Today I ran in the Yorkshire Cross Country Championships at the Lightwater Valley theme park in North Yorkshire. This is the first time I have run in a “proper” cross country, which involved, for the Senior Men (AKA Grownups), a gruelling 10K over grass, some mud and a couple of sharp uphill sections on each of 5 laps. To say that was “hard” would be an understatement and you would have thought a time of about 53 minutes for such a tough 10K would be OK but consider this: even with that time, I was 304th out of 317 runners.
This was proper athletics. This was the kind of meeting that chooses athletes to compete at county, national and even international level. This is the kind of meeting where you might compete against world class athletes.
And here’s the question, does someone like me really belong in such a field?
We recently watched the film “Eddy the Eagle” very loosely based on the experiences of the British ski jumper Eddy Edwards. Running against all these top-class athletes, today I felt a bit like Eddy because for me against these guys, there is no comparison.
But then I remembered a fictitious conversation (in the film) between Eddy and the champion Matti Nykänen, (the “Flying Finn”) in the elevator leading to the top of the 90 meter jump. Nykänen had payed Eddy a complement who thought he was taking the piss, but he corrected him saying:
“Do you think I am being patronising? No, no,
You and me are like 1 o’clock and 11 o’clock.
You see we are closer to each other than the others.
Winning, losing, all that stuff is for the little people.
Men like us, we jump to free our souls.
We are the only two jumpers with a chance to make history today.
If we do less than our best with the whole world watching….
It will kill us inside. For all time.”
This for me, sums up nicely the difference between so-called elite athletes and the rest of us. And, that is, very little. We share the love of the sport and ones willingness to give the best we are capable of. And, if we do all that, then winning or losing, all that stuff, really is for the little people.
“Rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22:2 NIV)