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Tag: Kairos

Chronos vs Kairos

Chronos and Kairos are the two Greek gods of time. Everyone’s heard of Chronos, but they might be unaware of Kairos.  Chronos represents clock time, so hours, minutes, and seconds. Kairos is the god of the “critical,” or “opportune” time.  Kairos is about those fleeting moments in which an opportunity must be seized. He is the critical time in which decisions have far-reaching consequences, moments that can change the course of our lives in an instant.

Chronos was a road runner, Kairos was a trail runner.

Chronos and Kairos represent two distinct ways in which we experience time. If you’ve lost track of chronological time, you’ve encountered Kairos. He is present in the “flow” state, when you experience a deep sense of concentration. He is the sensation you get when time seems distorted. You have moments of Kairos-type time as a child when you become engrossed in play, but as we age, we often lose touch with this as we become entrenched in our routines, operating like clockwork. We forget how to play, yet it’s a critical aspect of happiness. Kairos is found in activities that ignite meaning and passion. I didn’t think I understood him until I sat down and really thought about time. I’ve always been aware of the social construct of time as I glance at my wristwatch, which tells me the hour, minute, and second. My early running career was focused almost exclusively on Chronos—always watching the clock and trying to beat my previous times.

While I didn’t experience a mid-life crisis, I would say that I began to think differently about my relationship with time as I approached 40, and I’ll be 43 in a few days. I started to evaluate where I was investing my time, how much I had left, and how it should be spent.

Trail runners vs Road Runners

Racing now is about Kairos—the flow state. I want to lose the sense of Chronos, where hours seem to pass like minutes during an ultra race. That’s a significant reason why I enjoy ultras. To me, it’s play; it’s like being a kid again when the only purpose was play itself. You feel this odd sense of connection while moving through nature. Chronos fades away, and Kairos takes the stage. Ultras tend to be less about your finishing time and more about accomplishing what seems impossible.

The pull to do what’s required vs what’s exciting and new.

Kairos is omnipresent in nature, often found in the novelty of experiences. He could be your newfound friend whom you might meet on a trail you’ve run a hundred times, if only you greet a random stranger. He resides in the breathtaking vistas and landscapes of many ultramarathons, in parks, and along trails in remote locations. It’s not that Chronos isn’t there—because if you’re racing against cutoffs in an ultra, you’re certainly aware of him—but he’s not the star of the show; Kairos is.

I’ll never say, “I don’t have time,” or “I’m too busy.” Instead, I force myself to say, “It’s just not that important to me.” For the things that matter in life, I make it a point to clear my schedule and create time. Recognizing that difference is crucial.

Chronos the Road vs Kairos the Trail

Recognizing the path of Kairos is a deeply personal process. It’s about being attuned to the moments that bring you a sense of joy, fulfillment, and purpose—those instances that make you feel alive and connected to something greater than the daily grind. Here are a few signs and considerations that might indicate you’re on the path of Kairos:

  1. Joy and Passion: When activities or opportunities excite you and ignite a passion within, they’re likely aligned with Kairos. This joy can be a guiding light toward more meaningful experiences.
  2. Flow State: If you find yourself in a state of flow, where time seems to stand still or pass without your notice because you’re so immersed in what you’re doing, you’re experiencing Kairos.
  3. Growth and Challenge: Kairos often lies just beyond your comfort zone. If a path challenges you and promotes growth, it might be the path of Kairos calling you to step forward.
  4. Authenticity: When you’re true to yourself and your values, you’re more likely to encounter Kairos. This means making decisions based on what genuinely matters to you, not what others think should matter.
  5. Mindfulness and Presence: Being fully present in the moment allows you to recognize and seize Kairos opportunities. Mindfulness helps you appreciate the richness of your experiences.
  6. Reflection: Regularly reflecting on your life, your goals, and your happiness can help you identify where Kairos might be found. It’s about understanding what brings you a sense of purpose and making choices that align with that.

I may seem like I hate road running, but I don’t. It’s where I got my start. Don’t take offense if you love the road. I just prefer the deeper sense of adventure found in nature as opposed to the typical big-city marathon or road race. I’m not sure what differentiates most big-city marathons; if you’ve run in one city, they all start to feel the same, but perhaps that’s a closed-minded view. Whatever you choose, be it road or trail, enjoy your journey and take the road less traveled. Be open to new opportunities wherever they may present themselves before it’s too late. Your weekends and vacations are critical because they offer the rare chance to encounter Kairos, the god of meaningful time. Don’t let it slip through your fingers and realize you’ve wasted your life on trivial things. Plan that trip, sign up for that faraway race, and take on that ultra. Do it before it’s too late and time has run its course.

Time has run out…

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