A mental Bell curve?

My bush run was different this weekend: I was moving against the flow of participants in a maximum endurance run. Respectfully building in pauses where I stopped, scanned the next hundred metres of drop and rocks to gauge when to make a run for it so to speak – getting down the next set of steps before a wave was approaching.

What an entertaining morning!

Many observations of human behaviour: The Mental Bell Curve, Leaders and Followers, Lonely Wolves and Flock People, Aware of the Environment and Focused on Self, just to mention a few. No judgement, no right or wrong, just curious observation of how different we are – and how important it is to find your comfortable spot in the world.

Looking for my windows of opportunity to go against the wave – especially before narrow passages – it became obvious how it’s a mental game for most.

Yes, a few of the front runners were physically advanced with no comparison to the rest of the field. Yet, there would be no physiological explanation for the clumps of people I met. They would literally have ended up in clumps for mental reasons.

The last lot using the group to stretch themselves and keep up with a pace possibly a bit above their capability. The middle ones feeling safety or motivation from the group. I may need your help on the front ones in these big groups: why would they not break free, doing an “attack” like in the Tour de France up a mountain? What’s their mental gain from “pulling the flock”, leading the Peloton?

[yes, a bit of cycling vocabulary this week – we did spend quite some hours during July watching a tiny Dane win the yellow jersey… The definition of the Peloton is “the largest cluster of riders on the road at any given time. Also called the bunch, group, pack, or field”.]

Anyway, even the front of the flock for some reason gravitates towards the pack, instead of breaking free. This is not just about physical capability. We choose environments where we can feel part of the pack, snuggle in nicely in the warmth of the Bell curve’s midriff.

Selfishly, the mental Bell curve made my day easier – I had stretches of easy passage without having to give way. And it probably made their day easier too.

And maybe that is what the mental Bell curve is about. That it’s important for each of us to find our comfortable spot in the world. Whether it’s leading out the front at a staggering rate, sprinting down rocky paths – or being the huffing, puffing last ones who are stretching our own ability.

By the way, there was no correlation between attitude and position in the race – I had random people all through the group having the stamina for a “good morning” or a smile. But that’s for another day.