An interview with our eleven-time Channel swimmer, Karteek Clarke
About the author:
Nirbhasa is originally from Ireland but currently lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. He is an enthusiastic multi-day runner, having twice completed the Self-Transcendence Ten Day Race, and recently completed the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race - the longest race in the world.
Hiyamallar Shalom spent a few days with our eleven-time Channel Swimmer Karteek Clarke in his Edinburgh home, and pressed him for a few stories about his Channel swimming feats:
Picture this: it is a beautiful summer morning, and you are awakened by the sound of Bach being played on the violin as the sun splashes through the windows of your room in a lovely tree-lined city with almost fairytale architecture...idyllic, perhaps. On the other hand, you are crazy cold, hugging your blanket, because this is Edinburgh, a city which has no decent respect for the seasons, and your flatmate has already a) gotten up b) gone to the Commonwealth Pool (in the early morning!) and c) swum laps for hours. So begins another day in Scotland in the flat of Karteek Clarke, swimmer extraordinaire.
While I was staying in Endinburgh with Karteek, I was able to have my ever-modest, if not self-effacing friend, talk about some aspects of his swimming not found elsewhere. I began by asking how he got the initial inspiration to take up long-distance swimming.
In 1994, after reading some of the thrilling adventures of our earlier Channel swimmers, Karteek had the idea that he might like to try doing this. However, unlike most people (such as 99.99% of us), he went down to Dover shortly after and spent only a few weeks swimming in the harbor, perhaps doing one six-hour swim, his longest swim ever up to that time! (to put this in perspective, he routinely does two back-to-back days of six hours each for his crossings these days)
Three weeks later he attempted his first Channel swim, and achieved an incredible twelve hours in his first experience of swimming in open water, before his inexperience and relative lack of training led to an end of that try. The following year, after having had more time to prepare, he was fully trained and ready to go, but one hour prior to the scheduled departure of his boat, the weather turned and he lost his spot. Due to other commitments, he was unable to stick around and try again.
Finally, in 1997 he had his breakthrough first successful Channel crossing, which he describes as a "long hard swim" that took 11 hours and 57 minutes. That August, he vistied Sri Chinmoy in New York, and recieved his spiritual name, Karteek, the basic meaning being that of the "Divine warrior", who "places his teeming victories at the feet of the Lord Supreme".
In 1999 Karteek successfully entered and completed the Lake Zürich 26-km race put on by the Swiss Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. He had an excellent experience, and this reenergized his swimming. Thus inspired, he wondered if he could repeat his earlier crossing and decided to give it another go in 2000. What followed was one of his most difficult races, in windy conditions and with the development of sea sickness, which took him over fifteen hours to complete!
At point afterwards, Sri Chinmoy called and asked Karteek how many times he had swum the Channel. When he was told that he had done it twice, he asked Karteek to swim the Channel two more times. Karteek agreed readily and proceeded to do just that, undergoing adverse conditions and having difficult crossings on each occasion. After four successful crossings, Sri Chinmoy again called and this time told Karteek that he should swim the Channel three more times!
In reminiscing about these phone calls, Karteek remembers that while outwardly at times he might wonder what the point would be in repeating the swim, in each case Sri Chinmoy acted as the “perfect psychologist” as he puts it. To quote Karteek, he “picked up on my wish” to keep challenging himself, and his request came at just the right moment each time. On every occasion he was asked to swim the Channel, he had the feeling of intense joy, adding that he never felt forced to do this event, recognizing that Sri Chinmoy was confirming what he already felt - despite the fact that the fifth, sixth, seventh (and even the eighth) crossings were all accomplished under difficult conditions and took over sixteen hours! Sri Chinmoy told him that while patience was needed to do long distance swimming, “you also need to develop speed,” as “speed is determination”.
Now that Sri Chinmoy is no longer with us physically, Karteek still feels an inner urge to continue his Channel swimming; he has completed eleven at the time of writing.
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Highlights from British Time Trial Championships 2015
This video was taken at the British Time Trial Championship, June 2015. The footage was shown on British Cycling Live streaming and also British Eurosport. The event was held at Cadwell Motor Park and the Lincolnshire countryside.
There was a big startlist with other 300 riders, from different categories and many top British professional entering the race.
Tejvan Pettinger of Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team finished 7th, in a time of 1.06. The winner was Alex Dowsett Movistar, who earlier in the year had broken the world hour record.
Top 10 Men
1 Alex Dowsett Movistar Team 01:00:11.13
2 Edmund Bradbury NFTO 01:03:42.25
3 Ryan Perry SportGrub KUOTA Cycling Team 01:04:02.28
4 Matthew Bottrill www.drag2zero.com 01:04:31.50
5 Lloyd Chapman Richardsons – Trek RT 01:05:43.02
6 Ashley Cox CC Luton 01:05:52.70
7 Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team 01:06:07.64
8 Jason Bouttell Velopro 01:06:15.57
9 Josh Williams Revolutions Racing 01:06:23.50
10 Gruffudd Lewis Pedal Heaven RT 01:06:31.07
Five members of Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team entered the Bristol South CC hill climb on Burrington Come, just outside Bristol. Many were riding their first open hill climb, though hill climb regular Tejvan Pettinger was riding the Bristol South hill climb for the eighth time.
Aryavan, Vilas, Garga, Tejvan
Aryavan, Dave, Garga and Tejvan
Aryavan from Australia, via Iceland was in Bristol from a few weeks.
Garga Chamberlain - an Audax regular and triathlon organiser tries his hand at hill climbing.
The 2.2 mile hill climb averages six percent and is set in the beautiful Mendips.
Former National hill climb champion, Tejvan won the event in a time of 6.58 - seven seconds off his own course record, set in 2011.
Next week is the national hill climb championship at Jackson Bridge in Yorkshire.
1 Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team S 06:58.4 1st
2 Tony Kiss Performance Cycles CC S 07:25.1 2nd
3 Liam Bromiley University of Bath Cycling Club S 07:28.1 3rd + Team
4 Joe Norledge Procycling Magazine RT S 07:28.6 4th
5 Tavis Walker Velo Club Walcot S 07:38.2 5th
6 James Whateley University of Bath Cycling Club S 07:47.0 Team
7 Josh Gray Team Tor 2000/Kalas Sportswear Ltd S 07:51.7
8 Alastair Barnard University of Bath Cycling Club S 07:54.4 Team
9 James Coleman Velo Club Walcot S 07:56.2
10 Adrian Lawson Ride 24/7 V4 07:56.8 1st Vet 40-46
11 Charles Coleman Velo Club Walcot S 07:59.5
12 Gordon Markus Severn RC S 08:00.0
13 Frazier Carr University of Bath Cycling Club S 08:00.0
14 Glyndwr Griffiths Arctic Tacx RT S 08:01.6
15 Stefan Barnett Velo Club Walcot Jun 08:04.0 1st Jun u18
16 Oliver Darbyshire Severn RC S 08:09.3
17 Andrew Warby RST Sport/Aero-Coach S 08:12.0
18 Robert Borek Bristol South CC S 08:12.1
19 Daniel Pink Bigfoot CC S 08:12.9
20 Tom Ilett Dream Cycling S 08:15.1
21 George Jones Clevedon & District RC Jun 08:20.7
22 Daniel Burbridge Bristol South CC S 08:23.7
23 Stewart House Arctic Tacx RT V4 08:31.2
24 Jon Heath Climb on Bikes RT S 08:32.6
25 Oliver George Team Tor 2000/Kalas Sportswear Ltd Jun 08:39.6
26 Russell Peace Dursley RC S 08:40.6
27 Leigh Pinchen Northover VT / Rudy Project V4 08:44.2
28 John Grenfell Westbury Whs S 08:46.6
29 Adam Sheppard Salt and Sham Cycle Club S 08:47.2
30 Justin Gage Velo Club Walcot V4 08:49.6
31 Iain Hounsell Mendip Cycling Club V4 08:54.5
32 Marc Allen Swindon RC V5 08:58.0 1st Vet 47-54
33 Andrew Turner Bristol South CC S 08:59.0
34 Adam Whittaker Salt and Sham Cycle Club S 08:59.1
35 Richard Shortridge VC Bristol S 09:00.2
36 Dave Cullen Bristol South CC S 09:01.7
37 Mark Hudson Bristol South CC S 09:02.6
38 Charlie Shields Bath CC Juv 09:04.0 1st Juv u16
39 Barnaby Speller Velo Club Walcot S 09:11.3
40 Christopher Stroud Minehead CC V5 09:12.2
41 David Bolton Bristol South CC V4 09:12.4
42 Andy Stuart Velo Club St Raphael V4 09:14.4
43 Rob Nash Bristol South CC V6 09:17.9 1st Vet 55+
44 Chris Adams Bristol South CC V6 09:21.3
45 Jon James Mendip Cycling Club V5 09:21.9
46 Joanne Jago Performance Cycles CC L 09:24.3 1st Lady
47 Tom Bertenshaw Severn RC S 09:25.5
48 Lee Musto Minehead CC V4 09:32.7
49 Thomas Stimpson Salt and Sham Cycle Club S 09:34.2
50 Thomas Perry Evesham & Dist Whs Juv 09:43.9
51 John Bailey Bristol South CC V5 09:45.8
52 Garga Chamberlain Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team V4 09:49.3
53 Elle Twentyman University of Bath Cycling Club L 09:52.6 2nd Lady
54 Gary Smart Bath CC V5 09:55.0
55 Wiebke Rietz 1st Chard Whs LV5 10:00.8 1st Lady Vet
56 Adam Watkins Severn RC S 10:03.7
57 Claire Greenfield Bristol South CC LV4 10:04.5
58 Dave Hurley Somer Valley CC V4 10:04.6
59 David Sprigg Bristol South CC V5 10:05.9
60 Luke Smith Bristol South CC V4 10:06.6
61 Stephen Clarke Bristol South CC V5 10:07.4
62 Andrew Diffey Somer Valley CC V5 10:09.2 inc. late start 15s
63 David Wilton Bath CC V5 10:11.3
65 Nigel Vuagniaux Bath CC V6 10:15.0
66 Colin Payne Chippenham & Dist. Whs V5 10:17.7
67 James Kempe Bristol South CC Jun 10:18.0
68 Thomas Farrugia University of Bristol CC S 10:18.2
69 Julie Marazzi Somer Valley CC LV4 10:19.5
70 Daniel Kempe Bristol South CC V5 10:27.4
71 Richard Turpin VC Walcot V6 10:31.9
72 Victoria Ratcliffe Somer Valley CC LV4 10:38.1
64 Jonathan York Somer Valley CC V4 10:40.2
73 Josh Griffiths Bristol South CC Jun 10:42.4
74 Tim Spencer Bristol South CC V4 10:48.8
75 Vilas Silverton Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team V4 10:53.3
76 David Johnson Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team S 10:58.0
77 Yan Keene Bristol South CC V6 11:06.7
78 Michael Roberts Bristol South CC S 11:27.0
79 Mark Galley Bristol South CC V6 11:28.4
80 Karen Balmforth Sodbury Cycle-Sport LV4 11:49.7
81 Ben Parker BCDS Juv 11:52.8
82 David Braidley Bristol South CC V5 11:53.9
83 Joanna Knight Bristol South CC LV6 11:54.0
84 Dave Francis Alltrax V6 11:54.3
85 Alison Vuagniaux Bath CC LV6 12:52.2
86 Aryavan Lanham Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team V6 13:01.1
87 Theresa Jacobs Bath CC LV5 15:34.7 Lanterne Rouge
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Tejvan 7th in British Time Trial Championship
The British Time trial championship was held Thursday 26th June at Cadwell Motor Park, Lincolnshire.
Winner of event - Alex Dowsett (Movistar)
On the start sheet were some of the top names in British Cycling including Alex Dowsett, Geraint Thomas and Steve Cummings - though last year's winner Sir Bradley Wiggins was absent. It was a race which had mix of full time professionals and domestic amateurs. The riders took a challenging 28.7 mile circuit which included a lap of the motor racing circuit and three laps on closed roads.
With a couple of big names not starting, Tejvan Pettinger of Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team finished in 7th place with a time of 1.06.07. This was his highest position in the British Time Trial Championship. The men's elite UCI race was won by former world hour record holder - Alex Dowsett (Movistar)
Tejvan said of the event:
"It was a great event. It is quite a change to ride on closed roads and a motor racing circuit. The race itself went quite well. There were one or two short hills, which were good for me, but it was quite a balanced course with a mixture of terrain and quite a few sharp corners towards the end. I was pleased to get in the top 10."
Men's elite Top Ten
1 Alex Dowsett Movistar Team 01:00:11.13
2 Edmund Bradbury NFTO 01:03:42.25
3 Ryan Perry SportGrub KUOTA Cycling Team 01:04:02.28
4 Matthew Bottrill www drag2zero.com 01:04:31.50
5 Lloyd Chapman Richardsons – Trek RT 01:05:43.02
6 Ashley Cox CC Luton 01:05:52.70
7 Tejvan Pettinger Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team 01:06:07.64
8 Jason Bouttell Velopro 01:06:15.57
9 Josh Williams Revolutions Racing 01:06:23.50
10 Gruffudd Lewis Pedal Heaven RT 01:06:31.07
Earlier in the week (Sun), Tejvan won the ECCA 100 mile time trial in a time of 3.41. The previous week he also won the Paul Bennett memorial 25 mile TT organised by Hemel Hempstead.
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Portishead Self-transcendence triathlon 2015
About the author:
Tejvan organises short-distance running and cycling races for the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in his home city of Oxford. He is also a very good cyclist, having won the National hill climb championships in 2013 and finished 3rd in the National 100 Mile Time Trials in 2014.
On 31st May, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team promoted the fourth annual 'Self-Transcendence Try at Tri'. It is a triathlon aimed at beginners, who would like to experience the challenges of a triathlon in a friendly and welcoming environment.
The weather was not ideal, with participants greeted by rain and a coolish wind blowing off the coast. Fortunately, the rain eased off once the race started, but the wet roads made the cycling leg particularly challenging.
Pre race briefing by Race directors Kokila and Garga Chamberlain
Getting ready for the swim.
The bike leg is a tough 17km course, with some substantial hills.
Self Transcendence is the philosophy of Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.
Happy marshalls brave the Someset weather.
Getting some breakfast
The last section is a 4km run.
A sense of satisfaction for all who finish.
Race organiser, Garga Chamberlain managing to enjoy the event.
Do you like my new pair of gloves?
Helping with finish.
Congratulations to all the participants; we hope to see you again next year.
Nirbhasa is originally from Ireland but currently lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. He is an enthusiastic multi-day runner, having twice completed the Self-Transcendence Ten Day Race, and recently completed the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race - the longest race in the world.
September 6-11, 2014, our Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team member Angikar Djordjevic from Niš, Serbia, achieved a new English Channel Triathlon - swimming (EC solo no 2!), cycling and running all the way from Dover to Heidelberg in Germany. Londoner Adam Thornton was his helper on the swim leg of his EC triathlon and sends this report:
In August, Karteek asked if I would be interested in helping Angikar to swim the English Channel at the start of September. He was then planning to cycle for 500km and run two marathons — all back-to-back, to celebrate Sri Chinmoy's 50th year in the West. “Yes, of course I’ll help!” I jumped at the chance. It was only a few weeks before that Karteek himself had achieved the awesome feat of his 11th English Channel swim, supported by Bahumanya and Devashishu, and I was sorry I had not been able to help too. Besides, I love being by water, and what better than being at sea? I later found out that Mahasatya was also asked to help and he, too, said yes. Angikar had also asked two Serbian friends to help him – Boris and Martin. Boris had swum the Channel four times already and he was training to be an official observer for the Channel Swimming Association, which means he will have the authority to ratify a successful Channel swim.
So it was early (very early) on Saturday morning, 6 September, that Mahasatya and I found ourselves being picked up somewhere in London by Boris (Martin already in tow) so we could be in Dover for 4:30 am to meet Angikar, who had arrived the day before. For me, the joy of the day started with the drive down to Dover. I decided to see if Boris was up for chatting. He was, and it wasn’t long before I found out that he had rowed for Oxford in the Boat Race (3 times—that’s quite special) and won once! As an avid ex-rower myself this made for a very entertaining journey, chatting about all things rowing!
But today was about swimming, and soon we arrived in Dover and met a very joyful Angikar, clearly ready for his journey across to France. After meeting with the boat pilot (James) and official observer (Mike), we all got on the boat and headed off in the dark to Shakespeare Beach, the spiritual home of the start of the English Channel swim. We stopped about 50 metres from the beach, and Angikar readied himself to go.
Angikar, freshly greased up to help protect against the cold water, was clearly in the mood for a successful channel swim. SPLOSH!! He jumped off the boat into the water (“Oooh, it’s cold!”) and swam to the shore from which his swim must begin. Soon he was out of sight in the dark, the only thing visible were two small green lights, attached to his swimming cap and shorts.
The moment Angikar took to pray and meditate on the beach was powerful. The whole crossing felt protected; later that day, when we were half way across the Channel, Boris commented that it felt like being in a dream. Then Angikar walked back into the water, dived in, and started his epic journey.
At this point there was a flurry of activity on the boat as we realised that not only had Angikar’s job begun, but ours had too. Every half an hour he would need feeding with a special salt-free energy drink (he would be drinking enough salt from the sea). He had brought a suitcase full of drinks, gels, homeopathic remedies, and other potions to support him along the way. One important point is that the swimmers are not allowed to touch the boat; it is considered a help, and they would not therefore be swimming using only their own energy. So when we give energy drinks, etc. to Angikar we have to lower the bottle over the side of the boat on a string, and he must eat or drink while treading water. This could be difficult, but he had clearly mastered the art.
And so it continued: every 30 minutes, stroke after stroke, hour after hour, throughout the early morning as the hazy sun rose above the sea, up to midday, through the afternoon, into the evening, as the dark night descended, we would distract Angikar from his swimming-meditation and give him something to eat.
We were busy on the boat and there was always someone keeping a watchful eye on Angikar, but there was also time for us to chat amongst ourselves, to have a look around the boat, to have a nap, take photographs, and just sit in the pleasant sunshine, looking around the empty sea and meditate on its vastness.
A striking realisation I had during all of this was that whatever we were doing, however much time we spent entertaining ourselves or doing this and that, Angikar was swimming, and swimming, and swimming, minute after minute, hour after hour. Of course, it sounds obvious to say that, but when your mind is distracted by other activities onboard, and 15 or 20 minutes have quickly gone by, or you had a sleep for 40 minutes, suddenly we became aware that this whole time Angikar was still swimming. It was a humbling experience.
Eventually the sun started to set and we entered twilight. It was about 7:30pm and Angikar had been swimming for about 14 hours. It was impressive that he had not changed his stroke rate. During the whole distance he had been swimming at 48 strokes per minute. I was told that is a good sign, for a successful swim. Boris had warned us that as the swimmer approaches the three-quarter mark this is the time the support team must particularly be on their guard for the swimmer. It is around here that swimmers often tire, and the fatigue of the body and the resistance of the mind start to become strong. So the team must ensure feeds are regular, reliable, and efforts are made to keep the swimmer positive. We did this, but Angikar was doing well.
However, as the night fell and Mahasatya and I were alone on the deck feeding Angikar, he admitted he was struggling, and asked us to sing The Invocation (a song that Sri Chinmoy composed in 1967, and considered the spiritually highest of his songs) for him; this was a very beautiful moment. Singing The Invocation on a boat in the English Channel, I could feel Sri Chinmoy's presence come more to the fore, and Angikar later told us that it had helped him considerably.
It was fully dark as we approached France but the moon was almost full and we could clearly make out the silhouette of the land. Not far to go now; Boris was preparing himself to get in the water to accompany Angikar the last 500 yards to the small secluded beach we could just see with the aid of a powerful spotlight on the boat. Soon he was in the water and, together, they swam off into the dark. All we could see was their small green lights, until, suddenly the lights rose about six feet off the water. They had stood up, on solid ground. Angikar had done it! Such a mix of joy and relief!
The 25th running of The Self Transcendence 24 Hour race was held at Tooting Bec track on 20th /21st September 2014. Fionna Ross from Edinburgh’s Harmeny Athletic Club, who in her first attempt at a 24 hour event at Tooting in 2013 had impressed everyone with a distance of 216.214 km (134.1 miles) and finishing in second place overall, a new event record, was back to defend her title.
This year she went one better and beat all the men to win the race out right. In the process setting a new Scottish women’s record for 24 hours.
The whole goal of a 24 hour race is to see how much distance you can cover in a 24 hour time span. In this event it involved circling the 400metre track, with each lap of every runner being meticulously recorded.
Ross (34) managed to run 582 laps to record 233.018kilometres, or 144 miles 1391 yards, beating the existing Scottish record set by Sharon Law (Garscube Harriers) by over 4 miles. (Law had set this mark 226.107km (140m 872 yards) at the World 24 championships in Holland in 2013.) Along the way Ross also eclipsed Law’s 200km record by over 18 minutes as well recording 20 hours 28 min 41 sec.
It is not unique for women to win longer ultra races outright. Debbie Martin-Consani won the 144 mile Grand Union Canal Race outright in 2012 and British ultra legends Hilary Walker and Eleanor Robinson managed it several times in 24 and 48 hour races. Helene Diamentides, paired with Martin Stone, famously won the inaugural Dragon’s Back ultra in 1992.
This year though, in an incredible display of “girl power”, women filled the first three places in the race, with Ross’s fellow GB ultra international Issy Wykes (Truro AC, Cornwall) pushing her hard in the last few hours to record 230.100 km (142 miles 1757yds) and fellow Scot, Noanie Heffron (Kilbarchan) with 213.011 km (132miles 631yds) in third.
In the early hours of the race Ross, using the experience gained in last years race, started steadily. Heffron settled into a steady pace too and Wykes, cautious in her first 24 hour event, even more so. Ross reached the 50km mark (31.1miles) in 4 hours 50 minutes with fellow Scot Noanie Heffron in 5 hours 02 min and Wykes some 20 minutes behind in 5 hours 20 minutes.
By 50miles (7:46:20 to 8:17:00) Ross had increased her lead over Heffron and Wykes, and was steadily passing all the men who had possibly started a little enthusiastically!
When 100km was reached in 9:43:34 Ross was lying in second place overall behind race leader, Ireland’s Brian Ankers (9.35). Heffron (10:23) and Wykes (10;27) were also closing in.
Just before the half way mark at 12hours, with Ankers taking a short “time out” Ross became outright leader. The 12 hour leader board showed Ross with 122.4km (76.06mls) Ankers, 120.4 km (74.8mls), with Wykes in third 114.8km (71.33ml) just a lap ahead of Heffron 114.4km (71.08 mls).
Competent 24 hour runners often talk of the long hours, usually mainly in darkness, between 12 hours and reaching the 100mile point. It is a long haul, when your body is often by habit trying to convince you, you should be asleep. You are getting totally fed up with drinking the same drinks, your digestive system is pretty much in hibernation, and you don’t feel like eating anything, but you know you have to keep nibbling and sipping away, or a big crash is awaiting you a few hours down the road.
Ross, and the other runners were no doubt having similar feelings, but relentlessly she, Wykes and Heffron were circling the track, edging closer to that 100mile mark. Ross slipped past the 100mile mark first in 16 hours 11 minutes 32 seconds. She is slightly slower than her 100mile split of last year (15h.58min) but this is all part of her plan to eventually achieve a better overall 24hour distance. Izzy Wykes, although 30 minutes behind, at the 100miles in 16h 45m 05 sec, is looking strong though and moving well; the experience gained in placing first lady in her first “long” ultra this summer, the Grand Union Canal Race, now standing her in good stead. Noanie Heffron reaches the 100 in 17;37;35 and is now comfortably in third place after trading places with Slovakian Michel Masnik, the leading man for an hour or so.
All 24 hour runners know that if one wants to achieve not just a good distance, but a great distance, the 100mile mark is just a stepping stone, and now the foundations have been laid, one just has to summon up that hidden will to keep up that steady, relentless, effort for a few more hours. All the time, you are just dealing with all manner of thoughts and feelings that are trying to pierce your concentration, and convince you to ease back or take a wee break. Taking a wee break is the last thing on these three ladies minds, they have all come into the race with their own personal goals, and slowly, lap by lap, they are edging closer to them.
Slowly the first signs of dawn appear, with chinks of light appearing in the sky beyond the glow of the track lights. There is a distinct autumnal chill in the air, at this early hour. With dawn, as always, comes hope, or in the runners case, the knowledge that the race end is in sight and achievable, albeit a few hours away still.
As the day gets brighter some runners, who have left the track for wee breaks start reappearing. For our leading 3 runners, there is no let up. Ross is checking how close she is to 200km, (124.5 miles) and when I tell her she is getting close, and, but for some unforseen imminent disaster, is sure to break Sharon Laws existing Scottish 200km mark, she looks as if she doesn’t quite believe me at first, but reassured, seems to renew her focus.
The 200km mark is duly reached in 20 hours 28 minutes and 40 seconds, 18minutes inside the old mark. That time was also set in a 24 hour race where Law went on to set the existing Scottish 24 hour record. Ross now has to refocus and set her sights on another 16 miles ahead to achieve that. She now has something else to occupy her thoughts though, for slowly, Wykes has been gaining ground and is just over 20 minutes behind. 20 minutes seems a good enough cushion, but any thoughts from Ross of “just cruising” through the last 3 hours, have also to be dealt with, and readjusted.
Wykes has her own goal in mind, and has come into the race with the aim of surpassing the GB 24 hour qualifying standard of 210km. She reaches 200km in 20:53:08 and seems quite emotional to realize she has 3 hours to cover 10km. I calmly tell her it is a 24 hour race and just to try and concentrate on 3 hours more running, as it now obvious to those watching, that Ross and Wykes, along with Heffron, are all feeding off each other, and if they can indeed keep their momentum going are all destined to not only reach their pre race goals but surpass them considerably. All three of them still look remarkably focused although the first glimpses of fatigue are now showing.
With 2 hours to go Ross is just short of 133 miles (214 km 535 laps) 5 laps short of her 2013 distance, and a new PB beckons. Wykes, is 9 laps behind with 130.75 miles (210.4 km) and has achieved her goal of reaching the GB team standard. Heffron, now certainly feeling the effects of 20 hours on a track at 196km, is closing in on 200km. With the understanding that a 24 hour race is all about distance over time, they all know, that they can push their mileage up some way, in those last 2 hours.
In the penultimate hour, when many of the competitors are now reduced to a walk or a shuffle
Wykes covers 24 laps, just under 10km, to reach 136.7 miles. Ross, determined not to let her advantage get any smaller, manages 25 laps, to total 139.1 miles and looks like victory is secure. Both of them now certain to go beyond the 140 mile barrier, a distance only achieved by 9 British women. Heffron has gone through 200km (22:27:30) and is also closing down on 210km.
With the clock showing 23 hours and 15 minutes, Ross starts lap no 565. It is on this lap that she will surpass her good friend, Sharon Law’s current Scottish 24 hour record of 226.1km.She would probably like to stop and celebrate, but that will have to wait, as the nature of a 24 hour event, is that the new record is now ever evolving with each lap Ross covers. Wykes, like many of the other runners, seems galvanized that there is now under an hour to go and looks the stronger of the two. Indeed she is actually lapping the track faster than anyone.
Heffron, achieves her goal of 210 km with 20 minutes remaining, but getting the drift of what this “24 hour stuff” is all about, is showing a steely determination to run right to the hooter at noon.
When the hooter goes at the end of a 24 hour event, there is a sense of total relief that you can now actually switch off, and stop pushing yourself. For hour after hour, all the runners in their own way have had to summon up something almost beyond physical capacity, as they strive to achieve their respective goals. It is no different on this occasion.
A very tired Ross, who was running her second 24 hour event, and earlier this summer won the 95 mile West Highland Way race, commented afterwards, “That was the hardest race I have run yet, I knew Izzy was closing on me, slowly in the last few hours, so I couldn’t afford to let up at all, but it probably helped both of us to achieve the final distances we did. I had hoped going into the race that if all went well I could get close to Sharon’s record, but you never know how these races will evolve. I am absolutely shattered, but very, very happy. I am so happy for Izzy, she ran such a strong race. I also realized just how important a good support crew is. Karen (GB 24 hour international Karen Hathaway) was just outstanding and I was so grateful for all her experience”
Wykes (36) was running her first 24 hour event after wining the 145 mile Grand Union Canal race from Birmingham to London earlier this year. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I am absolutely thrilled. My goal was to try and achieve the GB team qualifying distance for the World 24 hr champs next year 210 km (131 miles), but just didn’t expect I could run over 140 miles.”
Noanie Heffron, who was actually nursing a minor calf issue throughout, said “ I ran the Glenmore trail 24 hour last year, at Aviemore, and really enjoyed that. (She covered 203 km). I wanted to see what I could do on an accurately certified course, and am thrilled to reach the GB team Standard. Whether it will get me in the team, I don’t know, there are several other girls with the standard too.”
For our three exceptional ladies, who have all achieved something beyond their original expectations, it will be a day or two before the true reality of what they have done, sinks in.
Ross and Wykes distances are indeed exceptional. As well as putting Ross as no 1 in the Scottish all time rankings, it puts her 5th all time on the GB 24 hour lists, and Wykes into 6th place. In perspective, only 4 of GB’s outstanding ultra runners of recent years, Emily Gelder, Hilary Walker, Eleanor Robinson and Lizzy Hawker have run further in 24 hours. Good company to be in indeed. Heffron too, is now in the GB all time top 20.
What is also exceptional too, is these three ladies, are all so very down to earth. Absolutely set on bringing the best out of themselves and each other, but always just totally enjoying there running.
Race report copyright Adrian Tarit Stott and Run and Become.
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Geoff Oliver Rewrites the Record Books .. Again!
In September 2013 Geoff Oliver had just turned 80 years young, and took part in the Self Transcendence 24 Hour Track race at Tooting Bec in South London. Like all experienced athletes who have been running for many years, in Geoff’s case over 60, he prepared as best he could, and came with a goal and a plan. He duly broke, or set, completely new marks for all the recognized ultra distances from 30 miles up to 24 hours, with the exception of 100 miles, which he fell some 5 miles short of.
Well, as runners, we all know the feeling you get when you are so close to something, and for whatever reason it doesn’t quite work. It bugs you somewhat! Sometimes you accept it and say to yourself, “I gave it my best shot, lets move on”.
In Geoff’s case, and at Geoff’s age, he freely admits you need a little bit of luck in staying injury free, and in good health to tackle life’s wee challenges, like the odd 24 hour race. In 2013 he had had a few issues in the lead up to the race, but 2014 seemed to have been going well for him. Whether last years race was still bugging him, I am not sure, but he was back for another crack.
In the early hours of the 2014 race, held over the weekend of September 21st 22nd, he set off steadily, as you usually do in a 24hour event. For those unfamiliar with a 24hour race, the idea is to cover a fixed loop that has been accurately measured, in this case a 400 metre track, and see how many laps you can complete in the 24 hours. Whereas, most running events are the classic set distance like 800m or a marathon, and completed in a certain variable time, in this case the time is set, and the distance is the variable result. It is as much an inner mental and spiritual challenge as it is physical. To do well you have to be fit, but also able to tap into all those intangible but also very real qualities, like determination, hope, being in the moment and just dealing with things as they happen minute by minute, or hour by hour. It is much like any event really, just that it goes on longer, and you usually have more to deal with!
Geoff has learned over a lifetime of running, to handle all these things quite well. Those of us who have known him and run with him in events or observed him, know he is an amazingly quiet, humble unassuming man.
Unlike many folk at a 24hour race, he doesn’t come with a support crew or helper or a car boot full of supplies. He turns up usually having taken the train to the race, with one wee kit bag that has a few spare clothes for the cooler nighttime running. During the race, he is happy to help himself to the refreshments on offer at the trackside feed station. Geoff has discovered though that the key to amassing a good distance in a 24 hour race, is to run evenly and just stay on the track, walking or running, with just short pit stops for calls of nature, or to change gear.
About 6 hours into the race this year, Geoff has just been running steadily. He seems to be locked into his own rhythm and easing into the race without any real idea yet how he is doing. My key role at the event is looking after all the race stats and timekeeping,
“How am I doing? “ he asks as he passes me standing at trackside.
“You are doing well” I say, “Slightly up on last year”.
“Oh really” he replies, “I felt I was going slower”.
Geoff has in fact already surpassed the world best performances for an 80 year old, at the 30mile and 50km points, as he continues to circle the track hour after hour. These are records he already holds, from last years’ event. Over the next 18 hours he will set another 5 world bests and one UK best.
With 4 hours to go and 20 hours of running behind him, Geoff is keen to know if it is possible for him to reach the 100mile mark in the 24 hours, if he maintains the pace he is going. I do some quick calculations after consulting his lap sheets. (Every lap, of every runner is being meticulously recorded).
I inform him, that it is possible, but as we are well aware of his age, just tell him to keep it steady, and no need to push it harder, and at any rate he is on course to set a new record for the 24 hour distance for an 80 year old.
With an hour to go, it could still go either way, but Geoff, now finally looking a tad tired, is still doggedly circling the track. The determination on his face seeming to proclaim that “age is no barrier”.
With 10 minutes to go, Shyamala, my daughter who has been monitoring the progress of the runners towards the 100mile point, informs me, that it looks like he will not quite make the 100 miles before the 24 hour hooter goes to signal the end of the race, but it will be agonizingly close. Her brain is obviously working better than mine, (I have had no sleep, she managed to grab a couple of hours!).
Shyamala has worked out he will probably be less than a lap short of the 100 mile mark, so why don’t we let him keep going so he has at least recorded a 100mile time.
A quick chat with Shankara, the race director, and also a quick word with Geoff, and we have a plan! At the 24hour hooter everyone stops and drops the little marker they have been carrying the last few minutes so the final part lap can be recorded. Geoff will continue running to reach the 100mile point.
The hooter duly sounds and shattered runners come to a standstill, all relieved they can now finally stop.
For Geoff, he has literally another 200 metres to reach the 100mile mark, which he does in 24 hours 01minute and 18 seconds. It doesn’t matter that it is outside the 24 hours. We will still put the time forward for ratification, as we believe it is the first time an 80 year old has run 100 miles in a continuous effort. (It has certainly been achieved in a multi day race.)
To say he is unsteady on his feet at the end, is a bit of an understatement, but help is on hand, in the shape of his grandson and his wife , who have been here for the last 2-3 hours of the race looking out for him. The medical crew too, all too aware of what Geoff has been trying to achieve are monitoring from a distance, but seemed happy he is in good hands.
At the post race prize giving, after race winner Fionna Ross, Geoff probably receives the loudest cheers and applause of anybody, and asks to say a few words. He then says a few choice words of encouragement to the “younger runners“ and heaps praise on Shankara and her organizing crew. Then it is time to head off to catch his train home to Leicestershire. I feel sure we will see him again in 2015 though, health and fitness permitting. That minute and a half will bug him!
Here are Geoff’s respective times and distances for 2013 and 2014. All 2014 performances are (subject to ratification) world over 80 best performances, except the 100km* which is “only” a British record.
30 Miles 5:19:37 5:32:31
50KM 5:29:19 5:43:07
40 miles 7:51:26 7:55:45
6hours 52.800 km 52.265 km
50 miles 10:17:14 10:20:32
12 hours 91.413km 9.732KM
100km* 13:21:24 13:55:09
24 hours 160.745 km 152.295 km
100miles 24.01.17 not reached
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A run in the park - article about William Sichel's 3100 Mile Race
About the author:
Rupantar has been the race director of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team since 1985, having been asked by Sri Chinmoy to serve in that capacity. As well as working on the big races the US Marathon Team organise each year - the 3100 Mile Race and the Six and 10 Day Race - he also spends a considerable amount of time archiving the Marathon Team's 40 year history on this website.
Ian Corliss interviews William Sichel from Orkney, Scotland, who in 2013 became the oldest person at 60 to sucessfully complete the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the world's longest certified foot race.
"...it was a once in a lifetime experience. In a way, all this builds to make the event what it is. It’s part of the process. It focuses the mind. It’s part of the journey and ultimately what the self-transcendence is about." See more at RunUltra.com.uk
Watch: William's finish, filmed by fellow runner Pranjal Milovnik
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Karteek Clark swims English Channel for the eleventh time, July 2014
July 30, 2014 - Karteek Clarke, member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon and Swimming Team swam the slowest and toughest of his 11 Channel crossings on 30 July (19 hours and 1 minute). He is indeed a champion of champions. Looking at the map of his route, you’d think he really didn’t have a clue where France was, or else was getting awful advice from his crew. This drunken arc is all the work of the tides: his swim was made all the more challenging for falling on a Spring tide, the strongest and most wilful of ocean currents.
Imagine swimming in a pool on the roof of a building. While you are swimming, King Kong picks up the building, puts it onto a gigantic swing, and starts rocking the swing through an enormous arc in the sky. You think you’re swimming in a straight line which you sort of are but your position on a GPS goes all over the place. For the whole 19 hours, Karteek was swimming straight towards France, yet the tide ensured his predominant motion was always sideways. There were times when – even though Karteek was always swimming forwards and towards France due to the tide and the curvature of the coastline, he was actually moving further away from the shore.
Don’t even start to imagine what this can do to your mind and your will! Now imagine that the ‘pool’ you are swimming in is actually a huge washing machine or butter churner (oh yes, and it’s also very, very cold in there). No two strokes you take are the same—one moment you breathe to your left and a mammoth wave smacks your face; the next you stroke to the right and flail in thin air at the edge of a heaving precipice. Especially at night, your universe above, below and all around – is a constant unstable relentless surging disarray. Only the shore is certain: it can be seen, always apparently just ahead (at night you see the lights) — but where and when it will be reached is not worth guessing at.
To me, the most impressive and amazing thing about Karteek’s performance, is that he never once – not once – asked where he was or how far or how long he had to go. That seemed almost irrelevant. Yet how the mind – in the midst of constant sickness, disorientation and discomfort – must have been screaming to know “How far??” For hour after hour after hour, he could see the shore ahead. As the sun set, France was looming – and all through the night, the lights were just there before us – though day had dawned before the pilot finally declared the water too shallow for the boat to proceed and bid Karteek to swim ashore alone.
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John O'Regan's Race, by Tony Brennan
The preparation: When John O’Regan first mentioned about the 24 hour race, a couple things came to mind– firstly, who in their right mind would consider it fun to run for 24 hours, and secondly, who in their right mind …….!
And so my interest in the 2009 Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Track Race was piqued. The most John had run before in this type of event was 100k (Celtic Plate 2008, Galway) so it was going to be a challenge, a very big challenge; but having experienced his approached previous challenges I knew that his commitment to training, his competitive spirit and the application of a fair degree of stubbornness, that he would succeed.
The preparation for the race involved figuring out the answer to two major questions: (At this stage the physical and mental ability were taken as a given).
(1) How far could we expect John to run over the duration & (2) What level and mix of fuel would be required sustain the required effort over the 24 hours.
The preparation involved consultation with and detailed testing by Dr Nick Mahony, Bernard Donne and the team in Trinity College’s Sports Science Department, who confirmed how ready the body was to take on the task and how far it could be pushed. He also relied heavily on the experience of athletes like Eoin Keith and endurance record holding cyclist Paul O’Donoghue to help with diet plan and just as importantly, the mental preparation.
And so a plan emerged: John was going to run 210km and was going to need 60gr of Carbohydrates each hour. Now we had a plan, all John had to do was execute it.
The Race: The venue was the Tooting Bec track in south London, the time was 12 noon and the weather was just perfect for running. The first thing that struck me as the 46 brave souls lined-up at the start line, was the remarkable mix of ages, shapes and sizes. I was expecting a field of young, undernourished-looking men, but what presented was an eclectic mix of international competitors ranging in ages from 29 to 76, 11 of whom were women. There was quite a relaxed atmosphere at the start with many of the competitors having a number of 24 hour races under their belts. Not so for John, who was a little apprehensive on the start line, a bundle of pent-up nervous energy waiting to explode.
But both Steven Seaton (Runners World) and I were there to support him and to do whatever is took to deliver the plan.
12:00 to 20:00 His instructions were clear– do not run any more than 10km in the first hour, stick to the fuelling plan, and certainly don’t try to keep up with anyone. Before the race we never assessed what delivering 210km would mean in terms of positioning, but it was largely irrelevant, this event was about going the distance and learning from the experience. John settled in nicely to the race and limiting his pace to a heart rate max, delivered the first four hours with a few km ahead of plan. The fluid intake seemed right, the fuelling plan was working and we were really happy with the steady start to the race.
John hit the marathon distance in 4:05 and was feeling good.
My initial concerns about having lots of time to fill during the 24 hours failed to materialise as we soon got into a rhythm of preparing food, tracking pace, monitoring distance, supporting toilet breaks and satisfying John’s every whim. The hours started flying by. The next four hours delivered another 40k and a quick change into his Skins leggings. The 2 minutes it took to change the gear was the first John time got off his feet in the 8 hours. We were still slightly ahead of the plan, and started getting more confident that it could be delivered. This steady progress meant John finished the 8 hour mark in 7th place.
20:00 to 04:00 The middle phase of the plan was to deliver 73 km, which anticipated a slight slowing in pace. Just after a toilet break at 20:00 John walked his first lap. The walking lap is a great opportunity to eat some solids (energy bar, bagels or pancakes) and a chance to really assess how he was doing in terms of HR, effort and any potential injuries that were starting to emerge. At 10pm John noticed a bit of a ‘twinge’ at the end of his shin. At this point I was a little worried that it was early and a potential problems began to emerge. At 1am John decided that a change of shoes might help to address the pain in his shin and counteract any affect of his feet swelling after 13 hours running. He had run 318 laps of the track, had gone to the toilet 5 times, sat down twice to change gear but had only walked one of the laps. If we could keep the shin at bay, the plan was beginning to look good.
In the last part of this phase of the race, a few cracks started to emerge. The level of fluid being consumed was now requiring a toilet break every hour, he couldn’t tolerate eating the bagels or the raisins and the pace was falling a little but behind, eating away the gains we had banked. This stage in the night brought a drop in temperature to 0 degrees, so the dew that covered our gear quickly turned to ice. At 3am John donned his hat and gloves to counteract the affects of the cold and walked his second lap of the race. Things were now starting to get interesting as the leader board showed John O’Regan in fourth position. Was it too early to hope for a finish position like that? Or were the experienced runners going to eat him up in the last eight hours when John faded towards the end? We did not know, but we hoped he could hold on.
05:00 to 11:00 The last third of the race was always going to be the difficult one to judge, just because the plan said John was to do 57k, did not mean that he could physically do it. And two problems still existed– His shin was starting to really hurt and the carbohydrate intake was well below the required level– caused by having to do without the bagels and the raisins. That’s when Percy Pig came to the rescue! Well not completely, but he certainly helped. For those of you who don’t know Percy Pig– he is a wonderful sweet from M&S that delivers a wonderful 6g of carb per pig– they were reserved for a flavoursome treat in the plan, but were offered and consumed with a frequency that would have a school full of children hyperactive!
Things started to get really interesting when the 6am leader board was posted which show John now in third place. Up to this point it was not about the other runners at all, we monitored and measured their pace and observed their routines purely out of passing interest. But now we had a race on our hands. How far ahead was the guy in front? And more importantly how far behind was the next guy and could John be caught?
John passed the 100mile mark after 16hours 50mins and cheered-up by the rising sun and third place on the board delivered a really strong
7 hours between 5am and 11am. In that time, he delivered an 8.4 km an hour average when the plan required 7.3km. Not only were we looking at a possible 3rd place finish, but 215 km was a near definite and 220km a distinct possibility. The fuelling plan now consisted of a lot of flattened coke which provided the necessary fluid and sugar boost.
Percy Pig also played his part.
The Final hour: The sun now shone brightly, the temperature rose to a very pleasant level and 531 laps were completed in the 23 hours. We had a problem, PerAuden Heskestad from Sweeden was running a consistent 2:25 minute lap and despite a 2km lead it was very possible for him to catch John.
The inevitable happened with about 40 minutes to go, PerAuden made up gap and passed by. It was out with the calculators again to check two things– could we get John to 220km and was Neil Bryant going to be able to make up the deficit. I was now very worried, John was fading fast, the pain in his shin was getting unbearable and Neil was moving fairly steadily.
The last 20 minutes was a battle to keep him going, running was not possible due to the pain, and the reality was that he was moving faster when he walked. It was a very strange sight to see almost everyone still in the race pick it up for the last 30 minutes.
Athletes, literally dead on their feet, found the motivation from somewhere, to raise their heads and eek the last few meters out of the
24 hours. So focused were we on keeping John moving that I miscounted the last few laps and we very happy to finish with 219km and a fourth position. Despite the difficulties over the last hour, John still managed to deliver 7.6 km, the last 3laps of which Steve and I walked with him. It was an amazing and emotional feeling to be on the track as the final siren sounded and 26 competitors stopped dead on their feet. At that point, it had nothing to do with the race positions or the distance travelled but the immense sense of personal achievement that each one of them felt, as they stood transfixed on the track, smiling in the sun.
The Result: And so the race was over, the stretch target exceeded and an incredible maiden 24 hour race now firmly recorded in John’s CV. The icing on the cake was the fourth place finish, I believe that John secretly hoped for a top 10 finish, but was still more interested in getting the distance. It was a wonderful sight to see all the competitors now relaxed and smiling in the sun waiting to hear the official results. The winner, Richard Quennell covered 234.8 in the 24 hours, John was a mere 14.8km behind him. As I pointed out to John, if he was able to cover a mere 600m more per hour he would have covered the same distance– easy really!
Of the 35 athletes who completed the race, 25 of them ran over 100 miles. The last surprise of the day was the announcement of John’s fourth position and official distance. Steve thought he heard a distance of 220km being called, but that could not have been, I had tracked all the way and was positive that we had only made 219 and a lap or so, the holy grail of 220km was not achieved! A quick check with the referee confirmed a final distance 220km and 21m– had I known it was achieved; I might have been able to claim a near perfect result, but I was just as surprised and delighted as John. All of which goes to show that 24 hours is a long time to be doing anything!
Members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team from all over the world were gathered in Thailand this winter (06-07) and 1-mile and 2-mile races were a regular feature of the trip.
I was in Thailand during February, where we were lucky enough to have access to the local athletic stadium, with a fantastic 400m track. It was hot, as you'd expect, but the early start (7.45am) meant that we avoided he worst of the heat and humidity - conditions were good enough for quite a few PBs.
Each race was preceded by a run through the streets of around two miles to reach the track - the easy-to-follow route kept to the city wall and moat but the air on that polluted ring road was so bad that most of us took a route into the old city itself and ran up the streets and sois (back lanes) with the occasional wrong turn! Chiang Mai is a beautiful town, with numerous temples, their open doors revealing huge golden Buddhas.For runners, though, the air quality really is an issue so those of us needing to run long distances had to head out of town and run in the hills or at the Huay Tung Tao reservoir.
On the track, Tristan, Arthur and Luke dominated the men's race while Gharbitashri was always out in front for the women. Dhavala from Edinburgh was in good form, and regularly came a close second. Sri Chinmoy came to every race, and despite some severe knee and shoulder problems was able to complete laps of the track before each race, receiving thunderous applause from the hundreds of runners present, most of whom had taken up running just because of his inspiration.
The shots above show the run through the streets and some of the faster runners as well as the race start.
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Christmas Cracker 10k December 2006
Mark's account of a classic race that also saw Fran and Amelia competing for the Sri Chinmoy AC
For the past three weekends it had been wet and windy and I was preparing myself for the challenge of running head long into a stiff wind on Weston's famous promenade. However, on the day you could not have asked for better conditions on this marvellous flat 10k course. The sky was blue and the sun was golden, and pleasantly mild for this time of year Ã¢â¬â the impact of global warning is becoming all too obvious.
It felt like spring and a spring was certainly in my step. This was to be my first 10k race in over 20 years. For a long time I had shunned competitive racing due to a heady mix of numerous long term injuries, lethargy, lack of confidence and lack of enthusiasm and lack of ambition. When I was young I was highly competitive, and then I made the decision that I was to be one of those runners that ran just to keep fit, to supplement by footballing ambitions. You had to be quick and have plenty of stamina to survive pub league football and the many 5 a-side games I played. Never that brilliant, just average really Ã¢â¬â my team mates called me Ã¢â¬ËRunning Man'! I never stopped running around the pitch, and no loss cause was everÃ¢â¬ ¦ well, lost.
Anyway, back to the race. I made my way to Weston College where other runners congregated to change. One of the best aspect of this race is it is a fun race, where the organisers encourage competitors to dress up in fancy dress, and it is mandatory for every runner to wear at least one piece of Christmas tinsel. It is an end of year get together and an opportunity to run in a festive mood and raise some money in the process.
As I got changed a man in a Ã¢â¬Ë60s psychedelic cat suit caught my eye. You couldn't exactly miss him. Will the cat suit catch on, who knows? Perhaps it's good for post race recovery, like those Skins fabric that assist muscle recovery. Every runner thinks any little advantage may help. As you would expect there were plenty of runners wearing Father Christmas hats. I didn't wear one Ã¢â¬â too much drag factor.
I made the short distance to the start on the beach under the pier where those in fancy dress were being judged. As you would expect there were fairies, elves and Santa Claus. The huddled hundreds with colourful tinsel flowing got ready to start.
In fact 1,254 runners actually finished - see results at:
I was content to start in the middle of the field and take it easy. At 10.00 the gun exploded and wet sand under foot I jogged off to see the fast, serious runners sprint like gazelles across the beach. A few hundred meters and I was in carnival, fun run mode, and still even coming up to the 1k mark. Then I had to remind myself that this was a race and not one of my leisurely runs, and from first gear I stepped up to third gear and quickened my cadence across the somewhat soft sand. Running into the sunlight, and feeling the rays on your face with the light breeze and the smell of the sea reminded me so much of running back in Cornwall. As I sped up I passed Amelia (Sri Chinmoy A.C. London). I would see her again later at the end of the race.
The first part of the course is on the beach, the larger middle section along the promenade and local roads, and the final section back on itself onto the beach again.
Over half way into the race and I was motoring on nicely and on target to get below 40 minutes. At one point I looked at my watch and believed I could get under 38 minutes. I continued to make good progress and throughout the whole race no one passed me. I think that was a sign that I started too slowly. Running the final stretch back on the beach was a brilliant finale, if a little but soft under foot and heavy on the legs, but I was pleased to have run the last 2k very strongly. I achieved my target and got under 40 minutes with a time of 39.30.
I saw Amelia after the race and she gained a PB of 44.53, whilst Fran, unfortunately got a personal worst, but I think she was suffering from a bad cold.
This was a great reintroduction to 10k racing and the organisation was slick and faultless. I felt a real sense of joy and achievement to have participated. It is certainly a race I will mark on my calendar for next year. Hopefully more runners from Sri Chinmoy A.C. will participate next year.
So inspired by this race and in the knowledge that with some serious training I can run faster, I looked for another 10k race to run in. And, my next race is the Mounts Bay 10k on 4th February 2007 down in Marazion, Cornwall; not a stone's throw away from the town where I grew up, and where my parents still reside, Penzance. Let's see if I can self-transcend the time of 39.30.
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Fran's Race Report
On Sunday 8th October members of Sri Chinmoy AC took part in the "Run London" Nike 10K in Hyde Park. Several of the runners have recently been team-members on the European leg of the World Harmony Run, of which Sri Chinmoy is also the founder.
As the Harmony Run was to be in London that weekend anyway, Shankara at Run and Become very kindly got extra entries from Nike so that we could enter a really big team of about 20 runners.
Every year Run London has a theme, and this year's was "north verses south", using the traditional rivalry between north- and south-of-the-river to bring forward the competitive spirit! In this 10K your number is pre-printed on your t-shirt and everyone wears the same colour. This year, however, there were 2 colours - green for north-of-the-river and orange for south. Since I don't actually live in London and therefore have no particular geographical loyalties, I opted to run for the north, partly because I prefer the colour green and partly because I wanted to be on Paula's team. (Paula Radciffe was team captain for the north and Sebastian Coe for the south, although Seb did let slip at one point that he was actually born north of the river!).
There were 35,000 participants in this year's race - yes that's not a typo, that really is meant to say 35 thousand! In a brilliantly effective anti-congestion move there were four waves of starts at four different times. We'd opted for the 11.05 start.
Arriving in Hyde Park was quite a buzz, being surrounded by a sea of shirts in only 2 colours. I actually really liked it because I felt it removed any outer differences between runners and brought forward a real sense of oneness in the crowd - after all, we were all the same (aside from the north-south rivalry that is....).
After a high-energy and very loud warm-up directed from the stage we headed down to the start line, bearing the Harmony Run torch (unlit for safety reasons) and flag. It was a sunny day and the mood was decidedly cheerful. As luck would have it we were right under the starting platform where Paula Radcliffe was standing, and in the general melee before the race start she found a few moments to hold the Harmony Run torch aloft and smile for a photo.
Then the hooter went and we were off. Of course everyone took off across the start line at a cracking pace. We'd had a general idea for the whole Sri Chinmoy AC/World Harmony Run team to run all together but it became quickly apparent that our paces covered a pretty broad spectrum.
One bunch did stay all together and finished in just over 46 minutes, with the added bonus of being able to run with Paula for 500 metres or so and have a bit of a chat before she went ahead, aiming for a 45-minute time which is still a pretty tidy pace at 5 months pregnant.
Natalia from Ukraine (right in picture below) couldn't be restrained and sped ahead, running a great race to finish first lady in our wave in 38:18.
Overall it was a great race. The weather was sunny and warm, the park is beautiful, the water station came just in time at around half way, and the course is fairly flat with just a couple of minor slopes. Despite the huge number of runners, the 4 waved starts and wide course meant that it mostly didn't feel too congested, apart from at a couple of narrower bottlenecks which even then weren't too bad.
After crossing the finish line everyone got a medal, a bottle of water, a very welcome sachet of Powerade, and a small bottle of deoderant (!). The crowds were well marshalled so it never felt too overwhelming, and we all managed to meet up quite easily under the billowing World Harmony Run flag.
It's a fun and friendly race and, although a bit pricey, the entry fee does include your wicking t-shirt. Amelia had said it wasn't a PB race because of the crowds, but then went ahead and ran a PB of 45:15.
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"Taper, taper taper." I recalled Tarit's advice. Do you the meaning of the word taper? Rest for 3 weeks before the race. Believe me, your body will be grateful to you!
Here I am on the day before the race, muscles soft like a jelly. Where did all the countless hours of training disappear? I could not feel even one moment of the hard work in my legs any more. I guess the regular massage, healthy nutrition, Megabhuti's liver cleansing once a month, and a taper did the trick. My longest training ride was very easy - forty three miles along the race course on Sunday a week before the race. The beauty of the nature was stunning. Sandy beaches, Malay villages, palm trees, small islands, I was really lucky to be here in this heaven for more than two weeks with plenty of time to acclimatise and relax. Luckily for me, no big hills this year! The bike course has been changed. On Friday two days before the race, Andreas from Switzerland, Robert from Czech Republic, Linda from Hungary and myself moved to Kuah nearer the race start. I left behind my dear room-mate Julia from Oxford, who was very patiently sharing a room with me, my bike, and all the race gear which was lying just about everywhere.
After Neil almost crashed into me on the bike during the Portobello Sprint Triathlon, because I could not see him from my pony tail, I knew the biggest and only sacrifice had to be done - I had to cut my long hair for safety reasons. Julia was happy to do that.
So finally I was ready for the start. That day I was hundred percent sure that this race was nothing to do with me, but was 99% God's grace and 1% help from all my dear friends and family who coached, massaged, advised and encouraged me and who fixed my bike! All the credit goes to them.
As the party was on Friday afternoon I did not feel like going anywhere. Finally after Robert's third phone call I made it out from my room. Linda, Robert and myself arrived at the pasta party - once there I was really grateful for this. It was so inspiring to chat with all these great athletes. First we met Roger Price from Houston - it was his 27th Ironman. Diane and Debbie were excitement for my first race - we all exchanged really nice and kind words of encouragement during the race.
Next day. Finally we ended up at the same table as Zsuzsanna Harsanyi, Petr Vabrousek and famous Jason Shortis. Zsuzsanna is a Hungarian professional. She was second, her time 10:16:24. She is sweeter than the sweetest. And none of the photos is doing her any justice. She is much, much nicer. We spent hours together chatting about everything. Petr is a Czech professional. He was fourth in a time of 9:00:06. He is also extremely kind. He stopped during the race to asked a Danish guy who was struggling if he was ok. A real sportsman. We were all totally impressed by Jason - he was first in 8:36:33. He was racing at our Sri Chinmoy Triathlon Festival in Australia (He is Australian). Eventually all of them were holding the torch, smiling for the photos, it was a great evening.
The day before the race we had the bus tour on the course, the race briefing, and the bike and gear check-in. I managed to get myself together and concentrate on sorting out my stuff, and not forgetting anything from my cycling and running kit. I was a bit nervous but not for long. We went for a nice meal with Linda, who decided to stay longer and help on the race. That was absolutely terrific. While Linda was trying to get some bananas for me from the night market, I went to the race info once again - I was feeling OK. I read the "Spiritual meaning of the Triathlon" by Sri Chinmoy and a card from my dear friend Alison (Ironman New Zealand finisher) before I went to bed. Alison's message: "All this time training and waiting and now the moment is near. Put your foot on the accelarator and get into third gear. Good luck in Langkawi. Put all your training to good use. But most of all enjoy the experience, you will love it."
The Ironman Langkawi begins with a two lap swim in Kuah bay, which starts and finishes alongside a giant eagle statue. The three-loop bike course is fairly flat and is followed by the four lap run course. Total swim distance is 2.4 miles followed with bike ride of 112 miles and finished with a 26.2 mile marathon run.
Dawn. No thoughts. No feelings. No emotions. I just exist. I knew I am where I am supposed to be doing what I am supposed to do. First time in my life, I really trained for a race and I could feel why Sri Chinmoy puts such an emphasis on importance of physical fitness. I experience how does it feel being surrounded with healthy, fit bodies, focussed minds and determined vitals. It was an overwhelming, pure and powerful energy. I was all gratitude for the privilege to make it to the start line. All of us, the pros and the newcomers, had the same goal - to transcend our own limitations. The goal of Self-Transcendence.
Three hundred athletes from thirty six countries started together in the warm waters of the jetty. It was fantastic. I really enjoyed the swim. I had time to bask in the sunshine and send my greetings to Surya the Sun-God who would accompany me today, the whole day long. Well my first shocking experience was when after the second helf point turn I noticed that I needed 47 minutes for one quarter of the loop. God, I won't make it within the cut-off! I will have to stop the race! Cut-off time for the swim was two hours tenty minutes. In a pool my time was tragic, very slow, 1:36. Probably the current was the reason for my even slower swim in the open water. I was paddling as fast as I could. The way back took only 17 minutes with the help of the current. I was out in four hours three minutes, and very happy that the first task was over. I was still in the game.
Finally on my bike, everything went along very well in the first lap. I was fascinated with Chris Lieto's speed - Bryan Rhodes and Jason were far behind him on the bike. Rebecca Preston was the first girl - it was amazing to watch the pros in action. I saw Robert who was going very fast - Andreas was enjoying himself, smiling and asking how am I, it was nice to get some extra encouragement.
The disaster struck in the second lap - there was no water at the aid stations - my mind was in a state of complete panic. On the next aid station I wasked for water, they said "it's water". Great! Relieved. I poured so called water on my head - it was an energy drink. My hair, glasses, jersey, bike, everything was sticky. I would need to pedal for five or six more hours in 40 degrees heat without water. On top of all this my gear shifter refused to move. LAter on Sean in the bike shop told me that the cable probably got stuck. I felt totally helpless. The ambulance was passing with the fastest speed past me with the sirens on. I saw a few athletes lying on the grass. My body was fine but I started feeling dizzy from heat and lack of water. Suddenly I remembered Scott Balfour's advice - "stay calm whatever happens" - so I kept on repeating this. I was so grateful to him for all the advice, coaching, inspiration. He did Kone and other Ironmans - he's world champion in his agegroup, and Scott shared his top secrets with me - "stay calm whatever happens".
A few tears were rolling down my cheeks when I reached the Kali Temple - Kali is my favourite Goddess. I prayed to her, "Mother..... please don't let me die here, please save me". Mother Kali listened to my prayers - from that moment on my gearshift was working. then we had water at all the water stations.
I was pacing myself on 14 miles per hour on the bike, so finally I finished the bike just before the cut off time in 10 hours 24 minutes. Cutoff was 10 hours 30 minutes. I was delighted that I could walk after more than eight hours in the saddle. At this moment I knew I would finish - I had six and a half hours for the marathon. One and a half hours each lap and thats it. I changed slowly , realising that my legs and arms were completely sunburnt. I guess the girls did not put enough sunblock on me after the swim. Soon I had a high fever, but kept on running. I did not want to end up in medical in case they told me to stop. I was so happy to see the others who were struggling on the run - some of them were already finishing. It was just great to have all these people running there on the running loop. I was just copying others - they all had ice cold sponges on their neck, chest, shoulders - so I soon looked like a body builder with all the sponges under my jersey. I was soaked but still I felt I had a really high fever. I started getting well-known muscle pain in my quads. Bioplasma, arnica and energy gels; I stuffed all these in my face with hope to get over it. And then I remember the verse from Sri Chinmoy's triathlon song - "I run with the smile of the beyond" - the whole song is:
"I love my great triathlon, it shows my heart-gold-vision-dawn, I swim in the sea of silver light, I cycle along the road of gold delight, I run with the smile of the beyond, my inner cry God-treasure-diamond"
So I started smiling even more, I started chatting with everybody. In the fourth, final leg I had my own team - we were all running together it was just great. How I wished that everybody would finish.
I had the greatest cheering crew - many Hungarians like Linda stayed over in Langkawi: Piroska, Tamas, Andrea, Jozsi, Laci and the Ironman finishers Andreas from Switzerland and others who waited for me at the end.
Just before the finish, Linda gave me the Harmony Torch (see www.worldharmonyrun.org - Ed.) it was great to run with the torch through all the crowd, it was so beautiful. The flame was really nice, big, and you could really see the flame from far away in the dark night. I was just so happy. A few athletes came to me after the race and thanked me for the moral support. I felt really honestly privileged to be a member of the new world - the world of Ironman and Ironwoman. People with iron bodies, oneness hearts, sweet smiles.
My family had a most exciting day, waiting for the news, results and pictures on the web site. They were all so happy to see me smiling in the first picture of the second bike lap. My mum wrote: "Daughter, you know very well that I don't fancy all these stupid races, but this was really something special, I am really proud of you."
I would never even make it to the start without the help and inspiration of all these people. Tom Chambers, representing GB in Olympic Distance Triathlons, was one of those who gave me the starting kick. At that time, in the months after my dearest cousin's passing, I didn't want to run or swim, didn't even dare to buy a bike, and at that time one day he came to the shop and reminded me that I said at the beginning of January that I would like to do a triathlon. He said "I bought three pairs of shoes - and you didn't do any triathlon?". So at that moment something just clicked in me - I knew that I had to do something with my life and I knew that Milan (my cousin) would be proud. The very same day I bought a trainging diary and the very same night I wrote my training schedule and on Monday I bought my bike and this is how I started - very, very, slowly and steadily - crawled - all the way to the finish line in Langkawi!
Thanks to you all without whom this dream would never come true, and most importantly gratitude to my teacher Sri Chinmoy for his blessing and his smile - full of joy and pride.
Agnes finished the Langkawi International Ironman Triathlon in a time of 16 hours 28 minutes, the cut-off time was 17 hours.
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Amelia's Ras-Y-Mast story
Ras-Y-Mast, Wales, 27/11/05
This was my first multi-terrain/ hill race and I felt a mixture of excitement and apprehension as we neared its remote starting point in the car. Snow lay on the surrounding hills and a watery sun shone through hifh cloud. On the ground, melting snow and sticky mud caught out more than one vehicle as they attempted to park on the steep hillside off the road. The sound of revving engines and voices rose into the cold midday air in an otherwise still and quiet rural landscape. I had travelled down from London to run as part of the Sri Chinmoy AC team with Roger from Cardiff, who would also be running, and Ed from Bristol who would be cycling.
We gathered with the other runners shortly after the finish of the junior race. The race director's breath hung in clouds as he addressed us in a lilting Welsh accent. Most of his words were carried waway on the breeze to the hills before we had a chance to hear them, until the word 'go', loud and clear, generated a burst of friendly jostling and animated chatter as we started off up the first hill.
We gathered with the other runners shortly after the finish of the junior race. The race director's breath hung in clouds as he addressed us in a lilting Welsh accent. Most of his words were carried waway on the breeze to the hills before we had a chance to hear them, until the word 'go', loud and clear, generated a burst of friendly jostling and animated chatter as we started off up the first hill. The ground was wet and stoney to begin with, but gave way to deep mud and splashy puddles as we turned a corner following a farm track into the fields.
Snowy hills unfurled invitingly before us and I wondered where our destination, the mast of the race title, could be. My attentions was soon consumed by mu feet, howerver, as the path headed steeply downhill. The mud was thick and slippery from recent snowmelt and hid loose stones and rocks. In high spirits, we charged down the track into woodland and splashed through a stream at the bottom. From there the gorund sloped up hrough tussocky fields and out onto a road. The gradient continued and I began to struggle somewhat, especially when I waw where the road was leading - to a steep exposed hillside and the bright grey sky above. Once there, the hill reduced me (and many other runners!) to a walk, hands on thighs. We were rewarded a the top vy a panorama of low, snowy hills and distant rain-fraying clouds. The going eased for a while before climbing steeply afain to the mast that marked the 'mearly halfway' point. Skirting the mast my legs felt tired and unwilling, but the sight of a lonf descent cherred me. i passed a cyclist heaving his bike over a stile and he soon overtook me on the descent as gravity pulled us faster and faster over the ground that blurred beneath our feet. I caught hasty glances at the rolling, snow-covered landscape below us to the right as my descent became less controlled and my eyes watered. We turned a corner into a farmyard where the owners had put up balloons and a colourful sign to welcome us (the race, I presumed) to the farm. I had barely a moment to read it and register surprise at the bright, artificial colours after focussing for so long on snowy grass and the mud under my feet. The continuing gradient pulled us on past some bystanders taking photos of the runners, through an extremely boggy field and over a (by this time) welcome stretch of road. A light misty rain fell but with no noticeable wind it did not feel cold. Soon we were passing the 5 mile marker and reached the final hill, the same we had descended near the start. I struggled cheerfully up the familiar route, through stream and mud as fast as my legs would go. Try as I might, I did not seem to be making much headway, but the runners in front of me did seem to be getting closer so I pushed on. Up the final tarmac path to the finish line I was elated to still be in one piece!
pic: Amelia just after crossing the line (photo by Balavan)
Roger had finished in 10th place in 47.55 and Ed had finished second cyclist in a time of 51.18. We managed second team place overall and were generally pleased with our results! Roger had knocked 5 seconds off his previous best on the course, Ed had written well on a testing course for bikes and I was just very happy to have finished, not last, in just under an hour. Whilst the uphills had been punishing, they had brought with them the delights of a few seconds of magical, fleeting beauty at the top and the sheer joy of hurtling back down as fast as you could go. I enjoyed it immensely as had almost everyone else I saw or spoke to.
An atmosphere of relaxed satisfaction filled the gnetly buzzing prize-giveing ceremony. Happily, we ate mars bars and talked and drank steaming hot tea. My lungs felt stretched and clean from breathing the cold, wintry air outside. The race winners collected their prizes and we ambled back to the car as it all drew to a close. A few cars had to be shoved out of the mud on their way out of the field and the sun dipped lower behind darkening woods as we made our way home, sore but happy!
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Ras Mynydd Troed 2006
Five of us happened to be in Abergavenny for the weekend - one local keen to get a South Wales league race under his belt and four visitors from Edinburgh and London keen to sample what the Black Mountains had to offer in the way of testing climbs and stunning views. The five protagonists were Roger, Amelia, Tarit, Dhavala and Bhauliya and they were accompanied by Shyamala who nipped to the top of Mynydd Troed with her camera - her shots will end up in our gallery at some point.
Roger was first home in a time of around 1.18 with Tarit (gaining fast on the last climb) just a minute or so behind. Dhavala was third lady and almost came second, being overtaken in the final descent. Amelia, in her first "class A" fell race, breezed in looking as if she lived on the fells but suffered a back spasm later that kept her laid up for a while - no surprises that the tough climbs claimed at least one victim, albeit one who bounced back pretty fast and was back out racing two weeks later in Edinburgh. Bhauliya had a good run but went a little further than planned when the runners ahead of her took a wrong turn and she was led down an "alternative route" - still she looked very happy at the finish.
Organiser Dick Finch put a great race together with three stiff climbs and awe inspiring views so our thanks go to him. He also dished out some prizes to the Sri Chinmoy AC ladies for being the furthest travelled competitors!
Shankara Smith, co-organiser and scoreboard official, describes the race.
For the first time I was able to attend the race from the start. Usually I work at Run and Become during the day and then go on to the race to do the midnight to midday counting shift. But this time I was lucky.
It was interesting to see how the race started easily with a low key atmosphere and then, as darkness descended, became more intense and electric. It was as if with the challenge of running through the night came an extra strength and energy. At this time the rest of the world ceases to exist and its just the runners, counters and helpers and together they create this amazing atmosphere. I always feel it as soon as I arrive at the track in the evening after work and found myself a little surprised in the first few hours because it wasn't there. Then I realised it only comes when it is needed. Ultras are really unlike any other races. The competition is between the runner and the distance not the individual competitors. A successful 24 hour race depends on everyone working together: the lap counters have to communicate with the runners and offer support, encouragement (and accurate lap recording!); the runners support each other and it is not uncommon to see pairs going round together in the middle of the night, keeping each other awake and entertained. Then the helpers and track side refreshment team need to offer not only food and drink but smiles and cheers.
This year my job was score board. It took me about 20mins each hour to update the score board so that the runners could see how far they had gone. Then the rest of the hour was free, so I could check out how things were going in the counting area, chat to the refreshment people, or just watch the runners (quite hypnotic, you can do it for hours!). I got to see the runners like Tarit Stott, digging deep down to find the power to get back on the track after injury threatened muscles or stomach upsets had taken them into the warmth of the medical room. And at about 6.30am we were all rewarded for night of no sleep with the most beautiful sunrise, I have never seen a sky painted so beautifully in pink and blue. Then before I knew it we had reached 24 hours and the race was done for another year.
I have never run a 24 Hour race but I have helped at many over the years and each time the race draws to an end, I feel such happiness and pride in the runners. I may not have run a step but I have been part of the support group and feel I can fully share in the runners' achievements. Its a case of real oneness. Its then that I appreciate why Sri Chinmoy puts such emphasis on these long races. Not only do people transcend their limitations but everyone involved works together and created an atmosphere of enthusiasm, support and respect. All things that this world needs more of right now.
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The Counter's Tale
The 24 Hour Race: A counter's perspective by Bhasini and Arpita of the Sri Chinmoy AC
After a hard day's work in a specialist running shop on the busiest day of the week all you want to do is go home to bed. On a recent Saturday, however, that was not an option. It was the annual Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race at Tooting Bec track and I was counting the runners for the 2nd shift - midnight Saturday to midday Sunday.
After a brief stop at home to shower and put on all the warm clothes I possess, I headed to the racetrack. As I approached I could see the floodlights through the trees illuminating the unique scene on the track. By then, the runners had been going for nearly 10 hours. Some had dropped already, some looked like they were about to and the rest were resolutely plodding on. Relieving the weary day shift counters, I took my place beside my cheery night shift companions, all of whom had also finished a busy day at work. And so the counting began.
Concentration is essential. You can laugh, joke and sing with the other counters but just don't miss your runners. It also helps if you're not too mathematically challenged as calculating multiple lap splits at 4 am can get a little tricky. I made it my aim not to miss my runners even once even though at times they tried to fool me by changing clothes or putting on a hat. Their favourite trick was to come round in exactly double their normal lap split. For example, if they were doing steady 3.30 minute laps, they would occasionally throw in a 7 minute lap just to make me think I'd missed a lap. The excuses were normally something like "I had to change my shoes" or "I was getting something to eat". Once when I shouted "Where have you been?" I got the reply "None of your business!"
And so the night went on. In spite of our regular repetitions of "It's getting light now", "Don't you think it's lighter than it was before?" and "I think it's getting lighter", it remained dark for a very long time. When the dawn eventually came it was magnificent. Striking pink and orange. Suswara (chief lap counter) announced to the counting shed "You can't see it but there's a beautiful sunrise happening behind you" and then panicked as we ran out to watch it, leaving 30 or so runners unattended. (We were back at our posts within seconds - we're professionals after all).
When my fellow night shift counters started to be replaced so they could grab a few hours well-earned rest, I found I was too wired to follow them. Either the inspiration of watching all those runners pushing back the barriers was keeping me awake or it was the coffee, tea, chocolate, sandwiches and biscuits I'd been consuming all night. I was also much too attached to the runners I was counting to even dream of letting someone else take over. I'd been with them this far and I was going to stay with them until the bitter end.
My female runner reached the 100 mile mark and my male runner reached the 100 km mark at exactly the same time. It was a beautiful thing. But for me perhaps the most beautiful moment of the whole event was at 8 am on Sunday morning, when a Starbucks Grande Americano materialised on the table before me. Sahadeva, patron saint of coffee drinkers was responsible, and I offer him my everlasting gratitude.
Finally at midday the gun was fired to signify the end of the race and we all stood to applaud the runners heroic achievements, many of us with tears in our eyes. Physically and emotionally exhausted they thanked us for counting them and we praised their courage and determination. Happiness, gratitude and satisfaction were the prevailing emotions at the award ceremony.
The winner of the women's race turned 63 that day and when we gave her a cake she said, "This is the best birthday I've ever had."
There is a runner who we call "Smiler" because at previous 24 hour races he smiles throughout. And this race was no exception. After the event, looking through the many photos that had been taken, I couldn't find a single shot of him with anything other than a huge smile on his face.
When I left the track that Sunday I was smiling just like him. In the words of Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the event:
Runners are smilers, runners
Theirs are the victory banners
Runners are smilers, runners
A new world builders
Arpita's reflections on just being a helper:
As far as challenges go, running round a 400 metre track for 24 hours must rate amongst the toughest. Unfortunately, this particular running experience is not for me, but I play my small part by helping out in any way I can.
Having worked the usual busy Saturday at Run and Become in Edinburgh, I flew down to Heathrow, endured the hot and stuffy London tube to arrive at Tooting Bec track around 9pm. The race started at 12 noon. It's such a sharp contrast between the hectic rush of the day and arriving at the track.
The patter of runners' feet as they run lap, after lap, after lap, after lap, after lap creates an oasis of calm. Not what you would expect from such a gruelling race, and make no mistake, these runners are all pushing themselves well beyond the comfort zone. However, the oneness between the runners and helpers all working towards the same goal: to create the perfect race for each runner, really gives this race its unique atmosphere.
Runners include the immortal Don Ritchie, the amazingly sprightly 71 year old Geoff Oliver and the ever cheerful poised Dan Coffey (73 years old) and Peter Zuidema, from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, Holland. The women include the again immortal Hilary Walker as well as Jill Green (63 years old) Susan Clements and Helga Backhaus from Berlin who chat away while they run effortlessly round the track. It seems a pity to select some runners and not others because each runner has their own story and their own inspiration, but I do so only because some of these runners are familiar to me from previous years and others definitely deserve a mention.
My husband, Tarit Adrian Stott definitely deserves a big mention from me as I know the time and commitment, which he gives to his running but this year he wasn't at his fittest and had just come to see what he can do! Famous last words from a competitive ultra runner! He managed 100 miles, which in the circumstances was great. He would probably say otherwise!
Behind the scenes the calm efficiency of Ongkar Tony Smith, the race organiser; the encouraging cheerfulness of the counting crew; the caring service of the refreshment crew all combine to make a flawless race. No ultra would be complete without a timekeeper and a statistician and Don Turner as usual worked selflessly behind the scenes to provide his customary excellent services. Also Ian Champion, the Race Referee, with tireless perfection ensured that as runners reached their 100 miles (a significant goal in any 24 hour race) they were recorded.
This race is truly legendary and definitely leaves you inspired to train more for whatever your particular goal is, whether it's two miles or "beyond the marathon".
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Dan Coffey's account of the 2003 Race
Thanks to Dan who has penned this excellent report on a memorable race.
Sri Chinmoy A.C. Self Transcendence 24 Hour Race 2003 (11&12 October)
Dan Coffey, ultrarunner & much valued friend of the Sri Chinmoy AC.
This was a continuation of the race last held in 2000, cancelled in 2001 due to 9/11; the following year postponed to allow the 100 mile track race to honour Don Ritchie's world mark of so many years ago - 25 I believe!
This race was first held at New River Stadium, North London for two years before being moved to Copthal Stadium where Don Ritchie ran an astonising 166 miles; then moved to Kingsmeadow Stadium, Kingston where the recording marshall's tent was blown away in very windy conditions; moved to Tooting Bec where it has been held ever since; it might be worth remembering that on the last occasion it rained for the first 23 hours of this event. What would this year bring? I was mulling over these thoughts as I sat lost in the one way raffic system at Streatham with just under an hour and a half to go and still wondering whether there was any truth in the magnificent write up in Runners World re the Hull 24 hour event in July that that was the only 24 hour race being promoted in the UK this year.
However I had total faith in Ongkar Tony Smith, Race Director, who had invited me; he surely would not have left me lost in a one way system if there was no race as erroneously reported! Finally I extricated myself from the system and promptly got lost again; now reslved that I would only stick to the track as I could only go two ways without mch chance of getting lost. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I had packed a silva compass in case I got in trouble on the track, at least I would be able to spot magnetic north and work it out from there! At last I arrived at the track and parked my trusty steed then prepared myself for the coming onslaught; was greeted by many very fit and young looking competitors including the President of the RRC Don Ritchie MBE. I asked him how he would go and he replied that he would be taking it easy as he was getteing on; I believed him, what a mistake!
Also spoke to David Green about whether numbers were required front and back - he was not sure as this was his first atempt at this kind of race. Fortunately Ongkar had arranged a short but informative briefing about half an hour before the start which answered most of my questions as every race is different. After a week of windy weather I was certain that it would be a continuation of the same but Ongkar Tony Smith had promised good weather and he was a person who kept his word. There was no wind on the Saturday just bright sunshine and warm too; this could not last. It did not, as the night became cold, damp towards dawn, and the night seemed to go on for a very long time. The birds got up at dawn, sang their songs and prmptly went back to bed but finally a new day dawned, the Sun finaly got up, so did the wind and a chill breeze but we wereon the way home by then and nothing could stop us!
Noon arrived and it was all over yet again; if only I had had a few more hours what I could have achieved: at least another mile!
Firstly the lap counters, I had only two, to my knowledge, for the whole time and I had total confidence in them and remembered to thank them. This is the most arduous of tasks as one has to be always alert and polite to a runner who is tired and does not know whether they have been noticed or not. Then those good folk who work behind the scenes preparing hot food and having it available almost at the drop of a hat with a welcoming smile. The magnificent support staff who supplied me with endless cups of tea when I could not digest anything. PS I must remember to get the recipe for bean bake, it smelled so appetising and I was able to manage tw spoonfuls of an excellent meal (I did not waste any as Ken Shaw, Father of the 24 hours event who had turned up to lok after me was able to finish it up and still give very vocal support to all the other runners).
The handlers for the other runners who were always available to urge one on as you passed their "patch" - always the word of encouragement even though one did not know them and this went on for every hour of the race. If you have never done an ultra then this is where you will find true comradeship, friendship and real honesty. Lastly but not the least, mention must be made of the Race Director who updated the leader board every hour and organised the four hour turnround with the help of the race referee Ian Champion, RRC, who kept a very sensible eye on the event the whole time. Finaly the official timekeeper Don Turner, also RRC, who with his assistant made sure that the clock was always running and ensured all the intermediate distances including the most important 100 miles times for the fortunate ten runners rigtht up to the end, and then measured all the final bits of laps around the track for the last minute or so.
The Reader might be forgiven at this stage for wondering what the runners, walkers and shufflers were doing all this time so now I will finish with a resume of activities on the track. The RAce Before the first four hour change of direction it was apparent that Don Ritchie and eof Oliver were not out for an afternoon stroll, with Garth Peterson who believe3 was third in the earlier Hul event they were establishing their credenials. All comparatively young runners, Gath (RRC) 40, Don (Moray R) 59 and Geoff (100 Km Association) a mere 70! Several other runners were to feature in the final analysis including Brian King and Timothy Rayney who bided their time.
Just in case the reader thought that this was a Man's race I must draw your attention to Sandra Brown (Surrey Walkers Club) who walked the whole way and topped 100 miles yet again. She has now done well over 100 24 hour events so is just getting the hang of this event (a few weeks earlier achieved her best position ever in the classic Paris to Roubaix walk, finishing in 6th place!). Also Jane Janman (RRC) another Hull contender who quietly just gets on with it. There were so many individuals who achieved their own greatness whom I should mention but if I do
I will undoubtedly miss out someone who quietly achieved their own personal target and should have got a mention; suffice to say that to me it was an honour to be permitted to take part in such an epic adventure of courage and for some delving into the realms of the unknown. This is why it is called the (Self Transcendence Event). One thinks that it could be possible and then allows the body and mind to prove that it is really possible to achieve. There is a truly magnificent feeling afterwards of achievement.
Of course one hurts both during and after the event but this fades into insignificance on a personal result. Consider Don Ritchie who looked to be on course for somehting fantastiv yet had problems with his feet but still won the event with 117 miles plus. Consider Geoff Oliver who set a new world best for 100km for an over 70 year youngster with 11 hours 02 minutes 02 seconds and then went on to set a 12 hour world age best; I do not know what other records he broke on the way but it must be quite a few! He finally finished up 6th with a distance of nearly 106 miles.
Consider Tadeusz Syty cannot speak a word of English (from Poland) yet achieved an impossible 100 miles when it looked impossible; this was his third Sri Chinmoy race and his third 100 in this event! I will stop here as he was the last century maker in tenth place but this does not in any way belittle the achievements of all who competed and I apologise to all those not mentioned; you were carefully noted by one who now moves with the grace of an ancient sailing ship, becalmed, because I cannot go any faster.
Once again on behalf of all the competitors very grateful thanks to those magnificent folk who gave of their time and talents to enable us to participate in the sport that we love .......and this also includes the Physios, who were available to help when desperately needed.