Time and Opportunity


Occasionally it happens that I come across the same message or advice in more than one place over a short period of time. It’s the sort of experience that gives you the impression that it might be  a good idea to pay some attention.

I’ve been reading through Ian O’Riordan’s recently published book on distance running called ‘Miles to Go – Promises to Keep’ and it’s full of good stuff. From amongst the various anecdotes in the book, one idea popped out as making a lot of sense, and that was that in life the lines of time and opportunity will not always run in parallel. I took this to mean that although we sometimes behave as if we’ll have the chance to run all of the races that we’d like to, and to sample all of the many other delights that our sport has to offer, that this will not be true. It’s a deceptively simple concept and one that’s quite easy to brush aside on the assumption that it’s just too bloody obvious; but I think it’s at least worth keeping in mind as we decide how to enjoy our time running. It’s so easy to ‘keep on keeping-on’ and to store our ambitions away for some other time, that it’s at least worth considering the possibility that if we don’t take the chances that present themselves at this time that those opportunities may not arise again. Of course, it’s perfectly possible and reasonable to be comfortable with the obvious transience of opportunity; but to convince ourselves that we’ll always have the chances that we have right now just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Having put Ian’s book down, I picked up Mike Bouscaren’s ‘Ultrarunning: My Story’, which, although a little densely written in places, is also a very well worthwhile read. Only a few pages into the book, I read Mike’s advice that, from his point of view, races are not really competitive events but rather ‘opportunities’. From what I can tell, Mike views each ultramarathon event that he enters as an opportunity to propel himself into a more vivid experience of the world using long distance running as his medium. Mike has grown happy to set aside his competitive instinct in favour of a more direct connection with the world as he can see, feel and sense it when he runs very long distances. He makes a clear distinction between being what he calls a ‘pusher’ and a ‘puller’, in a running context. To make more sense of that I suppose you’re just going to have to read the book. Although I’m only working my way through the early chapters, it’s immediately obvious that Mike has thought a great deal about his experience of running ultramarathons and that he has a lot of original and insightful ideas to offer.


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