The difference is if a runner loses, he didn't get a medal, but a professional fighter or body guard who trains just as hard loses more than that. A runner conquers only himself, but a fighter has to conquer both himself and another fighter.
Remind me why we call it a 'Marathon' again?
Martial arts today are a hobby, comparing yourself with military of the past or monks ordered to break the cycle of physical laziness through martial practice is merely what i spoke of- justifying or increasing the importance of something you care about to help make sense of why you are so devoted to it.
If you truly want to be at one with the warriors of history, the forces are recruiting in a town near you as we speak.
As for cooking- that is an art. Learning the complex interelationship between foods, in taste, colour, and texture to create new and exciting experiences for the palate requires years of dedication, practice and knowledge
In the old days a martial artist in China has to be a herbalist, calligrapher and optionally a good cook. I managed only to master the last one.
My point was that the persuit of excellence in anything requires the same dedication, self sacrifice, study and dilligence as many like to make the singular property of MA's.
Devoting yourself to anything with passion and perseverance will teach you much about yourself and life. MA is not the only 'way'