Archive for May, 2010

Whatever happened to Inspiration?

May 9, 2010

I’ve been very moved by something I’ve read this month. More of that in a moment, but it had me thinking about where all the really inspiring stories have gone?

I still vividly recall as a kid of thirteen or fourteen years of age first reading my local library copy of “The Unforgiving Minute” – not Kipling, but the book by the great Australian distance runner Ron Clarke. I’d just joined my first (and current!) running club, but, as a young sprinter I have no clear idea why I should have been so affected by a story about an athlete in completely different worlds (involving Australia, distance running, and talent, for starters). It just moved me. (And it’s just moved me in a dfifferent way to find that my mint condition second-hand bookshop copy, which cost me 30 pence, now seems to be selling via a dealer on Amazon at £120!)

Since then, I’ve stumbled upon several other authors who have not just informed and entertained me, but have told me something important about life, my tiny part in it, and what makes it all tick. To many readers, they’re probably pretty obscure. Hamish Brown’s “Hamish’s Mountain Walk”, Ralph McTell’s “Angel Laughter”, are possibly two of the better known. Possibly. This isn’t a blog about how they affected me, and they’d as like as not do it for you. They’re just context for where I’m heading.

I think that despite reading more, on paper and on screen, I’m seeing less that inspires me these days – that or it is just becoming harder to find the diamonds in the dust. Or then again, as you get older, does it perhaps take stronger and rarer stuff to grab you and shake you?

As an occasional photographic contributor to the American National Masters News journal, I get sent a copy each month. This May’s edition carries a hugely inspriring article by Carroll DeWeese, who is a senior official in the US athletics governing body, and a Masters athlete. The title will give you the context: “I have prostate cancer; Athletics has been a training ground to prepare”.

The article itself is only is on the Members only section of the magazine’s site at present, but my American buddy Ken Stone has recently interviewed Carroll for his MastersTrack web site, and you can read that here . Uncomfortable subject matter, perhaps, but it was this paragraph, in the magazine article that moved me:

“I have learned to compete as a means of finding out about myself and my own capabilities. At times, I have done less than my best and won. At other times I have done my very best and been way down in the standings. Whatever the external recognition, it is my own performance that really counts. We compete against ourselves and use others to help us to do our best. To me the ultimate standard is how close we can get to our own potential, not how many people we beat or how many awards we get. Ultimately we learn that the true standard is our self, not the comparison with others. Athletics has taught me this.”

I can neither fault that, nor top it. Read it again.

Stay well.