Sunday, August 19, 2012

An Ultra Marathon. Of a Certain Sort.

I'm no sports buff. I mean this. I watched the Olympics this year for a grand total of about 45 minutes (including advertisements). I have nothing against the Olympics, of course. I'm sure they're wonderful, the Greatest Show on Earth. Sportspeople - particularly those who seem to triumph against physical, mental and circumstantial odds - deserve all the glory that the Olympic stage provides. I do not contest claims that the Olympics celebrate history, legacy and the triumph of the human spirit in ways that no other event does.

Even so, week in, week out, I find myself drawn to humbler things. To sports I can relate to. To contests I see in my everyday life. There is a whole breed of contemporary competitive sports that we are nurturing unknowingly, by the simple fact of going through the motions of our lives. There's the sport of 'Extracting Maximum Mileage From a Mundane Event by Posting Pictures, Tweets and Status Updates.' There's the sport of 'I Hit More Stores and Got Better Deals' that reaches a peak during sale season. And then there is my current preoccupation - an event that demands more stamina and will than either of these two - 'The Weekend Marathon.'  The race to prove that one's weekend is bigger, better, packed with more than another's. It's not for the faint of heart. It's one of those long-drawn contests, starting early on Friday evenings and terminating very late on Sunday (or very early on Monday). It requires some amount of forethought and planning. And bragging rights last only five days.  

A city tabloid I subscribe to occasionally features a column detailing what the 'cool people' do during weekends. I don't know these cool people personally. When I read about someone who is able to read great literature, take tap-dancing/salsa lessons, visit family and friends, walk dogs along promenades, write poetry, visit organic markets in trendy suburbs, cycle to city limits, bake pies for the elderly (crust made from scratch) - all in two or one and a half days - I find myself thinking: Is this for real? What are these people made of ? Are they multi-taskers? Do they split up for different activities and then compound their schedules? Will they ever write a book about their fabulous Saturday-Sunday lives? Will the release party last All Weekend?  

Then I realize that I do personally know people whose weekends are, in fact, incredibly elastic, crammed with all kinds of goings-on. I have a friend who is a doctor. A surgeon, to be precise. This means that he is really always on call, unlike some of us who feel hard-pressed about 'thinking 24x7.' In between saving lives (or limbs), this friend manages to socialize, raise his family, buy art, visit his farm outside the city every weekend and make it back home in time to offer bags of organic tomatoes to anyone who's dropped in for chai on a Sunday evening, take lessons in watercolour painting and schedule early morning fitness mania. This is the truth. Every last word. I have a colleague whose weekends (as per other colleagues) are the stuff of legend. I've heard her recount a couple of these over lunch and I must say I am impressed, although (if there were a weekend sweepstakes), I would undoubtedly put my money down on my friend.

These weekend ultra-marathoners are human dynamos. Seeing, doing, learning, meeting, eating, drinking. They set the bar for the rest of us.  

There are others types, too. The ones who have retired hurt from the weekend race or decided not to take part at all. The ones who do mysterious things like 4AM 'con-calls' with Norway and audit M&A transactions and file all kinds of applications in all kinds of places, adhering to all kinds of deadlines. These are the ghost-friends - the ones whose presence I sense but can't establish. They become disembodied voices at one end of my cell-phone - kind of awake, but not really.  Because every moment not spent turning the wheels of Big Money is spent sleeping. I never meet them because that would mean that they would have to pull off the covers and get out of bed. These friends also fulfill an important function. They are the people whose weekends make the rest of us feel better about ours.

Then are all the in-betweeners. The more sporadic race-runners. The ones who do a little, then a lot, then a little again with their weekends. The ones who are happy coming in 3rd, 4th or 5th place. The ones who aren't happy, but resigned. The ones whose we-time must be balanced with me-time. The ones who participate just for the fun of it.  

Ha! Honestly though, who am I kidding? Weekend stress gets to all of us.  It's our chance to demonstrate how plugged in, eclectic, fulfilled and interesting we all are. People compete to win. It's the ultimate marathon for the non-athlete. Forget the Olympics. For anyone dealing with mega-event withdrawal, the real event is right here. Complete with live telecasts on Facebook.

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