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. 
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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
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We have to keep going

Join us ArtPics - Photography © Rick Lundh

Join us ArtPics – Photography © Rick Lundh

I’ve learned anything from life, it’s that sometimes, the darkest times can bring us to the brightest places. I’ve learned that the most toxic people can teach us the most important lessons; that our most painful struggles can grant us the most necessary growth; and that the most heartbreaking losses of friendship and love can make room for the most wonderful people.

I’ve learned that what seems like a curse in the moment can actually be a blessing, and that what seems like the end of the road is actually just the discovery that we are meant to travel down a different path.

I’ve learned that no matter how difficult things seem, there is always hope. And I’ve learned that no matter how powerless we feel or how horrible things seem, we can’t give up.

We have to keep going. Even when it’s scary, even when all of our strength seems gone, we have to keep picking ourselves back up and moving forward, because whatever we’re battling in the moment, it will pass, and we will make it through.

We’ve made it this far. We can make it through whatever comes next.

~ Daniell Koepke

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Twists and Turns, Ups and Downs

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The wheels fall off!

Sometimes the best laid plans that you make and hopes that you have don’t always materialise; life is full of twists and turns, and ups and downs. I suppose that’s what makes life interesting – events happen in ones life for a purpose. Those people that we meet and those that briefly cross our path enrich our lives for the better.

I had planned to run in the Hungarian 6 Day Race in May and everything seemed to be going well. I had come back buoyant from a good performance at the 72 Hour Across the Years Race (Phoenix, Arizona). I did a reasonable good time of 5:22:38 for the Barry 40 Track Race considering I had done limited speed work since coming back from Phoenix. A week later the Sri Chinmoy AC organised a 50 mile run from London to Brighton, and I did that fairly comfortably. So all was going well, or so it seemed.

In February on the advice of my physio I got some orthotics from a Sports Podiatrist hoping to correct issues with my left ankle and knee. To cut a long story short I didn’t get on with them. They upset my biomechanics to such an extent that it aggravated the sciatica joint, seized up my lower back and caused piriformis syndrome. I got treatments from an osteopath and my physio and on their advice I decided it was just too risky to contemplate running a 6 Day Race. There was no chance my body would be able to recover sufficiently to endure the demands of a 6 Day Race. I laid off running for 7 weeks. I eventually sought treatment from a practitioner using the Bowen technique and that now seems to be addressing the key biomechanical issues causing the left knee pain. I needed to try something different. I bought some new shoes as well, hahaha! Don’t ask me how many pairs I have now.

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At the same time I was diagnosed with chronic adrenal fatigue. Over the years perhaps I had put too much stresses and strains on my body. The kinesiologist who I saw for the treatment identified that I had probably dipped far below into my reserves and there was nothing left. I was running on empty and you can only do that for so long, before the wheels fall off.

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No one really wants to know how sick you are or how it is affecting you mentally.  Because basically the general attitude with sports related injuries and health issues that are a result of amateur ultra-running is, “It’s your own fault”. The weeks of chronic fatigue were hard to deal with and it felt like the spark inside me had been extinguished. It was a challenge to deal with the depression, lack of enthusiasm and motivation for life, because that isn’t the person I normally am. I had this sense that I just needed to hang in there and it wouldn’t last for ever. With rest, and taking supplements identified to address my candida, leaky gut syndrome and chronic adrenal fatigue things are now on the mend.

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Helping others

In February my physio asked me if I could help Claire Oziem who would be attempting to become the first woman to run unsupportive from John O’Groats to Land’s End. It is always nice to help others realise their hopes and dreams especially on such an ambitious challenge as this. I think for me my best qualities come to the fore when I help and try to inspire individuals. It is great to see those that you help blossom and fulfil their potential. Simply, helping others makes me happy. Claire started her journey on 22nd June. See her blog 1000 Miles in Mind, and Claire Oziem Personal Blog Facebook Page. As much as Claire has been grateful for the advice and assistance I have given her in the build up to her challenge, I think it has also benefited me – it gave me a sense of purpose and satisfaction that in some small way reaffirmed in my ability to inspire others. I just have to inspire myself more that’s all, hahaha!

Back to my homeland – A trip to Cornwall

Cornwall twinned with heaven

As I hadn’t been back to see my parents since October, I needed a change of scenery. And as I was back to full training in the previous two weeks I needed to run in my heaven that is the Cornish landscape of spectacular cliffs, being by the sea and taking in the glorious view of St Michael’s Mount each day.

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I even forced myself to relax and just lie on the beach, something that I rarely do. I often find it hard to do nothing; if I’m doing nothing I feel guilty thinking that I should be doing something constructive.

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Running each day in such a beautiful part of the world renewed my energy levels and my joy of running returned.

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The run on the South West Coastal path from Penzance to Land’s End and returning back along this route finishing at Porthcurno Beach (Garmin 22 miles coastal path run) was a very special day. It was one of those glorious summer days that you know exist deep in your childhood memory banks that you just long for.  It was warm, sunny and not a breeze stirred. The sea was like a millpond and everything was spectacularly clear. I felt truly blessed. All my senses were heightened and I wanted to capture every single aspect of the day – the sights, sounds and smells of being on this Cornish coastline.

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Whilst I was down in Cornwall I took the opportunity to visit People and Gardens and meet up again with the kind-hearted owners Ken and Lorraine Radford. I spent a most enjoyable day with those involved with the project planting spring onions.

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Being outdoors in the sunshine with the smell of the earth and planting spring onions is such a simple pursuit that feeds the soul.

 

 

 

 

Moving forward

Well, for the first time in months I feel that I am moving forward having learnt many lessons, most importantly the ones that come to mind are:

  1. To be more aware of my health and the dangers of stress and overtraining.
  2. I’m not unbreakable, in fact I’m more fragile than I thought.
  3. Re-evaluate my motivations.
  4. Stop procrastinating and seize the moment.
  5. Stop worrying.
  6. Follow my intuition.
  7. A change is as good as a holiday, but a change of scenery is better.

Last month Bill Schultz, an American ultra runner left this lovely quote on my Facebook timeline which I’m so grateful for as it was much needed when I was feeling very low.

May the sun forever shine upon your face,
May the wind forever blow upon your back,
May your goals forever be in sight,
May your beliefs forever give you strength
And may your Spirit forever run free!

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Determination and willpower

One of the dictionary definitions of determination is a quality that makes you continue to do or achieve something that is difficult. It’s a starting point, but looking to the writings of my special teacher, Sri Chinmoy places determination and that of willpower in a more divine and spiritual context.

The following extracts are taken from the online resources of the Sri Chinmoy Library

If you travel all the time
On the wings of hope,
And not
On the wings of determination
You are not going to succeed 
In the battlefield of life 
~ Sri Chinmoy
 

Question: Where is determination to be found? In which part of our being do we have to work on determination? Is it in the mind or the heart?

Sri Chinmoy: Determination can be found inside the mind. With determination, you can try to do many things. You can have the determination that says: “I will do something good. I will do something great. All bad things I will give up.” But at any moment the determination that comes from the mind can be challenged by doubt, specially self-doubt. Then our determination is destroyed.

If you want to become a good person, a great person, or if you want to do something great, there is another way. That is the way of oneness. If you can identify yourself with something very strong, very powerful and very vast, then inside your oneness you will find all the positive qualities. When you use determination or will-power, you are entering into someone or something. Like a dagger, you are piercing into something. But the way of oneness is to just throw yourself into the vastness. I always say that when a drop enters into the ocean, it becomes infinite, boundless — that drop you will no longer see.

Problems can be solved permanently only by identifying yourself with something very strong, very powerful, very vast. Look at the sky. How much vastness it has! Look at the ocean. How much power it has! Just throw yourself into the vastness or into the power. This is the wisest way and this way is also permanent.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy answers, part 30, Agni Press, 2001

219 A Determination-Stride

 They call it
A determination-stride.
I call it
A great ignorance-challenging friend.
 Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 3, Agni Press, 1979
 
Determination and impossibility
Are never to be found
Together.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 14, Agni Press, 1999

Determination
Has to be indomitable
If you want to succeed
In any walk of life.

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In the ordinary human life, when we are determined to do something, we maintain our determination for five minutes and then all our determination is gone. If we try to achieve determination on our own, it will not last. But once we know what the soul’s will-power is, we see that it lasts for many years, even for a lifetime.

The difference between determination and divine will power is this: determination is in the mind; divine will power is in the soul. Because the mind is very, very limited, mental determination is not enduring; it is all fluctuation. Mental determination is constantly being destroyed since the mind accepts different ideas at every moment. But the will of the soul is everlasting, ever-progressing and ever-fulfilling because it is one with the Will of the Supreme.

Sri Chinmoy, Life-tree-leaves, Agni Press, 1974

Determination needs two friends to arrive at the Goal: sincerity of the heart and purity of the mind. When we have a purity-mind and a sincerity-heart, then determination can play its role most effectively and most powerfully inside our inner life and also inside our outer life. Determination is the first convincing step that expedites our Godward journey.

Sri Chinmoy, Rainbow-Flowers, Part 2, Agni Press, 1999

9725 Your Heroic Effort

The determination in your heroic effort
Will permeate your mind and heart
Even after your success or failure
Is long forgotten.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 98, Agni Press, 1983

Question: Where is determination to be found? In which part of our being do we have to work on determination? Is it in the mind or the heart?

Sri Chinmoy: Determination can be found inside the mind. With determination, you can try to do many things. You can have the determination that says: “I will do something good. I will do something great. All bad things I will give up.” But at any moment the determination that comes from the mind can be challenged by doubt, specially self-doubt. Then our determination is destroyed.

If you want to become a good person, a great person, or if you want to do something great, there is another way. That is the way of oneness. If you can identify yourself with something very strong, very powerful and very vast, then inside your oneness you will find all the positive qualities. When you use determination or will-power, you are entering into someone or something. Like a dagger, you are piercing into something. But the way of oneness is to just throw yourself into the vastness. I always say that when a drop enters into the ocean, it becomes infinite, boundless — that drop you will no longer see.

Problems can be solved permanently only by identifying yourself with something very strong, very powerful, very vast. Look at the sky. How much vastness it has! Look at the ocean. How much power it has! Just throw yourself into the vastness or into the power. This is the wisest way and this way is also permanent.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy answers, part 30, Agni Press, 2001

1090

 Every day cultivate adamantine will
In the depths of your heart
So that with no difficulty you can bestride
All your problems in the mental world.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 11, Agni Press, 1983

Determination And Willpower

Willpower is man’s conscious inner urge to enter into the very heart of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality.

— Sri Chinmoy

If we want to develop determination, then we must think not of the lower, emotional vital but of the dynamic, energetic vital. We must think of ourselves not as the aggressive vital, which most gladly enjoys depression and frustration, but as the vital that is full of determination. If the vital wants to achieve something by hook or by crook, then it is the undivine vital. But the undivine vital only destroys our possibilities and potentialities. By adopting foul means, by misusing our determination, we cannot get anything. But if the vital wants to work devotedly and with tremendous sincerity, that is to say, if it needs the truth and if it will not take rest until it achieves the truth, then that is the divine vital. The divine vital longs for everything positive. It needs Light. Without Light, it will not be fulfilled. It needs divine Power: the Power that builds, not the power that destroy us. It needs divine Love: the Love that expands, not the human love that ends in frustration.

Let us say that a child has started to study in primary school. He says, “I am determined to get my Master’s degree; before that, I will not give up studying.” If his determination is very sincere, then the child will one day reach his goal. Similarly, in the spiritual life if the vital makes the promise that it will bring down from above Peace, Light and Bliss in boundless measure, then eventually it is bound to bring down Peace, Light and Bliss.

But the determination of the vital is not enough; we also need the will of the soul. Determination ultimately comes from the soul. When we use this power on the physical, vital or mental plane — that is to say, on the outer plane — we call it determination. But when we use it on the inner or psychic plane, we call it willpower, the light of the soul. ’Willpower’ is the spiritual term that we use for determination. When the light of the soul enters into the vital, we can have one-pointed determination. This one-pointed determination is divine determination, real willpower.

In ordinary human life, when we are determined to do something, we maintain our determination for five minutes and then all our determination is gone. If we try to achieve determination on our own, it will not last. But once we know what the soul’s willpower is, we see that it lasts for many years, even for a lifetime.

Divine determination automatically comes if we meditate on the heart, on the heart’s light. Each seeker can develop the capacity to bring light to the fore. If we meditate somewhere else rather than on the heart, our determination may fluctuate. Suppose we are determined to get up the next morning at five o’clock. Tomorrow we may get up at five o’clock with greatest difficulty. But the day after tomorrow, we simply forget to get out of bed. We have not made a determined promise and so we get up at eight o’clock or ten o’clock. Why? Because we have not charged our battery. If we get divine light from our soul during our meditation and if we sincerely pray to the soul to wake us up at five o’clock, then the soul will be pleased. Even if we go to bed at two o’clock in the morning, we will be able to get up at five o’clock. The soul will get us up. It is the soul that can take the responsibility to do what is necessary on our behalf. The Seekers of Truth and Light will always try to have free access to the soul’s will. If we make a conscious effort to identify with our soul’s will and with the determination of our inner being, only then can our efforts have power.

Sri Chinmoy, Aspiration-Plants, Agni Press, 1974

1650 Always Take One More Step

 Always take one more step
Than you intended to.
You can, without fail, do it.
Lo, you have done it.

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.

 

 

Quote

Each individual soul

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Each individual soul is a choice instrument of God. Each individual soul has to accomplish something unique here on earth before it passes behind the curtain of Eternity. Each individual soul has a message, a special gift, to offer to Mother Earth. Each soul tries to leave here something divinely inspiring and supremely fulfilling.

Sri Chinmoy (2008) Behind the Curtain of Eternity. Selected Writings by Sri Chinmoy. New York: Aum Publications.

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A Spiritual Master’s Protection

This is a short piece I wrote for myself on 11th October 2010. I find on the eve of the 6th anniversary of Sri Chinmoy’s Mahasamadhi (a spiritual Master’s passing from this earthly plane onto the souls’ world) that I revisit the experience knowing how full of gratitude I am, and as I prepare for my 11 mile run tomorrow in dedication to my Guru.

This is what I wrote:

Your Master’s Voice

Is inside your heart,

For your soul and your Master

Are always together.

Sri Chinmoy

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Sometimes one has to be reminded of how grateful and special one is to be on Sri Chinmoy’s spiritual path and how his compassion and protection knows no bounds.

I had an unforgettable experience on the day of Guru’s Mahsamadhi this year. It is one that came totally out of the blue and so unexpected. On each anniversary of Guru’s passing from this earth I run 11 miles as soulful as I can. I inwardly chant Supreme and Gratitude and think of Guru. This year as I was still recovering from the 24-hour race it was not my intention to run 11 miles that afternoon, but something inside me compelled me that I should run the 11 miles. It was a glorious day – blue sky, crystal clear and a shining sun. Everywhere was bathed in a wonderful sunlight and it was unseasonably warm for the time of year.

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The miles went by quickly and the last two miles I was feeling so much gratitude and the last few miles inwardly chanted Supreme quickly. Near the end of my run as I came off Bristol’s Durdham Downs I was coming up to my 11th mile and, I had to cross a zebra crossing. I waited on the kerb as the car in the inside lane stopped and I then proceeded to run across. On the outside lane though the car never saw me and hit me full on. The force took my legs from under me and lifted me onto the bonnet. The pain of the impact was so intense. The momentum flung me onto the bonnet and my outstretched arms prevented my head from hitting the windscreen. I was then flung off and I bounced onto the ground and ended up flat on my back on the pavement. The front of his car finished a good 10 feet over the zebra crossing. At that point my mind was telling me that this was serious, and I won’t be running again for sometime. My mind was telling me with that that magnitude of force I must have broken my legs. The driver rushed out of his car and asked if I was seriously hurt and did I need an ambulance. I replied, “Just give me a moment”, as I took a few deep breaths. The driver said, “Did I hit you or did you bounce off my car?” I laughed and said as a matter of fact, “No … you hit me”. As quickly as the pain had come it quickly disappeared and it dawned on me that I was unhurt. The driver was saying “I’m really, really sorry, I didn’t see you”. I just said, “These things happen, don’t worry”.

740745_403670199719969_1455184739_o (2)Indeed these things do happen and that we do not know what their purpose is. Perhaps it was his destiny and mine and there was a purpose to why I was hit by him. Looking back on it in a way it was fortunate that he hit me and not anyone else. If he had hit a child or elderly person then the repercussions of his actions would have been catastrophic. That would have been very sad.

However, I was able to get up, felt that my legs were in good working order, and the rest of me was fine. I just had a minute scratch on my arm. He brushed the earth and leaves off me. I smiled – I think from a sense of relief and joy that I would still be able to run. The driver was astounded that I was unscathed, and I mentioned that, “Someone was watching over me”. Although all the traffic momentarily stopped, no one else got out of their cars and intervened or helped. It was as if this event happened within a bubble. It was a moment shared just between the driver and me. The driver was a really nice guy. I think he was quite bemused by the whole thing. I suppose he hadn’t anticipated this happening to him (it’s not everyday you run over a runner and you both smile about it) or my calm reactions towards him.  I couldn’t feel any sense of anger or animosity towards him. I knew Guru and the Supreme had helped me and I was full of eternal gratitude. The last part of the conversation I had with the driver was just telling him to slow down in future. He realised that it was his error. I shook his hand, smiled and wished him well.

1016977_499721470114841_1959675701_n (2)I ran the last mile back home and I knew something significant had happened.

I usually bruise very easily so I was expecting to be black and blue the next day. But you know what – nothing. I just know I was very lucky – very lucky that each day I can feel Guru’s and the Supreme’s presence and no more so than on that third anniversary of Guru’s passing behind the Curtain of Eternity.

11th October 2010.

My physical death

Is not the end of my life –

I am an eternal journey

Sri Chinmoy

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Sri Chinmoy entered into Mahasamadhi on October 11th 2007.

http://www.srichinmoy.org/

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