5 years ago I entered a 15 legged race. Not on my own. That would have been ridiculous. I was racing alongside 13 Japanese teachers at a High school sports day.
The day before our big race, at a critical final practice session, I collapsed the whole line trying to run too fast. I realised then that you can`t be good at 15 legged race running, however badly you may want to.
You can be dangerously crap at it though, and my needless competitiveness was threatening our race prospects and the physical wellbeing of half the teaching staff.
Fortunately, with the benefit of one-to-one pre-race private coaching, I learnt to hold the line. We completed the race in good time, and without hospitalisations. It`s one of the proudest achievements of my life.
The sense of satisfaction was all the bigger for being shared rather than private. Perhaps I need to tie my leg to someone more often. Somehow I don`t think they`d be too happy about it though.
Working effectively in teams seems to be an important part of the relief effort in the devastated areas. “100 people taking one step together, is better than one person walking 100 steps alone”. A Peace Boat staff volunteer told us this last week after we arrived in Ishinomaki ready to shovel sludge out of damaged homes.
I wasn`t immediately convinced by the group pace argument. I was worried we`d go too slow. I like to set my own speed, maybe not a 100 steps at a time, more a 30 stride sprint, a 15 step stumble and then pass out by the side of the road. Failure is something I like to keep personal.
True to form though, I was wrong again. The one-step-together tactic was a good idea, our group of six volunteers worked well with each other, shovelling hundreds of sandbags of sludge out of two homes and a garden. Overall a tiny contribution, but I was grateful to be a part of it.