“What I get out of marathons is self-imposed suffering,” a recovering crack addict told Men’s Fitness the other day. “I have replaced all the time I used to spend drinking and doing drugs with running.”
Endurance sports attract a certain type of man, and while you don't have to be a former crackhead to do marathon, triathlon, ultradistance or Ironman, being something of a monomaniac probably helps, because they’re all about Focus, Focus and more Focus.
Mainly Focused Men work for the corporates. They run home from the City every evening, sweating hard and lyrca’d from head to toe, and belt round Richmond Park every Sunday, a seriously concentrated look their faces and five grand’s worth of carbon-fibre bike technology under their glutes. They do reps in the gym, drills in the pool and input all the measurables onto the great Excel spreadsheet that is Life. They like to be “challenged” inside and outside of work, and sometimes it's difficult to see, between the economic activity and the social sphere, where one competition ends and the other begins. Remember Neil from The Office? He was Focused.
Of course, it’s good to be fit and feel strong. Going for a run, riding a bike and having a swim – it’s fun. But being that Focused does tend to take over life a bit. Ironman, for instance, requires 25 hours of training every week.
Years ago Baudrillard characterised the End of History in the “absurd” spectacle of Le Jogger: a man compulsively running with no destination, aware only of his messages to himself and the music pumping through his Walkman. It can look a bit strange, all this Focus, like work masquerading as leisure, which is what happens to sport when it’s taken too seriously.
Focused Man embodies a heroic attempt to impose order on the basic disorderliness of the modern world. Life is often a random, meaningless blur, a series of peaks and troughs punctuated with immense stretches of not much. That’s exactly why it’s charming – just don't try telling a Focused Man.
How to spot Focused Man:
- Focused face: tight-lips, steely gaze, a bit clenched.
- White sun visor, tanned skin (all that running outdoors)
- Impenetrable shades – nothing distracts me
- Permanently-sipped water bottle – focused on hydration (drinking) and nutrition (lunch etc). Big tubs of carbohydrate/protein drinks at home
- Mantras: Impossible is nothing. Just do it, etc. Never ask: is this all worth the effort?
- Hair short or buzzed. Triathlon is the Army for Joe Civilian
- Two-piece Orca/2XU tri suit in brown, navy, black or silver – nothing too flashy though, it's not Le Tour De France
- Unzipped at the chest & exposed midriff - check out the abs
- Aggressive shoulder tatts, celtic or Hawaiian – lived life on the edge (Gap Year)
- ASICS shoes: Anima Sana in Corpore Sano, Latin for “I’m not really the pubby type”
- Liking “Challenges”. What’s the point of life without achievements?
- Calf muscles like varnished oak bannisters
- Huge iron thighs wrapped in lycra shorts (black, of course)