Day Five: 3am - noon

Often in ultra-running your biggest problem is not the distance, and not even your body, but rather your own mind.

It is true that, in the course of any long-distance race - from about a marathon distance upwards - one's mind begins to slow down. It is one of the pleasures of ultra-running - escaping the endless chatter of the mind. People ask me what I think about when I run - the answer is, that a lot of the time . . . I don’t.

It isn’t the case that suddenly one enters the sunny uplands of silence, where silence - the eloquent expression of the inexpressible - is the only thing that speaks to one. Perhaps it is so for some, but I have never quite got there - but certainly the mental processes slow down.

This may leave one with a single idea floating around one's consciousness for hours and hours on end.

cast.jpg Remember the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Perhaps you saw the recent movie. I didn’t, but was pleased not to, for the real Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the original BBC radio programme that came out in 1977. Certainly I read and enjoyed all the books that followed, but the radio drama remains the definitive version.

As I dejectedly limped around Flushing Meadows - along beside the Grand Central Parkway, around the roundabout, through the camp, along the lake-edge, up the slope, along beside the Grand Central Parkway, around the roundabout, through the camp . . .  there was one thought that circled endlessly around my empty mind - the words of Marvin the Paranoid Android when he met up with Trillian and Zaphod and Ford and Arthur again after 576 thousand million years stranded at The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe:

"The first ten million years were the worst, and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline."

It floated up, word-perfect, from the bottom of my memories of 1977 and circled endlessly around my mind. It summed up my experience perfectly. It was about this time that I vowed I would never run another ultramarathon.

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Links:

The Self-Transcendence Ten Day Race was founded by Sri Chinmoy
Details of the race - results, photo galleries and such like - can be found at the race webpage - 2006 Self-Transcendence 6 & 10 Day Races