Six days in the groove (part 2)
Here's the second half of my long-read, unfiltered, first-draft report of my recent six-day race in France
… At the end of each lap, an electronic scoreboard updated your distance. People would stop at it almost every lap to check their progress. It was only one more lap. You didn't really need to look. But I realised the numbers were crucial to this race. I was chasing the numbers. Everyone was chasing their own numbers. Everyone had a goal distance they hoped to run. Some were looking for a personal best, others an age-group record, or, for some, a national record. Everyone had a numerical target dangling in front of them, pulling them forward. Was that all this was? A maths exercise? Was there no deeper reason for putting ourselves through this?
Sometime about 48 hours into the race, I decided to release myself from the iron grip of the numbers. To cut myself off from the slave-driving force of the Garmin, constantly whipping me to stay ahead of my 6km-an-hour red line. It was killing me, trying to stay ahead of that line. Surely there was more to this race than clocking up numbers?
With the watch off, I immediately felt better. Without the tyranny of the clock, it was like I could look around and take in my surroundings for the first time. Such wild trees everywhere, their fat, upward branches writhing like horned sea monsters. Smiling French campers cheered as I went by, and I waved back. I started talking more to the other runners, risking the Gallic shrug by daring to speak to them in English. One of the runners I spoke to was from the US, the race leader, Bob Hearn.
“Hi,” I said, as he passed.
“Hi,” he replied. I quickened my pace to keep up with him. He wasn’t going that much faster, and I could use a chat as an incentive to put in a few quicker laps.
“I've had an epiphany,” he said, just like that. “I’ve turned off my watch.”