Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Although I’ve spent my whole adult life involved in sport, I still have big reservations about large parts of it. I’ve read a lot of work on the history and philosophy of sport, and to be perfectly honest, a good chunk of it makes for depressing reading. I wish more of it could be more like the way it’s supposed to be.
The fact that climbing on mountains and cliffs is hard to pin down, hard to reduce to numbers and results and competition was quite an important aspect of what drew me into it. It’s hard to say ‘I had a better adventure than you’. Even as a climbing coach, I’ve sometimes been uneasy seeing young climbers come up against some of these negatives. Sometimes I wonder if I should say ‘skip the comp this time’. Go and explore somewhere new with some friends and come back for the next comp. As well as providing the essential ability to see outside the bubble of the scene, the perspective might well make a better competitor in the long run.
Kev pointed to this picture on Facebook, of a Basque athlete helping a Kenyan who’d stopped running a few metres short of the finish line in a cross country event, thinking he’d already passed it. The Basque runner could have run right past and won the race. But he stopped to direct the Kenyan over the line, staying behind and keeping the place he would have got if the Kenyan hadn’t made a simple human error. The surprising thing for me was that the attention this story got was as a ‘rare’ piece of sportsmanship. Why shouldn’t it be the norm?
After getting my ankle surgery in November, I decided to enter a running race for the first time, and see how it went. I thought it would be good as a goal to help get me back on my feet and moving fast in the mountains again. I entered the West Highland Way Race for next June. Although I have done quite a lot of hill running at different times over the past year or two, like anyone getting involved in a new scene I was a bit nervous about how welcoming it would be to someone who is known as ‘a climber’. Yesterday a friend told me about this thread started about my entry, which was a bit of a downer. When I experienced this sort of thing as a teenager doing sport at school, I hated it, avoided it and eventually found it’s antidote in going climbing. This time round I don’t need to react like that. But if I am able to recover from my injury enough to do it, it will be weird to stand on the start line knowing I’m standing with others who feel I don’t deserve to be there. My slowly healing ankle joint is the only thing that would stop me earning a place. As I said on the thread, if anyone feels I really don’t deserve the chance as much as them, drop me a line and I’ll offer to withdraw and donate my place.