Time is irrelevant

I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about time. More accurately, I spend a lot of time bemoaning the fact that there’s just not enough time. Perhaps this is something that happens once you’ve turned forty. Life is supposed to begin now but there’s just not enough time for it to happen. I can take solace at least in the fact that scientists have concluded that fifty three is now officially the start of middle age so I’ve got a way to go yet.

I went running yesterday. I went again today. These two tarmac adventures marked my first acts of genuine exercise in about eleven weeks. This may not seem like anything significant over a Cape Town winter but if you throw in the additional piece of information that thirteen weeks ago I had a thirteen week plan to run a sub four hour marathon then it takes on a little more weight, much like my sedentary ass.

So while the Cape Town marathon was underway I ran just over five kilometres in exactly half an hour. This works out at roughly five minutes and forty five seconds per kilometre, and means I went at a pace of about 10.4km per hour. Not bad I hear you cry, and no, I agree, it isn’t bad…until you rewind eight months to a half marathon I ran in just over one hour and forty one minutes. Less than five minutes per kilometre and around 12.5km per hour.

I don’t highlight the timings to brag or to complain about my lack of fitness. I do it to labour the point that time is irrelevant. I was more proud of the five kilometres I ran yesterday, and the six I ran today than I was of the best ever half marathon I ran in February. Yesterday’s run hurt, today’s run hurt a little bit more, but I ran through it. The half marathon hurt…and when it did I walked for a period rationalising to myself that I was ahead of my personal best and that a little walk would be fine. I have no problem with walking – in fact I strongly advise it when a run gets too much – but I didn’t need to walk that day, I chose to do it. So to me, thirty minutes when it hurt badly versus a PB when it hurt a little is no comparison.

A very good friend of mine recently completed The Great North Run half marathon in the UK. He is not a runner and has never wanted to be. He decided to run to honour his father and to raise some money for cancer research in the hope that someone else would not have to cruelly lose his dad in the way that he did. He joked prior to the race about being at the back behind the man in the chicken suit. I have no idea whether he was or not but I know he completed the race in just over two hours and twenty minutes. The time is irrelevant. A race is just a race. He did something remarkable regardless of his time. He decided to embark on something completely outside of his comfort zone. He logged his kilometres on good days and bad days. He went through the self-doubt that plagues runners and writers (I’m so pleased I do both…) and got through the day. I’m sure his dad would be incredibly proud of him – I know I am.

It’s convenient that I mentioned writing – especially as I set up this all grown up website to post stuff about writing. I spend a lot of time writing. I spend even more time complaining about the fact that I don’t have time to write. I spend yet more time worrying about whether or not I’m taking my writing seriously enough because I’m not logging enough hours. That’s a whole lot of irrelevant time.

Accepting this week that my time for 5k was irrelevant has served up a well needed dose of realism in terms of my writing. I work full time. I have two kids. To be able to find the time to write, even with just those two facts on the table, is something I should be proud of. I’ve given up most of my hobbies to accommodate writing. I scribble away until the small hours often if the mood is upon me, which is particularly fun when the kids are not sleeping well…which is often. Yet for some stupid reason I’ve spent a lot of time recently beating myself up for the time I haven’t spent writing. 

This calls for an example. On Friday night I spent a few hours playing playstation. I had a lot of fun before suddenly being overwhelmed with despair at the fact I took some leisure time to pursue something irrelevant. How dare I do such a thing when I aspire to write! I do this to myself a lot, and I think for the sake of my sanity, everyone else’s sanity…and the quality of my writing I need to call time on this kind of behaviour. That probably sounds a little dramatic, but such is my self confidence that “oh dear I probably should have spent time writing” doesn’t take long to turn in to “what’s the point, I’m never going to be a writer.” Those dark demons that seem to plague all writers (I’m already shuddering at referring to myself as a “writer”) manifest in such a way that I actually convince myself that if I waste any time that could be perceived as “writing time” I should give up writing entirely.

Complete and utter nonsense.

Or if you are of the shorthand, whatsapp persuasion…WTF?

The only way that I will ever succeed (whatever that means) with regard to writing is if I allow myself to make peace with the fact that I can’t spend every available second doing it. I need to accept that it doesn’t make me less of a dedicated writer because some days I decide to play playstation, or read a book, or enjoy a couple of glasses of red wine with dinner after a tough day knowing that it may mean I get sleepy before I can log enough writing hours.

Time is irrelevant. And sometimes an irrelevant use of time may just be the most relevant thing you can do.


  1. I never imagined reading about running could hold my interest for more than a few minutes - you and Mr. Murakami have proved me wrong. Then again I have spent a lifetime (51 years) being wrong about most things...

    1. I'm glad this one held your interest Adam. I write a lot of things where I hide behind a few cheap jokes whereas this was an attempt at being honest. And to be held in the same sentence as our fine friend Haruki will work for me any time...