My running life began in January 1990 when I became a student of Sri Chinmoy. Exercise didn’t really feature much in my life at that time but Sri Chinmoy was and is a serious advocate of physical health and so I started jogging infrequently and ran the local Runners are Smilers races. However by November 1992 I had begun a project to run a 1000 miles before April 13th 1993.This was part of a larger project for students of Sri Chinmoy who were inspired to run a million miles to honour his completion of a million bird drawings.
Within two months or so Sri Chinmoy had completed another million birds and the project was abandoned. Yet I was inspired and continued running, still with the aim of completing 1000 miles. In the Spring of 92′ I had gone to see the finish of the last seven day race held in Flushing Meadow before the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team (SCMT) started holding races in Wards Island. The energy there was a total surprise and I helped out with the take-down, glad to be of service. In 93 and 94 I helped with set-up and take-down again before deciding during the Ultra Trio 1995 that I wanted to run a multiday. So to get a taste of long distance I went down to Phoenix, Arizona to run the Across The Years 24, 48, 72 race organised by Harold Sieglaff and the A.R.R. It was a tremendous experience and I covered 68 miles and learned a lot. My eyes were now set on the first 10 day race planned to supercede the 7 day race in April/May 1996.
The Inaugural Self-Transcendence 10 Day Race 1996
That first 10 day race was a life adjuster par excellence. Fortunately there were some real characters there to talk to and learn from. Pete Coffin from Salt Lake city in Utah was an inspiration as he walked after the first day yet rarely left the track. Don Winkley was there and so was my friend Satyajit Saha.
This race is a unique event in the annals of running. No prize money is awarded, there’s little or no acclaim outside of the tiny community interested in this kind of distance. It’s necessary to make the the journey to New York and stay for 11 or 12 days before returning home. Then there is the discomfort involved. That first race was a real test of my will to keep going. The emotional rollercoaster was shocking to me, the problems with my knees seemed insurmountable, blisters, chafing, foot pain, muscular pain led me to visit Medical often. However, as much as I was suffering, there were other runners who seemed worse off than myself, though it was of little cheer. Dipali Cunningham offered lots of encouragement and Don Winkley kept me laughing through the long nights until around day 6 or 7 I started to get that feeling that time was running out and it would all be over in a short time. There were 21 runners in that inaugural race but next year the numbers were down to 13 and this led to the implementation of the 6-day race the following year, 1998, when 11 people entered the 10-day and 24 came for the 6-day.
It is surprising how much difference the size of the field makes to the runners but the more the merrier. It is one of those things that are difficult to appreciate unless one runs a race of this nature.
How to describe the psychological effect of multiday running? Now I see the race as a retreat. This is an opportunity to get to grips with the real in us. The everyday world is removed from the equation and stripped down to the bare essentials.The outer needs are taken care of and all the runner has to do is eat when hungry, sleep when tired and in between keep moving forward. After a few days of this the mind is no longer able to distract one from the inner world. The mind loses power and issues that have been buried rise to the surface and evaporate in the furnace of determination.
By the time the race has come to a close, the mind is in a calm yet focused condition and nothing seems too much trouble. The mirror has been cleaned. It is just something that needs to be done. No prevaricating or generating reasons and excuses – just do. This for me was my reward after the second 10-day race. I marvelled at the stillness and I looked at the world in a different light for a few days. Gradually the mind regains its strength and falls back into its old habits. But the cat’s out of the bag now. The mind is not the all. There is a greater reality that lies beyond.
It took a few years to get used to the 10-day and in 1999 I decided to try the 700 mile race in September. The event allows12 days to cover the distance – an average of 58.3 miles a day. As it happened, a tropical storm blew through and the race was suspended for 36 hours which was added to the 12 day time limit and I covered the distance. The last day dragged on forever until it was done. Then next year it had to be done again without the break which made quite a difference. I had 69 miles to cover on the last day and I developed shin splints and had to run for 22 of the last 24 hours and crossed the finish line with 10 minutes to spare.
You have to want to run these races to complete them. There’s no two ways about it. If you don’t want it you won’t get it.
The Self-Transcendence 1000 mile Race
The following September, 2002, I decided, maybe impatiently, to step up to the 1000 mile event which requires an average of 67 miles a day. This race is really intense and there is no room for a bad day. By the end of the second day, 6 of the 9 starters were facing the realisation that they had blown it and had another 2 weeks to go. That was tough. It takes a massive effort to let it all go and re-adjust the goals to a realistic level. I had the feeling for days that I could still finish but it was a theoretical reality and the average was increasing everyday despite my best efforts and on the 10th day I was overhauled by Pranjal (Martin Milovnic) who continued to pull ahead. Yet by the end I had averaged 58 miles a day for the 15 days – I had truly moved on beyond the 700 level.
The Self-Transcendece 3100 Mile Race – The Worlds LongestCertified Footrace
I ran the 10-day in the Spring of 2003 and a month later it became known that there were places available for the 3100 in June. Not knowing if I could live up to the challenge I still felt duty-bound to at least offer myself as a candidate. If I wasn’t chosen – I was free. I had done my bit. However my application was accepted and June 15th 2003, just 6 weeks after the 10-day I was back on the track albeit at a new venue – around Thomas Edison High school. As it happened my visa expired just before the end of the race and I had to leave before the very end. I totalled 2700 miles that first race. It took a while to recover – maybe 4 months or so but 2004 I was back prepared to go all the way and completed the distance in 55 days + 8:32:41.
That first 3100 was when I conceived the idea of a training handbook which became The Multiday Runners Handbook and the idea of my original site, Multiday Running.com. In 2005 I tried to keep a blog of the experience which I tried to update at the end of every day.
I have run the 3100 mile race six times now and hope to continue.
I love these races. There is something I cannot fully grasp that I still strive to reach. I sincerely feel that I have yet to run my best race. Every race is unique and I get so much from each one.
My gratitude to Sri Chinmoy
Monday August 10, 2009