An early 90’s kid, I remember watching what is surely the greatest Nickelodeon movie in history: Clockstoppers. I mean, it was no DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie…duh), but its science fiction plot and metaphysical implications were enough to strike eight year old Annie, and stick with me. In it, Zak (so cute) and Francesca find a watch that speeds up their molecules to super speed such that the world around them seems to stop still.
In one scene, the two are in a kitchen (maybe at a fountain?) where someone is spraying water into the air (the details of why escape me) and Francesca walks up to the water and pushes the droplets through the air like they were crystalline, simply hovering. The image moved me. “How amazing,” I thought, “I wonder what I would do if I could stop time.” Imagine how I might respond if I knew that my future self did it all the time (punintended).
Athletes have the ability to make time stand still. Whether it’s the time it takes a basketball to reach the hoop, a soccer ball to hit the net, or our bodies to cross the finish line, what spectators perceive as mere seconds, we perceive in eons. Granted, many sports rely on time. Track runners chase the fastest times, field sports are decided by a clock and our results lists descend by decimal ticks. But those are formalities, adjustments made for objective observers to understand and categorize what happened on said track/field/result list.
Any athlete will agree that a mile almost never feels like its time. Looking back on race courses, I can recall each piece or section like I stood there for minutes. I remember toeing the line, watching the digital clock creep toward my start time, each stride thereafter claiming its own momentous allotment in the space time continuum and demanding attention as such. Not to say that races drag on, my best races, those where I had the most fun, have seemed the longest and provided the most retrospective detail to me afterward.
Admittedly, the bad ones seem slow, too. At Stratton, the Alpine kids undergo a strength test in which they spin bike as hard as they can, reaching a maximum energy output, at which point a weight drops on their wheel. They must then maintain full output for 30 seconds. Most do so for about ten seconds, meaning that they must then struggle through 20 more seconds of arduous pumping and grinding before a reprieve. That half minute, they say, is the longest 30 seconds of their lives. I’ve experienced more than one workout like that, but am beginning to see those prolonged seconds differently.
Whether in bliss or in earnest, athletes don’t measure time in seconds or minutes or hours. They measure it in moments. When we are at our best, we paste together so many moments into one experience, what we feel, what we hear, what we see. We attach them to thoughts and emotions, expectations and goals. A final lunge toward the line culminates in thousands of images and feelings, all individualized and experienced in the breadth of a second.
My eight year old self was right. That is amazing.
In a world where everyone seems to be in a hurry, crunched for time, looking for more. Where people aim to go as fast as they can, dabbling and tasting but never committing for fear that they won’t get enough, we get to slow down. We get to experience. In one race, one workout, a long hill or a short climb, we get to feel it all, every muscle twitch, every thought, fully and brilliantly, while everyone else skips over in the name of time.
Time is relative. And to me, thanks to skiing, time is slow.
So. What would you do, if you could stop time?