Day Five: 3 pm - 12 midnight

A lot of people suggested I take some painkillers . . .

Drugs and . . . Rock and Roll

Abichal Watkins appeared at the race occasionally. He slid inconspicuously about, as only a Welsh poet can, taking photos and video footage. Somehow he had the air of being an ultra-running deity drawn to the park by the presence of ultra-running just as the ancient gods were drawn down from Olympus by the smoke of sacrificial oxen. A man who has run as much as Abichal, has earned some level of divinity.

I acquired, some time ago, a copy of the Multi Day Runner’s Handbook – edited by . . .  Abichal Watkins.

In this book there appears a discussion of essentials for the multi-day runner – shoes, raingear, towel, socks, knife and so on. I quote - “. . . last on this particular list is the most important item after shoes – a walkman.”

And indeed at what point in any ultra-race are not a significant percentage of the runners, in the words of the old 80s song, ‘wired for sound’? I may be the only person who has raced 7,000 km and never used a walkman, discman, ipod, MP3 player … or such device.

As I stumped around Flushing Meadows I did rather begin to wonder if my rejection of such technological aids was not perhaps misguided, but I held out.

It is no doubt an absurdly puritanical position to hold. They say that listening to music helps because it distracts one from the brutal reality of running hundreds of miles. My rejection of the musical option is precisely for the same reason. I am not here to run 1,000 km – I am here to have the experience of running 1,000 km.

It is the same idea that made me ignore all the people who exhorted me to take painkillers. The pain was – very unfortunately – part of the experience of running 509 miles with shin splints. If, with the use of drugs, I could feel nothing, in what sense could I be said to have even done it. Perhaps with enough drugs and Australian rock music pumped into my ear I could have ignored entirely the fact that I was stumping on a damaged leg around a park in New York and, thus divorced from the facts, have fooled my body into running the extra 111 miles to get to my 1,000 km goal. But then Ibuprofen and INXS would have run 1,000 km – I would have just been along for the ride.

Footnote: I use INXS (pronounced "In Excess") - the Australian rock group formed in 1977 - as an example simply because one of my fellow competitors spoke to me during the race of the benefits of listening to this particular group whilst ultra-running. No doubt others were listening to differing - and perhaps even more inspiring - music.


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