Is Hiking a Sport?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Is Hiking a Sport?

During a long tenure as the Los Angeles Times hiking columnist, my weekly column, titled “Hiking” was published in three different sections of the newspaper: first, in View (California lifestyle) on Thursdays; next, Calendar (what’s happening around town) on Fridays; and finally, Travel on Sundays.

Is Hiking a Sport?

Over the years editors of all these sections of the paper explained why hiking could fit into their particular purview: readers want to get out into nature.

One Los Angeles Times editor, though, was dead certain he didn’t want Hiking in his section.

“No way is hiking a sport,” longtime Times Sports editor Bill Dwyre told me. “A sport has to have competition.”

Doubtless most sports writers and sportscasters, along with most fans of the major sports, would agree with the old school sports columnist, though the word “competition” is nowhere to be found in the dictionary definition of sport. In fact, with sport usually defined as “any activity that gives enjoyment or recreation,” hiking is a sport according to Webster’s and other dictionaries.

Sport or not, admittedly, there’s little competition in hiking. Hikers sometimes race each other up a mountain. But that’s really trail-running, which is really running which, at its most competitive, is definitely a sport. Likely there are record-holders for completing various trails in the fewest number of hours or days, but neither hikers nor anyone else pays any attention to such feats.

Recently one of my jock-ish friends spelled out the difference between “real sports” and a recreation like hiking: “Sports take place on fields and courts and so on that are made by man; hiking is something you do way out there in nature.”

And hikers wouldn’t have it any other way.

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