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Townsman of a stiller town

8 December, 2009

My coach at LGRR made a good point about cross-country the other day, which was, essentially, that it’s not about the time, the distance, or the pace. It is about the competition, going head-to-head, the elbows and the knees. Whatever you can draw on to get to the finish line fast, before the stumbling oaf ahead, or the monsters breathing down your neck and ready to pounce. And who knows what you can draw on until you are forced to tap that well of inner resource? How deep does the river run, how low sinks the well?

Which brings me to some sad news. While some of us are getting stuck in the mire down by the ocean, others are seeking the thrills of mountain views and winter sports. Very often my reaction to the deaths of extreme sports enthusiasts whom I don’t know runs something along the lines of, ‘It’s too bad, but where would we be without natural selection, especially the self-selecting kind?’ However, the more I read about Peter Holmes, long-distance runner and ITU communications officer, the more I’m tempted to believe that he was one of those few honoured by the gods, in the classical tradition, with death at a young age.

“Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.”
from A.E. Housman’s To an Athlete Dying Young

I didn’t know the guy, beyond following his blog intermittently, but he reportedly died after trying to help a faltering friend while they were snowshoeing on Goat mountain this weekend. He wound up falling 400 metres to his death. It seems as though, having achieved so much at such a young age, he would surely have gone on to greater things. A tragedy then, and what can be said but please be careful everyone, growing old still beats dying young.

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