Sunday, February 10, 2008

On Sport and Writing

I've never thought of myself as athletic, but there are certain sporting events that capture my imagination. No, not the rugby. I'm just not a true Kiwi in that regard - I have no interest whatsoever. But one event that usually has me checking the results is the annual Coast to Coast adventure race.

Over two days - or one, for the really ambitious - New Zealand's top adventure racers (and some from overseas) cycle, run, and paddle their way from one side of the South Island to the other, across the mountains and the plains to finish at Sumner Beach not far from here. Some are there to try to win, others just to say they did it.

There are usually a number of people I know among the competitors, often fellow members of my orienteering club. It's the sort of event I could imagine myself competing in - but only in my imagination, never in real life!

First, the attraction. I grew up spending a lot of time outside - climbing trees, swimming in the sea, clambering over rocks, making hideouts in the bushes. I think of myself as an outdoors person, but in a rather dreamy contemplative kind of way, not in terms of "further, higher, faster". When I think about the sports I find interesting, though, they are the ones that take place in natural settings - climbing, sea kayaking, adventure racing etc.

The hitch is, of course, the deadline. Those people who do the Coast to Coast just for the sake of doing it? They are still a whole lot faster than I'll ever be. If you don't finish the mountain run by a certain time, you are not allowed to complete the course. The fastest people in our orienteering club do courses more than twice as long as the ones I do, in less than half the time. The fastest ever runner of the Coast to Coast did it in ten hours or so. The slowest ever, twenty four hours. The maths doesn't stack up.

Do you believe that you can do anything you want to do? I don't. That is, I do believe that if I wanted to cross the island by foot, mountain bike and kayak, I could do it. Given a week or so. (But the safety infrastructure wouldn't be there at other times of the year, so I'd be unlikely to try it).

Given enough time, we can probably all do way more than we imagine. But some of us are always going to take longer than others. Fortunately, writing isn't a timed activity. Some poets write a poem a day (I did myself, for a month last April. Most of them were rubbish, but the experience was exhilarating). Other poets spend years perfecting each poem. In the end, it doesn't matter how many attempts and rewrites you make - what matters is the poem itself, the end result.

On the other hand, if you need to leap across a ravine, it has to be in one leap. If it takes you more than one, you're in trouble!


Anonymous said...

wow, that's a heck of a hing to do. I can't even wrap me head around being that active over a period of two days. geez.

michele sne tme to say hi


I passed by a rugby game once...when people were exploring it here in the States. I have never seen an actual rugby game played. I wonder if some people in Europe have never seen a football game played. Michele sent me. Michele sent me. :-)

Bob-kat said...

That sounds like quite a challenging event!

I agree totally with what you say about being able to achieve anything you want. I don't beleive it either. There are too many constraints and demands placed on us day to day for a start, and then there are physical limitations too. I would love to see the earth from space but I know I am never going to achieve it. Not unless I become very rich and pass stringent health checks.

I worry when children are told they can do anything they wnat to if they want it enough. I think it can just set the majority up for disappointment.

Michele sent me over to say hi.

Sara said...

I believe we can do anything we want - but that we have to be realistic with our wants!!!! And, Hello, Michele sent me to say that I enjoyed that post a lot...

kenju said...

Before the TV show Survivor, there was an adventure race on TV, hosted by the guy who now hosts The Amazing race. I loved watching that show; it had all the drama of a made for TV movie, and the tru athleticism of many contestants. I'd love to see it again. It must be a little like your event. Michele says hello.

chiefbiscuit said...

I'm like you - not a sports fan at all. Sometimes though I will get swept up in a special event. Haven't heard much about the Coast to Coast this year - but I do admire the spirit behind all that endeavour.

Omykiss said...

The guys who do the coast to coast are just amazing .... I don't believe I could do it .. not in the time required.

I am thinking of doing the 'Round-the-Bays' this year. It's a 8.4Km run around Auckland's waterfront. I reckon i can do that ... there's no time limit so walking's allowed :)

Jan said...

Sports folk ARE fantastic in their stamina and dedication and talent...but so are many others, all in their own partucular fields( yes, you can include farmers, I suppose....)

m said...

Hi catherine

hope you are busy not ill !


rashbre said...

Passing by and saying Hi.

Anonymous said...

I have always been thrilled to follow these types of coast to coast races. I think at my age, watching the youngsters make millions playing a team sport has worn off of me. It is now these feats of endurance which impresses me.

First time to your blog! Very nice!