Brent Berlin and Paul Kay are best known for their work in linguistics on basic color terms and understanding their evolution, which falls into the realm of Linguistic Relativity.

Their most famous work, Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, published in 1969, posits seven different stages in which cultures fall with regards to their usage of color. Stage I languages and cultures use only two color terms for cool and warm colors (dark-light) compared to Stage VII which has more than eight different color terms (English has eleven).

The inevitable question..

If you do not have a name for a color, can you perceive that color?

When a culture or language does not have a word for a color such as green, do they still see green as we see green? Sure, their lack of a name for that color, or rather, it’s grouping into a larger category does not exclude the fact that they can still perceive it. The grass at your favorite baseball stadium still maintains the same wave length that we, as humans, perceive. We as English speakers call the grass, green, but another language without that name may place it into a larger grouping. Pink still exists, but they simply do not have a word to categorize the shade that we call pink.

Maybe Berlin and Kay’s next of kin should be called to investigate the different ways we can define ourselves as an endurance athletes.

Slow.Fast.Vegan.Vegetarian.Paleo.Slow Carb.Low Carb.High Carb.Ultra Runner.Runner.Am I a runner?.MOP.5k’er.Cyclist.Cat-1.Cat-2.Elite.Trailrunner. Skyrunner.

Huh?

To make matters worse, there are actually conversations that attempt to pick the exact moment in the space-time continum where we become one of these labels.

Ultra runners are considered ultra runners if they have done a 50k, so those who have run 27 miles are out. Are you a triathlete if you swim, bike, run and never race? Are you an ultra runner if you regularly put in 50 mile days but never toe the line?

Where labeling takes the cake is with regards to nutrition. From paleo to vegan and frutarian, there has to be a label for each form of nutrition or way of eating. Naming a way to eat makes it real, and allows people with similar viewpoints to form a tribe.

If there isn’t a label, either…

1) No one has written a book yet
2) No one has written a blog post on it yet
3) No one else is doing it just that way.

My issue with labels?

Why do you follow a diet so close without figuring out what is the optimal mix that works for you? Or what is wrong with simply ‘eating healthy or eating clean’ or training for a race regardless of what you call yourself? Note: I make a distinction for those that are veg/vegan for ethical means or for those who have a specific food allergy that need to avoid it. I understand their unwavering dedication. 

For many who prescribe to a certain nutritional label, once you go off of that label, even for a quick minute, the guilt feelings come up. Once you are an ultra runner and you are hurt, running a 5k can be seen as a source of embarrassment because you are an ultra runner, right? You shouldn’t run anything under 50k.

You move with two feet. You are a runner. Simple. There’s no initiation or membership fee. You are it. 

When we place a name or a label onto an action or a part of who we are, we immediately are that action or label. We are defined by it You know what you are when you follow a plant based diet? Someone who follows a plant based diet. You who you are a runner when you run, no matter the distance.

If you write once a week are you a writer? If I ride once a week am I a cyclist? Who grants me the authority to be any of those?

In Kansas City, for two weeks I decided to eat vegetarian. Eating vegetarian lasted only a few days when I ate a burger at a friend’s BBQ. So, I ceased to be vegetarian, right?

What did happen is I maintained some of those recipes and use them today even though I stopped following just that one way to do things.

I ate better. It didn’t matter if I ate vegetarian.

Instead of placing labels on who I am, I’m increasingly noticing what I do, and looking at the intersection between the two. Instead of being a vegetarian/paleo/vegan, I eat better. Instead of worrying about being an ultra runner or mountain runner, I train and I run. I’m not waiting for someone to hand me a membership card and welcome me into the clubhouse.

You don’t have to be someone to have permission to do something. You simply do it and strive find the best version of yourself.

Isn’t that why we are here?

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