Last week I made my first bike tour after the winter. The winter had been long and also the week before the ride had been quite cold. But in the end the temperature rose, the night frosts went away, and the weather forecast promised nice weather for the days to come. So time to start a new bike season. On my first ride I was relaxed, I did not overstrain myself on the hills, and back home after a bit more than an hour, I could be satisfied with my average speed, thanks to my winter training on my bike trainer and by running in the wood. The average speed is always important for me and when it fits with how I felt during the ride, it is even better. By why should it be so important for me?
The Belgian philosopher Marc Van den Bossche has recently published a book about sport as a way of living. Van den Bossche is an academic philosopher and also a very active sportsman. Like me he is a runner and a cyclist, his distances are often double of what I do, if not more, and it is not exceptional that he trains twice a day, which I never do. Just as for me, times and records are important for him. However, somewhere in his book he writes: “I’d stake a few pints that after having run a half or a whole marathon or after having climbed the entire Mont Ventoux [on your bike], you’ll get this question: ‘In what time did you do it?’ It will be very exceptional when someone will ask you in a first reaction what your subjective experiences were, a question you could answer by saying: ‘Man, I have enjoyed it sooo much. It wasn’t sex but you can compare it with it”. What Van den Bossche questions here is whether times for a sportsman not training for competition (so one like me) are really important. Why needs our joy to have a measure? Isn’t our subjective feeling by far more important than an objective measure? So Van den Bossche says, although he likes to improve his results as much as I do.
When reading Van den Bossche’s arguments and explanations, in my heart I feel he is right. What’s the worth of all this competing with yourself, when you know that the real reason that you do sports is different? That you do sports simply because you want to run or make a ride, that it is a way for you to be in the wood, and that as such it is a pleasure to feel fit? That you would do it despite the measurable results? That at your age you run behind the facts, because you have passed your top already long ago and that fundamentally every next run and ride will be a bit slower than the last one, just because at a certain age you can only go backwards? Yes, Van den Bossche is right! I must stop measuring and I must enjoy my efforts as they are. It is not that it is not pleasant to measure my results, but for me it has no sense to make a fetish of them.Actually, I had decided already to practice this new way of enjoying my runs and rides before I read the book. And yet, when I’ll take my bike tomorrow, I know that I’ll check my bike computer when I am back home, and I’ll be satisfied if my average speed was a good one.