By The Spotter
Last Sunday morning I did my first running event in ten years. Once upon a time I managed to run marathons. But the last one was so long ago, sportsfreak was still several years away from starting.
I’m a nervy bugger at the best of times and the legs turned to jelly as soon as they sounded the air horn to start. A whole crowd of kids shot past and it felt like I would need to stop for a sneaky walk after a kilometre and a half because the stomach was still churning with a kind of irrational, clawing dread. With a kilometre to go, I felt a tightness in my right calf muscle, I could hear the right knee clicking and the breathing felt wheezy…and the whole race was only five kms in total.
But I got there in the end. About six minutes slower than I could do once, but the important thing is, I finally took the leap after a long hiatus to enter something. And made it to the end without losing my Weetbix over a grass verge somewhere along the way.
Because there’s never been any such thing as a ‘fun run’ for me- nineteen years after stranding my future wife on the start line of a 5km run when we were supposed to be walking it together, my competitiveness will likely never completely subside. And she still charlies me on the leg whenever that incident gets brought up. Hell hath no fury like a woman abandoned at a start line when she hates exercise in the first place.
I ambitiously thought I might have a shot at vanquishing my great mate’s fifteen year-old son over the 5km. I caught him up at about the 3 and a half kilometre mark and told him “Come on James, let’s finish it together”. One minute later I was walking as he drew away. Ha; silly and naïve old crock.
There were five different events of varying distances for ‘The Devonport Half Marathon.’ By far the biggest field was for the half marathon itself. There were at least a couple of thousand. And what I would say is that I have the most undying admiration for all of them. But especially for those who are the wrong shape for running like the wind, yet somehow guts out these incredible finishing times, or even just make it to the end and can still talk lucidly to their friends. I would be just about on a stretcher.
Every single one of those people (from age 7 to upwards of 70) who put themselves out there in front of plenty of onlookers and gave everything to get to that finish line, and in many cases trying for a personal best time, would be far more deserving of any place in any future Olympics over- I was going to bring it up at some point- some sedentary, pizza or polenta eating (junk food or health food, it’s completely irrelevant), gamer. And don’t think that I’m anti-video games. I play them with my son. But to have it in the Olympics? Choke, gasp.
Look at it another way: Would it be normal to hold a marathon race out on the roads as a part of an e-gaming festival? Therefore it would be just as daft and ill-fitting to put electronic game-playing into the Summer Olympics. The whole Olympic charter and definition of what parameters constitute an actual Olympic event needs clearer clarification from the IOC.
The money and popularity argument should be redundant. House construction is a lucrative and widespread industry. Should the IOC include that in the future as well? And let’s not stop there. How about Cluedo and Monopoly? They’ve both been pretty popular through the years, and both involve skill and strategy. This is exactly the point- it’s ludicrous beyond belief.
Athletes are married to physicality- be it in suffering through physical pain or in using a range of muscle groups to do their sport. They are susceptible to a range of debilitating injuries as a result. The only physical ailment E-gamers are likely to suffer from is a sharp sensitivity to natural light. Are these console-lovers destined to one day in the future number amongst our greatest Olympians?
And it’s all probably going to happen sooner rather than later. As a follower of sport as I believe it to be (a pursuit with at least a modicum of physicality), I’ll truly feel as though the IOC is giving the middle fingered salute if it’s all ratified. And the reason why they didn’t tell the E-sport chiefs to go and organise their own worldwide games? Surprise, surprise: money.
When the NZ government of the time launched their ‘Push Play’ initiative to combat obesity some years ago, they could never have envisaged that very message would be ‘misinterpreted’ to mean a huge increase in the amount of e-game playing. You’ve got to laugh.
Paul M (firstname.lastname@example.org)