Michael Barry (PRO cyclist) has been writing columns in the NY Times on a number of cycling topics. Today he had a piece on Lance Armstrong's return to cycling. While I don't really care about Armstrong's return, unless he decides to ride Flanders, Roubaix or any of the other spring classics, I did like some of what he said about Armtrong's addiction to the sport. I think at times all cyclists can relate.
He tells of Armstrong's Michelin atlas full of highlighted training routes and how he would search for new roads to try. He also related experiences about pro cyclists and their need to race (which I cannot identify with since I am not a PRO). But at the end of his piece he wrote this...
On a bike, riding alone, in the environment I feel at peace and can escape. Pushing myself in training to attain new levels, I feel the rhythm of the pedal stroke, the spinning wheels, my breath beneath the ticking chain. My mind is focused as there is clarity making me content.
I think if you take out the cycling references you could apply this quote to all sports and why some people are active in sports their whole life. I think that it provides focus, security, and selfish alone time with a positive outcome. Of course there are always folks who take it too far and rely on it like a drug, but for most people I think the quote rings true, especially if you replace "training" with "riding, running, swimming or any other sport.