boys in the boat

Recently the following question was posed on the website, irunfar, “Are runners better people on average than non-runners?”

Now this question may seem odd and even a bit presumptuous, but I would imagine that many of you have asked yourselves similar questions about the practitioners of your passions and professions.  If you are a musician, an artist, a teacher, a cyclist, a writer, or a traveler, I bet there were times when you felt that your fellow enthusiasts were better than the average folk.

Geoff Roes, a former ultrarunning champion, had an interesting take on this question.  He said, “I think that all people are inherently good people, but running does a huge part to help people to be closer to this reality.  People who have a daily practice like running tend to be healthier, more grounded, and happier.  It’s not that better people are attracted to running, it’s that running generally does a really good job of nurturing the goodness in people.”

I feel that the same could be said for any activity that is pursued on a daily basis and in a deliberate manner.  When you do something consistently, with a goal of progressive improvement, you will most likely be a healthier and happier person.  It doesn’t matter what that passion is, the key is to find one and pursue it wholeheartedly.

A few weeks ago I interviewed the author of The Boys in the Boat, a book about the 1936 University of Washington rowing team.  The team was made up of working class kids struggling through the worst of the Great Depression.  These nine guys discovered rowing and each other at a time when they most needed something to latch on to.  They were total underdogs that competed against the elite crews of Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and eventually Hitler’s own German team at the Berlin Olympics.

It was a shared passion for rowing that gave these guys a sense of purpose and a common goal.  The end result of which was that they not only became better rowers, but better individuals as well.

Like many great works of nonfiction The Boys in the Boat contains elements of several genre:  sports, history, science and psychology.  It also has a great sense of time and place.  Before reading the book I hardly knew anything about collegiate rowing or the Great Depression or the fine art of boat building or the use of Nazi propaganda at the 1936 Olympics, but I loved learning about each of these interesting subcultures and specific points in history.

Here’s a link to the interview…Enjoy.