11/28/2020

covid-19, isaac newton and endurance

the debate of the last days about the closing of all the european ski facilities to prevent the covid-19 pandemic brought to my mind a book i read last year, Bill McKibben's "long distance". it's a good book. The author decides to make an experiment on his own body and starts a consistent training routine to become a pro crosscountry skier. turning himself into an endurance athlete brings him to a new territory and to learning the hard way many things about himself and about life in general.
in the first part of the book he makes an interesting comment about sports. there are many disciplines that actually could be considered newtonian sports, i.e. all the ones where the big effort is made by gravity and not by the athlete himself. for example, downhill skiing and downhill mountain biking are newtonian sports. on the other end of the spectrum there are endurance sports, as crosscountry mountain biking (and skiing) and running.
i don't want to underestimate the ability of athletes who are into newtonian sports, i know that those activities require skills (and balls too) but still, i can't help but having more respect for a marathon runner, a triathlete, a crosscountry skier or a climber. the fact is that i really don't like all the stuff that surrounds newtonian events. i mean, are we sure that contaminating the mountains with chairlifts, ski resorts and bars with loud music where people party like crazy is a good idea? they're turning mountains into luna parks. but mountains, with their silence and their wilderness, deserve more respect. do you enjoy going downhill? sure, we all do. but in an endurance perspective you have to deserve it... going uphill. the easy downhill will be the prize for your effort.
endurance sports are like real life: one moment you're grinning your teeth going uphill in a maximum effort, right after you may find yourself going downhill with a big smile on your face and your heart full of joy. don't want to make any effort to go uphill? that's fine, but then you'd better go on the roller coaster.
in these strange times of pandemic, when we have to change many of our habits, maybe the closing of the ski facilities will make many skiers discover new and more respectful ways of enjoying the mountains as they are supposed to be in nature, and not turned into high-altitude low-temperature luna parks.