improve and this will be something I will have to deal with in a positive manner.
Everyone wants to progress. Working as a business speaker, I see this thirst for progress all the time. It is very noticeable with ambitious, career-driven people. Someone who achieves a lot in the business world often has focus, concentration, drive and dedication in boundless measure. Athletes are the same, they are just directing and focusing their energies to another area and perhaps gaining a more rewarding experience.
(Video) The Mind Of A 3100 Mile Ultra Runner
Feature Image courtesy of Vincent Thian