Category Archives: Ultrarunning

Video

Keep Your Head Up

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“Music is the fourth great material want of our nature-first food, then raiment, then shelter, then music.”

BOUVÉE

What Bouvée says is undeniably true. Our body’s food is the product of the earth: fruits and vegetables and so forth. But our soul’s food is music. Undoubtedly it is so. Even our physical nature at times intensely craves and desperately needs music.

Keep Your Head Up is one of my favourite songs. As a rule I don’t listen to music when I run. However, during a particularly challenging night when I was running in the 6 Day Self-Transcendence Race last year I needed music to get me through and take my mind off the pain and discomfort. I was feeling rather sorry for myself; I was cold, tired, could barely walk and I was not in a good space. I knew this song elicited a strong emotional response in me and the lyrics are very poignant, especially the part where he says “All I was searching for was me”. I just love the video which is so uplifting and joyful. I so want to have a go on that soap slide, it looks so much fun!

Playing the song on repeat got me running again as my mind drifted off to a much better place and I became so happy and full of gratitude, remembering the purpose of why I was running the race.  I became oblivious to the cold biting wind, the darkness and the pain that I was in. That could have been quite easily a lyric of the song.

I spent my time watching
The spaces that had grown between us
And I cut my mind on second best
The scars that come with the greeness
I gave my eyes to the bottom
Still the seabed wouldn’t let me in
And I tried my best to embrace the darkness
In which I swim.
 
Now walking back down this mountain
With the strength of a turning tide
The wind so soft at my skin
The sun so hot upon my side
Looking out at this happiness
I searched for between the sheets
Feeling blind, to realise
All I was searching for was me.
 
Keep your head up, keep your heart strong
Keep your mind set, keep your hair long
Keep your head up, keep your heart strong
Keep your mind set in your ways
Keep your heart strong.
 
I saw a friend of mine the other day
And he told me that my eyes were gleaming
I said I’d been away
And he knew the depths I was meaning
It felt so good to see his face
The comfort invested in my soul
To feel the warmth of his smile
When he said ‘I’m happy to have you home’
 
Keep your head up …
 
Because I’ll always remember you the same
Eyes like wildflowers with your demons of change
May you find happiness there
May all your hopes turn out right
May you find warmth in the middle of the night. 
Quote

The Running Life

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There’s an overwhelming cultural mentality today that difficult tasks should be avoided; that volitional discomfort is an indication of some psychological oddity. Meanwhile, ultramarathons promise exactly the opposite; the expectation is that the race will be strenuous. Your body will get battered, your spirit will get broken, and you’ll question your sanity and emotional stability. (What’s more – you’ll pay somebody a lot of money in race fees for this to happen. If it weren’t for ultrarunning, there’d be a huge boom in masochism support groups. Clearly, we NEED this sport.) It’s no wonder most people think we’re insane.
But here’s the good part: our gain for suffering through all of this is something akin to enlightenment. We understand that our bodies and minds are capable of far more than most people ever realize – that the primary limiting factors in life’s journeys are the extent to which our minds can dream, and to which we’re willing to work to achieve them.
These truths we discover about ourselves are what keep us coming back for more. In that regard, ultrarunners are the fishermen leaving the shore: we’re fully aware that the storms might be terrible – but the rewards we harvest by venturing into the sea are always worth the hardship.
-Donald Buraglio, The Running Life: Wisdom and Observations from a Lifetime of Running – via Gibson’s Daily Running Quotes

Review of 2013 and upcoming prospects for 2014

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He who thrives on challenges can accomplish extraordinary things in life.
– Sri Chinmoy.
 
One approach is to think of the hurdles that you face in life.  Another approach is to think of the joy that you will get after crossing over the hurdles.
– Sri Chinmoy.

The year 2013 has been quite a year for me. It was all about seizing opportunities and having new experiences. I’d competed in more ‘big’ races (marathon distance and beyond) than any other year. It was a year of ups and downs, but I’m glad to say certainly more ups than downs. In my work life it was also similar and I was fortunate to be selected to spend three months in Rome which enabled me to compete in the Rome Marathon in March, and then the Florence Marathon in November – happy times.

Race Results 2013

Date Race Terrain Distance Outcome Pace
29/12/2013 Across the Years 72 Hour race mixed 232.01M 72:00:00 18:37
24/11/2013 XXX Firenze Marathon road Mara 03:17:37 07:33
20/10/2013 Eden Marathon mixed Mara 03:41:41 08:28
29/09/2013 Grand Pier Half Marathon road Half 01:34:32 07:13
21/04/2013 Self Transcendence Six Day Race road 380M 144:00:00 22:45
17/03/2013 Rome Marathon road Mara 03:17:52 07:33
24/02/2013 Barry Track 40 track 40M 05:15:31 07:53

I was able to set PBs in the marathon and 40 mile races which I was very pleased about. I’ve still got some speed, but in all the years that I’ve been running has shown that I’m not a fast runner, but my body maybe better adapted for endurance. I also don’t have sufficient pace to get a good mileage in 24 hour races. My best to date is 114 miles (Basel: 114.28 miles; 2012).

Ever since 4 years ago I had a vivid dream that I was running in the 3100 mile race and Sri Chinmoy was present in that dream, I have set my sights on running in this race one day. I’m looking at the possibility of 2016 or 2017. To enable me to be considered I am required to get the qualifying distance of 600+ miles for the 10 day race.

So, this year I took the first step on that journey by running in the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York in April.

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Despite having a really bad chest infection a week prior and during the race I ran 380 miles, finishing 7th overall.

I was happy with this performance but my body is not yet sufficiently robust enough as I got Achilles tendon problems on the fourth day and really struggled for mileage in the second half of the race.  However, William James’ quote below was very apt and it allowed me to push through and finish the race.

William James quote

I underestimated how much the 6 Day Race took out of me. For 5 weeks afterwards my immune system was severely weakened and I couldn’t shift the chest infection and persistent cough. Eventually it took a course of antibiotics for me to completely recover. I then badly stubbed my big toe on the stairs at home and that knocked my running form for six.  So, it was a struggle to get any consistency in my running, and I was plagued with energy issues – constantly feeling tired and totally exhausted. In October I saw a kinesiologist who identified a number of imbalances affecting my overall health during an initial screening process. In no particular order these were as follows: chemical and metal toxicity toxicity; yeast infection (Candida); nutritional imbalances; structural problem; imbalance related to the type exercise I take and my physiological makeup; chronic dehydration (likely to be cellular based rather than kidney related); food allergy / intolerance; adrenal stress; low cellular energy (energy chemistry in your cell mitochondria not efficient). Other than that I was fine, hahaha! Well, at last I got a diagnosis, more that what my doctor could say, other than it is probably a virus and come back and see me in three months time; not much use to say the least.

From June onwards I began to get a persistent niggle in the inside of the left knee that progressively got worse, to a point it was seizing up and giving way. Both my osteopath and physiotherapist treatments were not alleviating it and then I made the decision to get a MRI scan on it. Thankfully it revealed no abnormalities or any meniscus tears.

Races Review 2013

My race year as always started at the end of February with the Barry 40 miles Track Race and I was in good shape having come through the winter season fairly well. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team tends to send a runner each year to this race and it is one we love to support. I targeted 5:15 and finished just outside that with 5:15:31. It was a bitterly cold day and the track can get very windy making running down the back straight a challenge and making runners work hard.

Photos at Barry 40 – 2013 (copyright Paul Stillman) (I’m number 282)

Photos below from Barry 40, 2013  Copyright All rights reserved by Les Stills

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I was very pleased with my performance and I’m hoping to run in the race again this year (9th March) and would hope to get as close to 5 hours as possible. In a way in depends how quickly I can recover from ATY and resume back to full training within the next few weeks.

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As I was out in Rome for the whole of March with work commitments I decided it was a great opportunity to run in the Roma Marathon. It was a beautiful way to see the city and I finished up with a new PB.

Lido di Ostia on the beach 22 March 2013

As I mentioned April was a leap into unknown territory with the  Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race. I am so grateful and indebted to the advice and knowledge imparted to me from my good friend Abichal (6 times finisher of the 3100 mile race!).

With the energy issues and constant niggles it was rather ambitious to try and target the Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Track Race in London in September. I decided to give this race a miss as I had made a commitment to run in the Eden Marathon down in Cornwall in October for the charity People and Gardens.

I tested out my fitness and the knee my running in the Grand Pier Half Marathon down in Weston-Super-Mare three weeks prior to the Eden Marathon. It wasn’t a brilliant performance and I lacked any pace, going off too fast in the first half and struggled to hang on in the second half of the race. But it was a good run out under race conditions.

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The Eden Marathon was a challenging course as about three quarters of it is off road and on trails, but I was more than happy to run on behalf of People and Gardens to raise much needed funds.

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The course was rather muddy and during the race there were torrential downpours with thunder and lightning.  I thoroughly enjoyed the race and it was great to finish in the grounds of the Eden Project with my family and Ken and Lorraine Radford (from People and Gardens) waiting for me at the finish.

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Again I was out in Rome in November for work and the Florence Marathon beckoned. Florence is such a beautiful city and has a wonderful Italian ambience. An amazing coincidence occurred. I met a wonderful Italian guy at the start of the Rome Marathon in March, and whilst I was warming up at the start of the Florence Marathon we bumped into each other again. The Italians are so warm, friendly and affectionate. We had perfect weather for the race, bathed in autumnal sunshine and slightly cool. The support on the course was amazing and it was a better atmosphere than the Rome Marathon. It’s a fast course and I paced it just right to get a new PB by 15 seconds. I didn’t want to run this race hard as I was conscious I wanted to recover quickly for ATY 72 Hour Race.

And well, ATY was a special way to end 2013 and begin 2014 – see my earlier post on this.

Goals and Aims for 2014

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Man’s time is unimaginably precious and unbelievably limited.
– Sri Chinmoy

I had such an awesome 2013 it is going to be difficult to better it. I did more travelling in 2013 than any other year, but this requires financing. I was indebted to my parents for assisting me with the trips to America. So, I’m hoping to win the lottery, hahahaha! Competing in multiday races is not cheap and there are always on going costs with kit, osteopath and physio treatments, food supplements, sports massages, etc, etc. I had intended to run the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York again, but due to difficulties getting time off work and the cost of flying over to America I’m targeting the following races:

Proposed Race Calendar
March Barry 40 Track Race; Self-Transcendence London to Brighton (50 miles) (Sri Chinmoy AC run)
May EMU 6 Day Race, Hungary
July / August 2 or 3 marathons (yet to decide) or participate in the Peace Run North America (13 June – 18 July)
September Adelaide 6 Day Race (?)
December ATY 72 Hour Race

This race schedule is in an ideal scenario and I haven’t really thought about how I would pay for all of this. But, I will take each race as it comes. The key for me is to stay fit and healthy and I need to put in place plans for my training, injury prevention and health. And more importantly it is about getting the right work / life balance. I don’t know what will happen with my work situation as I’m awaiting the outcome of a job promotion in my civil service department. Achieving this would be give the increase in salary to pay to attend these planned races. But will I be granted the time off work to enable me to attend these races? Who knows – that is out of my hands. I hope events will unfold in a fortuitous manner.

In the meantime these are some of my plans and objectives for 2014:

Injury prevention
– biomechanics assessment to address recurring muscle imbalances
– work on improving running form
– Yoga
– do more core strength training
 
Health and Well-being
– address the candida
– further kinesiology tests to be done
– meditate more
– to live more in the moment
 
Training
– incorporate weighted vest training
– review other running shoes to use for multidays (Brooks Transcendence out in March)
– Yoga for Sport weekly sessions.
 
Long term targets
– April 2015: Self-Transcendence 10 Day Race
– 2016: Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race
 
 Achieve something great outwardly. Many on earth will admire you and even adore you for what you have done. Achieve something good inwardly. Countless people will get a tremendous inner uplift from your very presence on earth.
– Sri Chinmoy

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Across the Years 2013-14 72 Hour Race

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I do not compete with the rest of the world. I compete only with myself, for my progress is my true victory – Sri Chinmoy.

1455102_265248656963304_75952632_n (2)It’s been a whole week since I’ve arrived back in the UK from Phoenix, after such an exhilarating trip, and I now have had time to reflect on my adventures. The memories of the wonderful sunlit and tinged blue, red and orange horizons of the sunsets and sunrises will stay with me for a long time. I have been procrastinating about writing something down as I’m not the most eloquent of writers and I find it hard at times to put into words what I wish to convey. I suppose like any skill or behaviour it is just practise and repetition, and then one gets better – a bit like ultrarunning and meditation really.

Scroll back to April of 2013 when I was running the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York. It was my first attempt at this multiday and I was laid face down on the treatment table as I was being treated for my Achilles tendon problems on the fourth day. My friend Arpan mentioned, that as I had done so well in the first three days, I should contemplate running the Across the Years 72 Hour Race. Immediately my interest was aroused and as he started to talk about it I somehow knew that I would run it. It seems it was my destiny and events throughout the year made the trip possible – down to being given the time off work to the love and generosity of my parents for paying my airfare and my good friend Mark Dorion kindly paying my hotel accommodation in Glendale. I am just so full of gratitude to Mark and my father for financially supporting me in this trip.

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The run up (excuse the pun) to the race had not been great. My body had never fully settled down after April’s 6 Day Race and my biomechanics had altered so much that the body was over-compensating and I was experiencing other overuse injuries and niggles and struggled to gain any flow to my running. I was struggling to do any long runs, but due to circumstances and commitments I ran in the Florence Marathon in November and the Eden Project Marathon in October to raise funds for People and Gardens project. Since June I had been experiencing problems with the inside of the left knee and so much so I opted to get a MRI scan which thankfully did not reveal any serious damage. If was just a rather infuriating niggle that prevented me from increasing the intensity of my training. It did get to a stage where I considered cancelling my trip and pulling out of the race. It seemed it was to abruptly end even before it had begun. However, sometimes I suppose one has to accept things as they are and be patient and believe it will all turn out good and for a purpose. Time began running out and my physiotherapist and osteopath worked on addressing some of the muscle imbalance issues. I had to go with I got, so to speak, and hope my base endurance would be enough. I gauged I was only 75% – 80% ready for the race.

I had the luxury of flying in to LA on the 21st December where I spent Christmas with an old university friend and his family who I hadn’t seen since we had graduated in 1995. It was good just to relax and take in the lovely winter sunshine – it was so rejuvenating. Back at home in the UK the weather was horrendous with torrential rain, high winds and flooding. It seemed even more than ever I had made the right decision to come over. I mean, yes, I missed not spending Christmas with my family, but for a few years I had wanted to do something different and coming over to run ATY provided that opportune moment.

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I haven’t even started talking about the race yet, hahahaha! In a way, what happened in those months in the lead up to the race were key to what unfolded during the race. Maybe not physically, but psychologically and spiritually I was in a far better space. My enthusiasm, cheerfulness and optimism remained and the fact of the teachings of my spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy were always in my heart and soul.

Your Master’s voice
Is inside your heart,
For your soul and your Master
Are always together
– Sri Chinmoy

Prior to leaving for Phoenix my good friend in LA treated me to a delicious Chinese meal and at the end of the meal inside the fortune cooker I had this:

“A great day lies ahead in the not too distant future”

Funny, I had a similar good fortune message prior to running the 6 Day Race in April. I had this inner feeling that things were going to turn out fine and I would be well protected by my Guru, Sri Chinmoy.

I arrived in Phoenix on the Friday 27th and this gave me time to go over to Camelback Ranch to register and prepare my kit and tent for the race. The weather was perfect – blue skies and warm sunshine, but as the sun was setting a chill descended to remind me that this was a desert environment.

I went back over to the course on the Saturday and was excited to see the start of the 6 Day Race with Yiannis Kouros and Joe Fejes looking so focused and determined. It turned out this was going to be one battle of a race.

On the Friday evening I went to an Italian restaurant where I met a lovely native American Indian couple, Terry Sanchez and Raymond Johnson who were so sweet and friendly. When I told them that I was running ATY race they just said you will do well and they promised to say a prayer for me. They were so kind and really touched my heart. Raymond was a runner himself and told me that a coming of age ritual / tradition in his tribe was for the young women to run as far as they can and then turn around and run back to their tribal lands followed my all the family members who cannot intervene. They did this run for three consecutive days, and on the third day the young women would run as far as they could go and then when they felt they could run no more, would stop and turnaround and run back home. I was so enamoured by this ritual. Maybe one day I can return to Arizona and observe this.  When we said our farewells Raymond said, “We are destined to meet again”. His loving smile spoke volumes. Terry commented that she makes jewellery and would send me a present. I look forward to receiving that generous gift. I said they would be in my thoughts and their prayers would be blown on the wind to me. I somehow knew that inwardly they would be running with me.

The day of the race was now upon me. Mark Dorion kindly gave me a lift from the hotel to the race course and I was set. It was cold and there was a layer of hard frost on my table, so I knew the temperature range was going to be pretty large. As I stood on that start line, I realised this was the time, this was the moment that I had been working towards and the momentum since April had propelled me to this exact spot. And so at 9:00 am on 29th December the 72 Hour Race commenced.

With so much adrenaline and excitement pumping through my body, predictably as always I went off at a fast pace – perhaps too fast. It was great to be running freely and have a sense of flow in my running. The problem knee was taped up with KT tape and it seemed stable and was working fine. It was early days and I just wanted to think about nothing else other than staying relaxed and living in the moment. There was to be no past or future, just the now.

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I tend to break the race up into manageable junks – generally 3 or 4 hour blocks. Despite wearing gaiters, with the type of surface of grit and dust, I decided to stop every 3 hours to change my socks, clean my feet and re-lubricate them. Despite losing about 15 or 20 minutes every time I stopped I think for me this was a wise investment as subsequently I only got one really bad blister on the right big toe. Later I found out that most runners were getting foot problems and even those experienced runners that didn’t normally get blisters. Because of the surface the feet tended to move a lot in the shoe and grit got through one’s shoes and socks created hotspots.

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It is very hard to recall what happens in the multidays and one’s memory becomes fuzzy, tinged by fatigue and sleep deprivation, and hours and days seem to merge into one. One always wants to have a good first day and build a good base. It is a time to get into a routine and build a race rhythm. That first day is also about meeting your fellow runners and it was nice to meet so many inspiring people with a good energy and to share one’s hopes and goals for this race. Although I went into the race with no expectations I did set a goal of trying to achieve on average 70 miles per day, so the 72 hour total target was 210 miles. I thought that was achievable.

Perfect happiness is
Enthusiasm minus
Expectation.
– Sri Chinmoy

Up to the end of the second day I didn’t look at the race positions or my mileage. It was only when I was having a challenging time in the early hours of the second day, curiosity got the better of me and I decided it was time to look. By the end of 48 hours I had reached 150 miles. It was only after the race I found out that my first day split was 85 miles, followed by a weaker second day of 65 miles. I had tried to go without sleep for the first 24 hours, but by around 3:00 am I was feeling sick and overtired and started to considerably slow down, even walking was very difficult. At which point I decided to get some sleep. I think I didn’t really sleep that deeply, but just the fact of lying down for 90 minutes certainly refreshed me.

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On the second night I slept for about a hour. My energy levels were good, but by the end of the second day my biomechanics were letting me down and my left Achilles was tightening up and the I started to get a pain in the instep of my left foot, which made putting any pressure on it painful. I was barely able to walk let alone run and I was getting a stabbing pain in my left shoulder. Thankfully Holly Miller gave me a massage and I took time out to plunge the foot in ice cold water. I initially thought I’ll lie down in the shade and raise the foot and get some rest, but I always remembered what Sri Chinmoy said about shin splints, that it was best to keep moving, keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was New Year’s Eve and I wanted to end the 2013 on a high. This was the last day, so in my mind I needed to keep moving, and let my body respond.

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It was the right decision. After walking a lap I slowly began to jog and in the later afternoon heat I began making progress again. As in the 6 Day Race, when all seemed lost and I was struggling, things tend to turn around – I had this inner belief that this was a blip and things would improve. As the warmth from the afternoon sun began to dip my focus was on putting in a sustained effort through the night. It seems providence stepped in as the evening meal was pizza.  Perhaps over the last 48 hour I hadn’t been consuming enough calories, but my body loved the pizza and as I changed into my night gear the body was pumped to go. From nowhere I was getting this surge of energy and as I was running down the straight sections of the course I was in awe of the glowing sunset and I heard one runner comment, that these were the last sunrays of the year. It seemed to put everything into perspective and in that moment I was so grateful I was having this amazing experience. It was as if it was divine intervention and I could feel the presence of Sri Chinmoy sending his New Year’s blessings upon me. It was as if my heart was bursting with joy and I was swimming in this sea of love and eternal gratitude. I don’t know what happened but I ran solidly for the next 7 hours at a good pace. It was as if I wasn’t running, but as if someone else was. In previous long races I have experienced this where running is effortless and there is a sense of flow and timelessness. It is the most beautiful feeling and I appreciated it so much on this last night.

Myself and William Sichel

Myself and William Sichel

The coolness of the night suited be more than the dry and dustiness heat of the day, something that I shared with William Sichel, who was running in the 6 Day Race. It was comforting to share these moments with such an experienced ultra-runner. William and his trainer have kindly assisted me with their experience and knowledge over the past 18 months and it was the first time I have run sharing the same course as William. I am grateful for him and every runner at ATY who took the time to talk to me, to assist me and to offer words of encouragement and support. If I may not have acknowledged you at the time, they inspired me to run to my full potential.

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In the early hours at around 3:00am I took a final 30 minute nap and afterwards I was rearing to go again for the final 6 hour push. Sadly Annabel Hepworth, the Australian runner who was having such a strong race on her debut, had to pull out at 233 miles with shin splints. I was now chasing third spot. I couldn’t be caught in fourth, but I ran to the edge of my limits to finish with a flourish and try to get that third spot. However, time simply ran out for me, and I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I was pleased to finish so strongly and with such a spring in my step and my final total on my ATY 72 hour debut was 232 miles (Across the Years 72 hour race results).

Finishing strongly

Finishing strongly

I had well and truly exceeded my expectations and the race was a complete joy. The people you meet and the experiences one has, I believe you have for a reason. In essence the emotions and tribulations that I had in the lead up of the race crystallised themselves in such a positive light as if I was bathed in this protective bubble and whose energy helped me. Wherever I went and whoever I met their good wishes and smiles I carried inside my heart and soul. It wasn’t only me that was running in that race. It was all the hopes and aspirations of many, many people. I felt a sense of humility and gratitude. It all seems so surreal now. How do we define our reality?

Receiving my trophy for 2nd place male.

Receiving my trophy for 2nd place male.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a very special way to end 2013 and begin 2014.

The fullness of life
Lies in dreaming
And manifesting
The impossible dreams
– Sri Chinmoy

At this moment as I sit here writing, I’m reminded of a poignant comment made by Joe Lancaster quoted in Bill Jones’ The Ghost Runner.  Joe wrote of the mysterious joy of running, with its

“freedom of action, mind and soul … that expression of power, of well-being, the competitive spirit, disappointments, triumphs, aches, loves, that is LIFE. Why should this, our way of life, be denied to anyone who wishes to share it?” (p.155).

It was a joy to share these moments in the race with so many special people.

 

 

Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Race, Tooting Bec, London, 21/22 September 2013

Individual self-transcendence

Collectively inspires

Humanity at large

Sri Chinmoy

The Start

The Start

For the past 4 years I have run in this race, but due to injury (which will be a whole another post about my reflections and tribulations on this – coming up shortly) I could not run, but instead I helped out as one of the lap counters.

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In a way I have come full circle.  My fascination into ultra running started when I joined the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centres and was invited to be a lap counter during the 2004 Race.  At the time, although I was an enthusiastic runner, I just could not comprehend why anyone would want to run for 24 hours, let alone around a 400m track!

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However, through each successive year I came to fully understand the need to go beyond that which you think you are capable of.  I like to think I’m an exponent of this now, but, I’m still learning.

So, it was great to be back in the lap counting seat and I had the great pleasure of lap counting amongst one of my three runners, the legendary Geoff Oliver for the first ten hours. I was back again at the race at 5:00am to lap count another three different runners who all achieved over 100 miles.

Geoff Oliver

Geoff Oliver

Geoff covered a total of 380 laps of the track to record a final distance of 152.295kms / 94 miles 1108 yards to set a new world male over 80 record  

There were some amazing performances and the Race was full of every emotion you can think of. Full Race Report and photo gallery can be viewed here: Race Report and Photos

Marco Consani (154 miles; 248km) and Fionna Cameron (134 miles; 216km) finished first and second respectively and it was their first 24 hour race – absolutely remarkable.

Consani and Cameron power up the ultra runnings.

Marco Consani

Marco Consani

Marco kindly commented:

I am so glad that when I decided to do my first 24 hour event that I decided to run this one. This event is fantastic and so well organised. Shankara and her team looked after all of the runners before, during and after to make sure we all had good runs. No wonder people keep coming back for more.
I couldn’t recommend the Tooting 24 enough to anyone wanting a go at 24 hour racing.

Fionna Cameron

Fionna Cameron

Ann Bath (aged 65, finished with 102 miles; 164km) commented:

Ann Bath

Ann Bath

An absolute honour to be part of such an awesome race this year, my 3rd time at Tooting and the support from everyone just never ceases to amaze me.  From the lap counters, aid station helpers, officials, and the supporters of other runners cheering you on too!.  It  just gives you such strength to do achieve your absolute best possible, and it helps hugely through any bad patches.  It was my first 24 hour 3 years ago and I would encourage anyone to not be scared of attempting it, and age means nothing, it is the mind that has to be even stronger than your legs!

It was great to see my friend, Abichal complete 85 miles (136km). The photo shows him on the final minutes of the Race. Everyone tends to have the biggest smiles at the end – a mixture of bliss, happiness and relief.

Abichal

Abichal

Patrick Quinn - An Irish family occasion

Patrick Quinn – An Irish family occasion

Group happiness for Chris McCarthy completing 106 miles

Group happiness for Chris McCarthy completing 106 miles

Alex Riches celebrating with his family after reaching his goal of 100 miles

Alex Riches celebrating with his family after reaching his goal of 100 miles

It is amazing how such an arduous task such as completing a 24 hour race can bring so much joy and happiness to so many people – runners (of course, especially at the end), lap counters, helpers, supporters and family and friends. It was a privilege to be at the race again to witness this.John Turner inspiring the next generation

With God’s grace I hope I can run in the race next year.

 

It always seems impossible until it’s done. Nelson Mandela

Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Race 2013 Results

5.0.3

Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team

My 24 Hour Self-Transcendence Track Race Experiences 2009 & 2010 – Success, Failure and Progress

Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Race 2009

Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Race 2009

Self-transcendence

Means

Self-expansion

In every way. 

The determination in your heroic effort will permeate your mind and heart even after your success or failure is long forgotten.

Sri Chinmoy

An update – 3 years on

I wrote this article originally back in November 2010 for Multidays Those of you who didn’t read the article, then this is a second chance, and for also me to post something of my own writing on my website.

The 24 Hour Self-Transcendence Track Race takes place each year at the Tooting Bec Athletic Track, London. Since running my first 24 hour race in 2009 I have run at Tooting Bec for the past four consecutive years. This year the race will be held on 21st and 22nd September. Sadly, due to injury I will not be running it this year. I will certainly miss the experiences as each race always throws up something new; it is never the same. That’s what makes it exciting and enthralling for me; and the sense of accomplishment once that horn sounds at midday on Sunday to signal the end of the race.

Part 1: First Time  – October 2009

I knew roughly what to expect coming into the 24-hour race, but still for me it was going into unknown territory. The farthest I had run to date was in August when I completed the Sri Chinmoy 47 mile race in New York in just under than 8 hours. I struggled with that in the later stages. However, my mindset approaching the day of the 24-hour race was very positive and I had this inner feeling that everything was going to be all right. I had learned some invaluable lessons from the Barry 40 mile track race in March and in the Sri Chinmoy 47 mile race in August. Over a 12-month period I had addressed some significant biomechanical issues and had strengthened key leg muscles with a programme of resistance training in the gym and worked on my core stability. I guess I had done everything I could do and I was ready to step up to the mark. The way I was feeling days before and on the race day was one of surrender, gratitude, determination and absence of fear and doubt. With God’s grace I knew I could reach my target of 100 miles.

Prior to the race I got invaluable advice from my friend Abichal who as always is a great source of practical advice and inspiration. I had a simple race strategy – on every hour to walk for 5 or 10 minutes. I broke the race up into quarters so I would be able to monitor my progress and attempt to achieve 25 miles every quarter. I knew this was achievable. I said to myself constantly, “I can do this”.

Focused and determined

Focused and determined

Although it is a long race, emotions and experiences become a blur as you are always constantly moving and trying to move forward. I won’t give an hour by hour account of the race as that will only bore you, and to be honest I can’t really remember much. At the start I just felt I didn’t want to be anywhere else other than doing this race, right there, right now. Being on that start line felt so right and I just knew I was going to have a wonderful journey.

Inevitably there were a few challenges during the race, but like Sri Chinmoy said,

“What is a challenge,

If not a friend

In disguise

To strengthen us?”

The recurring challenge I did have were a few stomach problems, but that did not last, and it was more of an inconvenience, and once I knew what the problem was, I was able to resolve it with a hot pot of rice pudding and honey. Ambrosia never tasted so good, along with a weak, sweet cup of tea! I’ve learnt that sometimes the simplest things are the best. The energy drinks and bars have their place, but sometimes they just don’t do the job for me.

Looking good and relaxed

Looking good and relaxed

By the half way point I had reached 60 miles, and I was feeling really strong and the walk and drink, and just relax and have fun every hour seemed to be working very well. A few of the runners had told me that if you reach 60 miles by midnight you should get your 100 miles. I was aware that I was running further than I had ever run before, and I was rather surprised that I was not experiencing any energy issues, tiredness or even muscular tightness. Throughout the race I was always trying to stay focused and relaxed. When some tightness did arise in my feet, I was aware of what they were, and simply loosened the laces and applied more lubricant on the toes to prevent any blisters. Through the early hours I was inwardly chanting my own personal mantras that work for me and that helped me to remain focused. By the early hours of the morning I was still feeling strong and in a good consciousness. I just felt so joyful and so grateful having the opportunity to be doing this race. I thought at some point I would get bored and need some stimulation by listening to some music, but I didn’t need it. Inwardly it seemed that I had my own inner music playing. That kept me ticking over. I think I reached 100 miles by around 09.15am, so I had achieved my goal of 100 miles.

Running through the night

Running through the night

However, as Sri Chinmoy wrote,

You can always do more. Today’s goal is only the starting point for tomorrow’s new dawn. At every moment we are transcending our previous achievements………our goal should be our own progress, and progress itself is the most illumining experience.”

My focus was now to try to reach 111 miles. I had about 2 and half hours to do 11 miles and I was slowing down considerably; I was doing between 3 and 4 miles per hour, so I worked it out that I had to step it up and get moving to reach my new goal, and really experience self transcendence.

With about 10 minutes to go to the end of the race I completed 111 miles. I did it I thought. But there was still time to run further. Encouraged by the lap counters to squeeze in another mile I summoned up enough energy and willed my legs to open up and finished very strongly to finally complete 112.10 miles.

At the end of the film Babe when the sheep pig wins the competition and the crowd rapturously applauds, the farmer looks down on Babe and just says, “That will do pig, that will do”, and smiles. You know that all the pig wanted to do was please his master, well that was how I felt at the end of the 24 hour race. A job well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Award ceremony

Award ceremony

I vowed that I would run the Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendence 24 Hour Track Race next year.

Part 2: Second Time Around – September 2010

Enjoying the moment

Enjoying the moment

Second time around competing in a 24-hour race you would think it would be easier. However, every race is different and because of random factors and personal circumstances it brings its own challenges – some out of your control whilst others where you can choose to do something about it. And sometimes you just make the wrong decisions and fail but that’s all part of the experience. As Sri Chinmoy poignantly wrote,

“What is failure?

Failures are the

Pillars of success”

I came into my second Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendence 24 Hour Track race with more experience, feeling stronger, lighter and more confident. On the downside though I was carrying a few niggles, recovering from shin splints, and feeling tired after spending 5 months on the road running through America as part of an international team relay called the World Harmony Run (World Harmony Run USA 2010), and legs feeling tired from the previous three weeks after completing a marathon and two days later running a PB in the Sri Chinmoy 47 mile race in New York.

The lead up to the race hadn’t been ideal. Running as part of a relay team in America I hadn’t been able to get any long runs under my belt and my running was feeling a bit one dimensional. I hadn’t the luxury to do specific 24 hour race training in the form of tempo runs and speed work or gym work to get me to a performance that I would have envisaged. From the previous year as I had unexpectedly done so well I might have set an unrealistic target of 200km for this year. I planned to try to run 6 miles per hour for the first half and attempt to run 5 miles per hour for the next 12 hours. In my mind I thought this was achievable. I planned to have a five-minute walk break every two hours. It all sounds so simple on paper!

Looking strong

Looking strong

Under the circumstances what was achievable and what was actually achieved were two different things. During a race, events happen that in order to continue the whole distance it is best to surrender to what occurs and change your tack or mindset. Right from the beginning I had this feeling that it was going to be much tougher than last year. A few weeks leading up to the race my running lacked fluidity and certain muscles were not properly functioning. Things felt out of synch. From the first hour in the race my right glute muscle tightened up and this affected my running form. To counteract this I consciously tried to relax and keep my running as easy and smooth as possible. I maintained a fairly good pace for the first four hours and then I started to annoyingly suffer from blisters. My complacency missed the crucial detail of wearing the twin-layered socks that worked so well for me the previous year. I had instead opted for the long compression socks to assist my shin splints, but they were totally unsatisfactory at keeping my feet blister free. So for the next few hours I had to regularly stop to burst the newly formed blisters, treat them and tape them up and readjust the plasters on the old blisters. They didn’t hurt, but I was just annoyed with myself that I hadn’t paid enough attention to my feet; basic schoolboy error of ultra running. Whether blisters hurt or not you do unconsciously tend to change your running form slightly and that makes your running less efficient – you’re expending unnecessary energy.

Still smiling

Still smiling

By the half way stage I was behind my schedule by 10 miles. I knew I would not be able to make up those miles and the way I was feeling it was going to be a struggle to last the 24 hours. The legs felt tired, not just from the previous 12 hours, but I was feeling that all the World Harmony Run running and the two races 3 weeks previous were starting to catch up with me now. I was not firing on all cylinders to put it mildly, and fears and doubts started to enter my mind.

In the early hours of the morning I was really struggling. I was going through a bad patch. There was a fleeting thought that crossed my mind for a second that I should give up. However, the next thought was Sri Chinmoy’s words repeating over and over again inside me, “Never, never give up!” and,

“There is only one perfect road

And that road is ahead of you,

always ahead of you.”

Feeling very tired and struggling

Feeling very tired and struggling

Although I knew I wouldn’t achieve what I wished to achieve, the most important thing was not to give up, keep persevering and summon my determination to keep moving forward.

Looking on the positive, other aspects of the race had gone better than last year. By taking my own food and knowing what foods worked for me I avoided the stomach problems of the previous year. That was a bonus not going to the toilet so often, however on the down side I drunk too much liquid during the night and had to constantly stop to urinate – it was like every 20 minutes for the two hours. That did disrupt my flow (not my pee flow!) and I just couldn’t get into any rhythm. I was finding it so much hard work, and was feeling the race was an ever increasing battle. At one point I remember I felt pretty miserable, low, cold, tired and was really not enjoying it, but I knew I had to remain as cheerful as possible and feel gratitude for being given the opportunity to have these invaluable experiences in this race. Surrendering to these experiences was the best way for me to cope. There was a good reason why I was having these challenging experiences. Slowly running through the night I looked forward to the approaching dawn.

There are aspects of the race that help you to continue and not give up. One important aspect of this type of race that sometimes gets overlooked is the pervading consciousness of oneness you feel. You truly feel oneness with your fellow runners and a sense of progression and dynamism. There are hilarious and amusing moments in the race that lighten each individual’s pain and struggle. There are also the lap counters and helpers that you build up a rapport with who are there to help you achieve the best you can do.

As the race wore on I was walking more than running, but by one step at a time I was glad to get to the100 mile mark. That was a satisfying achievement for me and eventually at the end of the 24 hours I had completed just over 104 miles.  It was a huge effort to get there, but ultimately it was about the progress I had made and my own inner journey.

At the end of a 24-hour race you sense that everyone feels that something really special has happened and each runner has inwardly and outwardly made so much progress. The smiles on the faces and the sense of relief of everyone tell their own stories.

159[1]

A second Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Race finishers trophy to add to my one from 2009

“At every moment

We must value not only

Our successes and

Achievements

But also the efforts

We make”. 

Sri Chinmoy

Useful links

Sri Chinmoy AC Ultradistance Events