13 Jan 2007
My friend Kathy does not want to race. She, herself, has assured me of this. She recently joined a local women’s cycling team — Not to race, you understand, but because they have a cool jersey.
Kathy will go to great lengths to acquire a jersey, so maybe she really doesn’t like to race.
It isn’t in the hope of running faster than someone else. Most of the people faster than I, I classify as “out of my league.” Rusty? Aaron? Garrett? Mike? Shiggy? No.
When I race, I’m striving to run as fast as I can for that distance, I’m not striving to run faster than any particular person. The glory of a race is that there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people out there helping me to run faster (of course from their perspective, I’m helping them). Somehow the mere presence of a great crowd, each striving to do his/her best is very motivating.
Garrett fading in the distance in front of me pulls me along, the knowledge that there’s someone (anyone!) behind me who’ll catch me if I ease off pushes me on.
There is a thrill of anticipation before the race, culminating in a vast shock when the gun goes off. There is a joy in pushing myself to my limit, an intensity of purpose as I try to keep going even after my mind is ready to give up and cry. At the end there is the final clock, relentlessly ticking off seconds — can I get there before the next minute rolls around? (or, as Maggie would have it, the next second).
And then it’s over. And I’m often very proud of myself. But what a silly thing to be proud of. Ephemeral. Transient. Pointless.
But looked at in the wrong sense, everything is pointless. A flower is ephemeral too.
Not pointless to me. And in my memory not ephemeral either. Joy in the moment. Joy in the effort.
Let us drink and sport today,
Ours is not tomorrow.John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera