Tag Archives: World Harmony Run

Finding Peace and Harmony Through Running – An Interview

I recently gave an interview to Emily Turner (see her blog Thoughts Showcase), who is studying Media at Weston College. Here are my responses to her questions.

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What’s your name, age, and where are you from? 

Rasmivan Mark Collinson, 47 years young, originally from Penzance, Cornwall, now residing in Bristol. My birth name is Mark, however, my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy gave me a spiritual  / soul’s name of Rasmivan. A spiritual name reflects the qualities of that person’s soul. Rasmivan means “bearer of rays”, and another name for the sun and the moon; it also refers to a deity of the universe.

Can you give me a basic outline of what it is that you do?

I have studied meditation with Sri Chinmoy, my Guru since 2004 until his passing in 2007, and I’m still an active member of the worldwide Sri Chinmoy Centre. Guru is a Sanskrit word that means ‘he who illumines’. I have always enjoyed running, but it was only in 2006 that I ran my first marathon. I then steadily progressed into ultra running and ran my first 24 Hour Race in 2009. In April 2013 I ran my first 6 Day Race – the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York. I run for the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. I’m simply an amateur runner on a spiritual path.

When did you start running and how did you get involved? 

I started road running when I was about 15. I use to have some old non-descript trainers and one early morning (6am) I went out and ran around the streets around Penzance.  I enjoyed the stillness and peace of those early morning runs before school/college.  In those early days it was a way I could relax and have that sense of flow where nothing really mattered. Having a stammer / stutter as a teenager brought with it unrelenting fears in any speaking situation and low self-esteem on top of the usual teenage angst. Running was my release valve. The poem below better explains it.

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In the 1980s, road running was only just taking off here in the UK so where I lived there was not a running club but there was an Athletics Club in Camborne, which had an outdoor 400m track, but I couldn’t afford to get there and at the time my parents didn’t own a car. I was never coached and just picked up things from reading running books and Runner’s World magazine. As you can imagine my enthusiasm for running so much, progressing to running twice a day had a few repercussions and really I wasn’t training as well as I ought to with such misguided knowledge and application. That led to numerous overuse injuries, predominantly shin splints that restricted my running. I never had the confidence and had so much self-doubt that I was really any good that I never took the opportunity to be coached. I had a few friends who were far better runners than me who invited me along to run with them, as they were coached to regional and national standard, but I dismissed it as I didn’t think I was good enough. Looking back I should have taken that opportunity as perhaps I had potential and that could have been developed. But, I lacked any inking of self-belief. In a way this was as a result of having a stammer / stutter since the age of 8. And that’s a whole story in itself. And then in my late teens, I was so frustrated that I couldn’t run, I got to a stage that it was even painful to walk, and I drifted into my other group of friends who went out drinking and clubbing, as you do, to feel part of that social circle. The discipline and enjoyment of running became sporadic for a number of years until my energies were renewed when I became a student of Sri Chinmoy in 2004.

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What or who inspired you to start running?

When I was young I was a great admirer of Steve Ovett, Seb Coe and Steve Cram who were very talented middle distance runners, and then watching the first London Marathon on TV inspired me. It was like, I want to do that, and I can do that. But that inspiration ebbed and flowed and at times it was just a flicker.

My renewed inspiration to pick up running from those earlier years came from an inner urge to change my lifestyle of alcohol and smoking that had become increasingly dominant in my 20s and 30s. I was not a happy person and I had a feeling that I needed to change.  Then in my mid 30s, in 2004 I started meditating and became a disciple / student of a spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy. His promotion of running in general, ultra running and self-transcendence hit a chord with me. He said:

If we run, we see our capacities becoming fully manifested. Previously our capacities were dormant; they did not function inside us. But when we run, we bring to the fore our hidden capacities and are able to do something and become something …

A runner brings forward his capacity and becomes something. Then we see some champion runners, and he gets the inspiration to try to become an excellent runner. Perhaps he will one day excel and go beyond them. So there are always higher goals even after we have become something. Once we reach our first goal, we have to run towards a higher goal.

 Run and become.

Become and run.

Run to succeed in the outer world.

Become to proceed in the inner world”. [1]

Self-transcendence is the concept of making personal progress in different fields – physical, mental spiritual. Self-transcendence means we seek to exceed our previous achievements and extend our capacities.

“Self-transcendence gives us joy in boundless measure. When we transcend ourselves, we do not compete with others. We do not compete with the rest of the world, but at every moment we compete with ourselves.” – Sri Chinmoy

How have you had to adapt your lifestyle in terms of what you eat etc? 

Being on a spiritual path has its own set of rules and Sri Chinmoy advocated his disciples to eat a vegetarian diet, and to abstain from alcohol, smoking and drugs – the exact opposite of what I used to do! It took a period of 6 months to adapt and adopt this new lifestyle. At one point I was attempting to follow two paths – the spiritual one and remnants of my old life, but after New Year’s Eve of 2004, after drinking and smoking too much, it dawned on me you cannot split yourself and attempt to have your cake and eat it so to speak. I was only deluding myself and not being true to the person I ultimately wanted to become. It was all about transformation and making progress. So now after nearly 12 years, I don’t miss the drinking culture – I’m glad I don’t have to experience the lethargy and hangover after an over exuberant night; I was a bit of a party animal, and could never go out just for a few pints.

Being on a spiritual path has its challenges participating in everyday life. But, Sri Chinmoy wished his students to fully engage with the everyday and outer world whilst being on a spiritual path. His view was that meditating alone up in a Himalayan cave will not be beneficial to the world and assist in transforming the world’s consciousness. You try to follow the teachings of your spiritual Master. Running long distances and competing in ultra running and multi-day events enables me to live more in the moment and go beyond my perceived capacities. It also gives me immense joy and I’m a happier person for it. It’s just a different way of approaching life where you are guided by your spiritual Master to enable you to listen more closely to the dictates of your soul.

What’s been the best experience so far? 

In terms of my running experiences it has to be being part of an international team when I did 6 months of the European leg of the World Harmony Run in 2006 and the whole USA route in 2010. Also very special was organising the south west route of the GB run 2011.

In terms of my best race experiences it has to be the 72 hour race in Phoenix in 2013/14 when I was second male with 233 miles and my first 24 hour race in 2009 when I ran 112 miles.

Across the Years 2013-14 72 Hour Race

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

What’s the most important or significant thing you’ve learnt from your journey? 

ArtPics - Photography © Jake Olson

It is all about the journey and not ultimately about the destination. There is so much that I have gained and continue to gain from being on a spiritual path and participating in these ultra running races. I think ultimately, what Sri Chinmoy taught me, is to never, never, never give up, and always believe in your spiritual Master. There are so many stories and experiences I could tell you – one special instance is that of a Compassion Miracle of my Guru’s protection (A Spiritual Master’s Protection). I was running, hit by a car on a zebra crossing and I walked away with simply a tiny scratch on my arm. Endurance events are challenging and they push you out of your comfort zone, but ultimately from these experiences you grow and become stronger.

I read recently a quote on Facebook, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place”. This totally makes sense to me.

What is the most rewarding part of this experience?

I think it has to be eventually having a sense of contentment and happiness. Through the inner and outer challenges of ultra running life can make sense and become clearer. Scott Jurek, a famous American ultra runner made the comment that, “Running is not easy and it’s challenging. It’s that kind of good discomfort that cleanses us”.  When you’ve had the perfect run, you’ve cleared your soul.

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What has been your biggest achievement? 

That’s a hard question to answer, and I think in terms of my race performances it has to be finishing as second male with 233 miles in the 72 hour Across the Years Race in Phoenix, USA in 2013/14.

Are there any negatives? 

I can’t think of any.

What and when is your next exciting adventure?  

This year the European leg of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run begins on 24th February in Porto and finishes on 8thOctober in Rome, and I will be part of an international team completing the whole European route.

In a world that is ever more connected and yet at the same time people feeling disconnected, this year gives me the opportunity to reconnect with my spirituality, with so many people and myself.  It will also enable me to return to the joys of running for peace and harmony that feeds my soul.

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The simple act of running to promote peace and harmony is a way of making a difference by touching the lives of so many people and taking their hopes for a more peaceful and harmonious world to the next town/village, the next city, the next country and the whole world. Many drops of water make an ocean.

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I fly out to Porto, Portugal on 23rd February and over the last 18 months of thinking and planning about the Peace Run it is finally reaching the time for me to leave my ‘normal’ life and embark on a great adventure. A few months ago I suppose I was getting cold feet, and had the usual doubts and fears on whether I was making the right decision to be on the Peace Run for such an extended time.  But, when I compared my experiences on previous Peace Runs and thinking about it sat in front of a computer at work writing another report, then it is a no brainer. Life is about seizing wondrous opportunities and living a life with no regrets. I’m definitely going to remember events and experiences that happen on the Peace Run that will remain with me forever. I couldn’t tell you what I did in the office last week, so that tells you something.

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Calvin and Hobbes Running

What advice would you give someone else wanting to run professionally?

Well, I’m not in the position to give advice as I don’t run professionally. That’s something that I’m not qualified to comment on.  However, there are general aspects that I’ve learned that can be given to anyone who wishes to be successful and gain contentment in anything what they do.

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  1. Believe in yourself. Have self-belief that anything is possible and never, never give up. Let no one tell you that you can’t do it, or it is not possible. It is important to be your own person.
  2. Dare to be different. I always remember Daley Thompson saying, “The only way to make a difference is to be different and do what the others are not doing ………  I train twice on Christmas Day because I know the others aren’t training at all, so it gives me two extra days”.
  3. Surround yourself with those that can nurture you. Be that friends and family who can believe in you and for any young sportsperson to become professional it is to find that coach that can keep you moving in the right direction and achieving those goals. Being part of a running club will help to structure your training, maintain a discipline and help to monitor your progress. Training with others inspires you to become better.
  4. Have a Goal. The anticipation of attempting something that you have prepared weeks, months or years for adds richness to life. Life can thrive in the presence of big goals and it can nourish the heart and soul.
  5. Adversity. Overcoming challenges makes you stronger. Not everything goes to plan, but it tends to change your life in many ways, most for the better.
  6. Simplicity. Keep your training simple and don’t over complicate it when it is not needed. Stay committed to your training plan. Be patient and don’t expect to be the best right away.
  7. Rest and recovery. Never underestimate the importance of rest to let you physically recover and mentally recharge. Nutrition is so important and helps your body to recover after races and intense training sessions. Keeping a sense of perspective and balance is so important, and listening to your body and intuition is key.

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[1] Sri Chinmoy (2008) The Inner Running and the Outer Running – Yogic Secrets for Better Running, p.13, New York: Aum Publications.

Running for Peace and Harmony – Reflections and the Future (Part 3)

World Harmony Run GB 2011 (12th June – 2nd July)

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As the countless drops

Of the boundless ocean

Or the myriad leaves

Of a huge banyan tree

Peacefully remain side by side

Even so all human beings

Will someday live side by side

In a perfect oneness-world.

~ Sri Chinmoy

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(See: http://www.worldharmonyrun.org/great_britain/news/2011.html for the daily web reports).

On the off years when there is not a continuous route through continents, each country organises special events and in 2011 the GB Team organised an international torch relay from John O’Groats to Land’s End. I was the Regional Co-ordinator for the South West.

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Once again I’ll let the photos do the talking 🙂

The route from Bristol to Land’s End:

Bristol Lands End route

A Bristol
B Wells
C Glastonbury
D Taunton
E Cullompton
F Exeter
G Dawlish Warren
H Torquay
I Dartmouth
J Kingsbridge
K Plymouth
L Looe
M Fowey
N St Blazey
O Eden Project
P St Austell
Q Truro
R St Agnes
S Porthtowan
T Land's End

Southwest schedule:

Date From To Total Miles
Tuesday 28th June Bristol Exeter 72
Wednesday 29th June Exeter Plymouth 77
Thursday 30th June Plymouth Eden Project 40
Friday 1st July Eden Project Marazion 54
Sdaturday 2nd July Marazion Land’s End 21
 Total 264

Generally when the European route comes through Britain we have never had the opportunity to visit the southwest so this was an amazing chance to showcase the region, and especially Cornwall to the runners. It was an opportunity for many people and children to experience that they too can make a difference and world harmony begins with them.

Summer, a cloud and a field, what more do you need

Summer, a cloud and a field, what more do you need?

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We assembled one of the most experienced international team of runners and they were a joy to work with and they responded in equal measure.

On top of Glastonbury Tor

On top of Glastonbury Tor

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Swapping the torch for some ice creams

Swapping the torch for some ice creams

We visited many schools where we gave presentations and gave the children the opportunity to hold the World Harmony Run torch and make a wish for peace and harmony as we teach them the motto, “Harmony begins with me”.

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World Harmony Run
Means the beauty
Of the universal heart
And the fragrance
Of the transcendental soul.

Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 57, Agni Press, 2008.

Intensity of wishing for peace and feeling harmony inside your heart

Intensity of wishing for peace and feeling harmony inside your heart

 

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It's fun to run

It’s fun to run

Enthusiasm of wanting peace and harmony

Enthusiasm of wanting peace and harmony

It's good to laugh

It’s good to laugh

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0629_50 0629_29 We had a great laugh with the children We had a great laugh with the children Surfers 0701_49 0701_46 0701_19 0701_20

Thumbs up for harmony

Thumbs up for harmony

Peace is friendship

Peace is friendship

Peace is a warm and friendly smile

Peace is a warm and friendly smile

When the Team reached Bristol the glorious weather began and we were blessed with the most wonderful summer weather of lovely heat and sunshine.

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At the Eden Project we presented Torch-Bearer Awards[1]. These are presented to members of the community that are beacons in promoting peace and harmony.  We presented the Torch-Bearer Awards to Tim Smit (the then Chief Executive and co-founder of the Eden Project), Gaynor Coley (the then Managing Director of the Eden Project) and Ken Radford (owner of People and Gardens http://www.peopleandgardens.co.uk/ )

From l-r Ken Radford, Gaynor Coley and Tim Smit

From l-r Ken Radford, Gaynor Coley and Tim Smit

Ken & Lorraine Radford of People & Gardens

Ken & Lorraine Radford of People & Gardens

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How can we have peace?

Not by talking about peace,

But by walking

Along the road of peace.

Sri Chinmoy

On occasion of the WHR visiting the Eden Project 30 June 2011.

By the time we reached Penzance even I couldn’t believe how glorious the weather was and showcased Cornwall to its best. Our international runners from as far as America and Australia couldn’t believe they were in Britain.

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It was also a great occasion to introduce the World Harmony Run to my community of Penzance where I’m from and for my family to hold the torch.

My parents and sister holding the Torch

My parents and sister holding the Torch

We were very grateful for the Cornish Pirates Rugby Club to receive the Torch and we had a wonderful time meeting the players and the staff.

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Our final stretch of the run was from the Minack Theatre along the coastal footpath to Land’s End.

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m_0702_52 This was a great way to end the run and it took some time to get to Land’s End as the runners just had to stop and stare at the beauty around at every cove.

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The outer world
Needs
The beauty of harmony.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 50, Agni Press, 2009.

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The cliffs and the sea were just stunning.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  My cheeks and not my legs were aching by the end of the day.

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[1] http://www.peacerun.org/torch-bearer-award/  and Great Britain recipients: http://www.peacerun.org/gb/torch-bearer-award/

Running for Peace and Harmony – Reflections and the Future (Part 2)

World Harmony Run USA 2010

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In 2010[1] I had the wonderful experience of being part of the international team in USA and one of only few runners to complete the whole US route by running through every mainland US state.  As in Europe the format is the same but you tend to be running longer distances (average weekly miles of 120 – 150 miles) and it feels more of a pioneering spirit.

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Running through America tends to be a slightly different experience. The scenery and landscape of America is a sight to behold and so varied. Once you get out into the Midwest the horizon is endless and the sky so big and the roads so long as they disappear into the distance.  The beauty of nature tends to provide inspiration and energy for you to run long distances.

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As always I met some amazing people and what you get from American people is their enthusiasm and openness, and that ‘can do’ spirit which is so refreshing.

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As if it was destined, that year the US World Harmony Run returned to New York on my birthday of 17th August.  On 23rd August the Team officially finished our 10,000 mile, four month, 50 state relay at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza in Manhattan, New York with a closing ceremony. [2]

Closing ceremony

The photos and videos speak for themselves. This Run was a more heart opening experience for me than ever before. There were more times when you were running all alone and nothing but the sun on your back, the gentle breeze and the sound of your feet pounding the road. More so than ever before I appreciated the simplicity of life on the road and how the simple act of running with a flaming torch can touch so many peoples’ loves. The outpouring of love, enthusiasm and kindness of all the people I met was joyous. As always the children made an instant connection with the Peace Torch. Children tend to be all heart and love.

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As Sri Chinmoy commented in June 2007:

For children, we have the World Harmony Run. They hold the torch, and then they run, run, run, carrying the message of harmony. Now we do not have nay harmony. Throughout the whole world harmony is absent. The world is totally empty of harmony. The World Harmony Run has covered more than 76 countries. Little children run mile after mile and they get spontaneous joy. This joy we have lost because we have misused it, and we have done many things wrong. But children have done nothing wrong, so they have kept their joy. They get spontaneous joy, and they run and enter into their heart-garden, going from one flower to another. This world of ours needs harmony, harmony, harmony. Children are the most suitable to bring about harmony because for them it is something new and fresh. Children take each morning as a new dream.

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[1] See http://www.worldharmonyrun.org/usa/news/2010.html for the route through USA.

[2] See the full story and more photos http://www.worldharmonyrun.org/usa/news/2010/week18/0823.html

Running for Peace and Harmony – Reflections and the Future (Part 1)

The beginnings – 2004, 2006 & 2008

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I became a student of a spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy back in 2004 and I have been practising meditation[1] for the past 11 years with the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centres.  And in that year I was introduced to the World Harmony Run. Little did I know it but it was something that was going to become an important aspect of my life. I would experience some of the most joyous and happiest moments in my life.

Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy

The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run (previously known as the World Harmony Run between 2005 and 2013), founded by the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (http://www.peacerun.org/srichinmoy/) is a global relay that seeks to promote international friendship and understanding. Since its inception in 1987 the Run has traversed over 140 nations and touched the lives of millions of people. The Peace Run does not seek to raise money or highlight any political cause, but simply strives to create goodwill among peoples of all nations.

“The World Harmony Run carries this dream: through running we can unite people in the whole world.” – Tegla Loroupe

“When I carried the flaming torch, I felt so much oneness with all the people of the world. Each participant in the World Harmony Run will show that the hopes and dreams of man are more enduring than his fears. And the trials on the road to world-harmony are no greater than the courage of those who accept the challenge.” – Carl Lewis

 “Sport has incredible potential to promote peace and harmony in the world. Sport is a language that everyone can speak. It is not about the colour of your skin, your religion, your wealth, your disability – it is about being the best you can be. It is a wonderful foundation for life and for creating harmony in the world.” – Katrina Webb, Australian Paralympics Champion

Every two years continuous routes are organised in Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and Australasia in which teams of relay runners carry a flaming Peace Torch. By passing the torch from one person to the next, the relay offers people from many nations the opportunity to express their hopes and dreams for a better, brighter future. People from all walks of life hold the symbolic torch to wish for a peaceful world. Passing the torch from one person to the next unites us together in our common aspiration to offer something positive to our world – together we can make a difference!

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In 2006 I embarked on an amazing 6 month journey with the European leg of the World Harmony Run that was to take me through 30 countries and leave me with such wonderful memories that they will stay with me forever.  As I reflect on what only can be said as the time of my life I cannot help but smile and feel a loving sense of joy and happiness.  My words cannot truly convey fully my experiences as what I write seems inadequate on the myriad of images swimming in my mind and how many people touched my heart.

Brothers in arms with the mayor of Grocka, Serbia 2006

Brothers in arms with the mayor of Grocka, Serbia 2006

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Varvarin, Serbia - I was so grateful and moved by this young girl’s speech

Varvarin, Serbia 2006 – I was so grateful and moved by this young girl’s speech 

“Each step the runners make brings people and countries closer. Cultural and any other differences diminish in the power of their wish for a better world for all of us. The runners carry the torch of peace, understanding and love from country to country. Its flame warms up the hearts of all people who see it. The whole world could be one happy family. So, we should seek harmony and international peace. We should not be separated, we should erase borders. Imagine a world where love rules, where people smile and laugh! It isn’t impossible! But you must do your part in it! Let’s strengthen international friendship!” 

Having fun!

Having fun!

On the Peace Run you have so much fun, but at the same time there is an appreciation of how much work each individual has to contribute to the whole team to make the Run function day to day.  People often comment that the running must be the hardest part – how to keep running up to 20-30 km a day, every day.  But I feel that the running generally is the easiest part.  What people don’t see are the stamina, discipline and resilience that runners need to keep going on the road under generally demanding and challenging conditions.  There is sleeping in a different place every night, having no personal space, and there is always something that needs to be done – whether cleaning the vehicles, washing your kit, writing the daily report for the website, sorting out the food provisions, and after all these evening chores, to fit in some much needed rest.  But for me, all this is what makes the experience so special.  It’s good to have routines and each new runner that joins generally adapts to a World Harmony Run body clock – long, exhausting, but very happy days, with blissful sleep at the end of each day.

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Team dynamics are rather an interesting part of the Run.  The common thread that links us altogether is our aspiration for oneness and harmony and how each runner can help create this in the whole family.  It is this sense of oneness that is created within the Team.  It is not always harmony within the Team, but you find that you learn as much about oneself as about other people.

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The World Harmony Run is in a constant state of flux and has an energy and momentum all of its own.  The World Harmony Run runners do not make the World Harmony Run, but all those people that we meet and those that hold the torch and all those children that so joyfully run with us – they make the World Harmony Run what it is.

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Icelandic school children join together to hold the torch

Icelandic school children join together to hold the torch

All their wishes for a more harmonious world that they place into the flame are carried on to the next village, town, city, country and the whole of Europe and the World.  As a member of the international team I felt such gratitude to be given this opportunity to meet so many people.  For a fleeting moment the World Harmony Run torch touches peoples’ lives, but their heartfelt goodness, their smiles of young and old and express sincerity for harmony, joy and oneness remains for eternity.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland 2006

Blue Lagoon, Iceland 2006

Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossom. Oslo, Norway 2006

Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossom. Oslo, Norway 2006

Closing Ceremony, World Harmony Run at British Museum London 2006

Closing Ceremony, World Harmony Run at British Museum London 2006

If you can create harmony
In your own life,
This harmony will enter
Into the vast world  

– Sri Chinmoy

[1] Running and meditation will be a forthcoming article.

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.

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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