In the recent Commonwealth Games, spectators and viewers were shocked by the confronting sight of Scottish marathon runner Callum Hawkins collapsing mid-race, requiring medical attention. Fortunately, Hawkins avoided the fate of the man whose fabled run inspired the creation of the marathon—a Greek soldier who died moments after delivering a message from the battlefield—and has been released from hospital.
However, this incident was distressing enough and has raised questions about the response of organisers. Some have defended them, pointing out Hawkins initially refused treatment as it would have meant disqualification. That debate aside, the commitment of athletes at Hawkins’ level, who push through pain and physical discomfort on a daily basis, sacrificing social and leisure time in the pursuit of success, can make us stop and think.
Much of today’s Western society pushes the notion we can actually have everything we want, that we don’t have to choose. We can have our cake and eat it too or, perhaps more accurately, we can spend our money today and buy the big stuff we want on credit! But the reality is that even if we aren’t a professional athlete we sometimes have to give up one thing in favour of another.
Around five years ago, I realised that I needed to make a choice that, while not on the level of someone like Callum Hawkins, meant giving up something I enjoyed. I used to love playing online computer games, often joining multiplayer sessions with international players, and spending hours at a time romping through virtual worlds. But I also dreamed of being a published author, and I realised that—for me—the two were incompatible.
When I complained to a professional writer that I had no time to write he bluntly pointed out that the time I spent gaming online was time I could be writing, as were the hours of television I watched. In the end it came down to this simple fact: I could have the same amount of leisure time, or I could have a writing career, but I couldn’t have both.
The choices and sacrifices we face will be different for each of us. Hawkins’ choices involved running but our decisions may relate to family, travel, work or faith. No matter what they are, it is worthwhile taking time to reflect on what it is that is important to us, what we will invest our thinking, passion and skills in—and what we are willing to give up in that pursuit.