the spaz of fitness has arrived

Why We Lie

In General, Training on January 17, 2013 at 11:45 am

I’m going to guess that most of you have read about the bizarre Manti Te’o story. As one entirely ignorant of football, I had never even heard of Manti Te’o before reading the article, and was just stunned by many elaborate twists in this tale. A quick summary for those who might live in just as much of a cave as I do: Manti Te’o is a linebacker for Notre Dame who garnered a lot of press in 2012. Apparently, he’s the most decorated collegiate football player of all time (thank you, Wikipedia). But that’s not the full explanation for why he’s received so much attention in the past year.

In September 2012, Te’o announced that he’d lost his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, within twenty-four hours. Kekua apparently suffered a car accident after a long bout of leukemia, yet Te’o bravely played on and led his football team to dramatic triumph. It would be inspirational, if it were true. Probing media inquiries have found that no one by the name of Lennay Kekua ever enrolled at Stanford– where she allegedly studied. Government records reveal no deaths under the name of Lennay Kekua. Now the story splits. Many media reports implicate Te’o in the scam and accuse him of contriving the story for publicity’s sake. Te’o himself, and Notre Dame, insist that he was innocent– lured into an internet relationship, which he believed to be genuine… and he suffered a very real heartbreak as the dupe of some depraved scammer.

The story has weirder details and twists, but I’ll let you read the actual press if you’re interested.

On a different, but similar thread, I discovered this article this morning about Kip Litton. Actually, Litton’s story ate up my entire designated morning work time. Litton’s a curious character, who appeared on the marathon scene with relatively impressive race times. However, one reporter’s very thorough investigation discovered many questionable gaps in Litton’s achievements. Race photos frequently show Litton at the beginning or end of a race, but rarely in the middle. His race times show questionably superhuman negative splits. He admits to making up the website for one of his first marathons… he has slippery stories and explanations for most things. Despite all the questionable evidence, no one has been able to figure out how he has cheated the system– how his tracker makes it cross all the checkpoints, etc… yet all evidence heavily suggests that he has cheated.

As I read Litton’s story (and in part, Te’os– when I wasn’t being weirded out by the whole idea of a made-up person), I was just… profoundly sad. What resonates beneath both these narratives is this terrible sense of insufficiency.

Whether or not Te’o had to overcome his girlfriend’s death, he is undoubtedly a phenomenal football player. Before Litton started sneaking his way across finish lines, he had impressive run times– and he actually did progress from an out-of-shape middle-aged man to an actual runner (I think…). But… for either of these people to lie (hypothetically– I won’t make assumptions about Te’o, despite where the evidence points), he would do so out of insecurity– that what he has accomplished is not enough.

I’m actually a little haunted by the Litton article. I can’t stop thinking about this man… how empty it would feel to wait quietly by the finish line and step across it for the last two seconds of a race– how hollow it would feel to be surrounded by exhausted, wearied but satisfied, sweaty bodies that had slogged through 26.2 miles (that’s the length of a marathon right? #notarunner), knowing that he’d sat his lazy ass by the finish line just so he could put down a faster number than everyone else. I think about how good I feel after a hero WOD– after forty-some minutes when everyone’s splayed on the floor of the box… when rounds and times don’t matter because everyone gave themselves to the moment, and that satisfaction of having held nothing back. No wonder Litton’s “fake” marathons became something of an addiction– it seems to me like he’s trying to fill himself with empty praise because he can’t find actual fulfillment… and that satiety comes from within, not from times you can post on a website and compare with others.

But I can’t entirely demonize people like Te’o and Litton (okay, if Te’o made up a dying girlfriend to manipulate viewer sympathetic, I do hate him a little)… but I get it– it’s so easy to feel… not good enough. Human beings are fragile and insecure (many of us anyway– if you’re not, way to go!), and if that desperate yearning for recognition and accomplishment goes ignored for too long, the world feels hopeless and isolating. Obviously, these people went about it the wrong way… and Litton will actually never feel good enough if he keeps making up marathon times. But I think that’s where it originates from– not some malicious desire to deceive the world… just a sad, pathetic man’s longing to be better than he is.

With my last month of backsliding, I’m a little discouraged– but, for now, I still feel unusually optimistic. I know that I’ve been giving this my all… I’ve spent countless hours (days? months?) of research and talking to coaches– in person and online– to figure out a training program. I’ve scrutinized and documented my diet to the point that I can now tinker with macros in isolation and figure out what works best for me. I lift with everything I have when I’m in there and… yeah, the numbers aren’t where I want them now, but I’m working on it… And when I leave the gym, I can be happy with that. And, more importantly (for my sanity and my career), I can also forget the gym for the periods I need to to focus on my schoolwork and my teaching (not that I’m not still reading CrossFit Journal in my cubicle…)

Also… many thanks to my friends for these moments of clarity that I’ve been having lately. I know a sense of self-worth has to come from within and from making peace with yourself… but all your support and your understanding have definitely been the key to getting me here.

So many hugs to the universe.

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  1. Great post! It’s amazing what people will do to gain that little bit of extra fame and/or so-called achievement only to be stripped away and suffer public embarrassment in the end. Some can’t be happy with being a great football player or a sucessful dentist. Keep working hard…have goals and dreams and be happy with the successes you achieve.

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