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!