What then in the presence of greatness?

I was awed, a couple of weeks back, to spend a few moments watching Pedal Pete (aka Peter Arnott) complete yet another Everesting, one imbued with grief after the death of his niece. I watched him glide down his steep Everesting hill (he’d end up ascending and descending 150 times), not a muscle moving, a study in aerodynamic skill. He banked at the bottom, turned round. I watched him effortlessly rise up out of his seat and pump ferocious leg muscles smoothly, powerfully, as he made his way back up the road. I imagined myself doing this once, twice, three times, hey, maybe four, but could contemplate no more.

We’re besieged by images and stories of super sportspeople, to the extent that they rarely excite awe in us. Too many of us invent narratives in our heads that allow us to dismiss performance or skill that we ourselves can’t find the willpower to work towards. It’s as if we imagine that the extraordinary is, after all, ordinary.

I watched Pete and the question that surfaced startled me. In the face of such talent and dedication, what should I ask of myself? Does this sense of awe just wash over me? Or does it compel me to find something to tackle, to strive to master it?

(Photo courtesy of Brendan Edwards – check out his varied and fascinating cycling blog.)

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