We spend our lives obsessed with and controlled by time. We wake up at a certain time, get the kids to school at a certain time, go to work at a certain time, attend meetings at a certain time, leave work at a certain time, fetch the kids at a certain time, and go to bed (mostly) at a certain time … only for the cycle to repeat itself the next day, and the day after that.
For some this brings structure and we call it routine. For others, it brings monotony and inflexibility and we call it boredom. Some love the structure of time and are hardly ever late, while others operate as if time does not exist. It can be argued that where we fall along this continuum informs how we define time – as an immovable finite point or as an elastic band that can be stretched in perpetuity.
When it comes to running, our obsession with time escalates to the point of being unhealthy. Hang around any group of runners and the conversation invariably leads to, “What is your best time for …?”, “How fast can you run this distance?”, “What speed are you training at?” and so on.
When we run, we are constantly monitoring our time, speed and distance. If we can do a 5km in X time, then we should be able to run a half marathon in Y time. Or alternatively, if we want to achieve a target time in a race, then we need to train intervals or thresholds at a certain pace. Hence, time becomes ingrained into our running psyche, becoming the sole criteria that determines our ability.
But running is not all about time; it’s about far more than that. Running is about enjoyment, regardless of the time it takes to complete a race. It’s about the friendships we make, laughter, stories shared, journeys travelled together and supporting one another. Yet we often lose sight of this.
For example, when we get injured, we immediately want to know how long it’ll be until we can run again, rather than what we should be doing to avoid injury in the future. Time becomes the focal point, the end goal, and we lose sight of what actually is important.
In running, as in life, time will always be there – from the start of the gun to the finish line. What really matters is how we spend that time, how we enjoy ourselves, how we support one another and how we thank others for giving up their time .
So, at your next race, don’t focus on your finishing time. Rather focus on enjoying the camaraderie, helping or encouraging others, and thanking those who give up their time (like the marshals and supporters). Time flies when you’re having fun, so focus on the important things and you might fly as well.