I had planned out exactly how far I was going to run each hour of the 240-hour course of the race. It didn’t take me long to realise that once I had shinsplints, all those carefully concocted lists of numbers had to be discarded. It took me rather longer to realise that the whole underlying structure of my plan was flawed as well.
Each day I had divided into two 9-hour segments with three hours sleep between. The trouble was the timing of these - at midnight and midday. The inside of a tent at midday, even in May, can be extremely stifling. Often I found myself during my noon break, lying prone, draped only in a thin New Zealand flag for decency’s sake, the sweat running off me, pretending to myself that I was at least resting if not enjoying a deep and fulfilling midday sleep. I did find that if I abandoned my camp stretcher and lay out flat instead on the floor of my tent, the cool dampness of the hard, lumpy ground at least cooled me a little. It was generally a relief to get out of that tent and back running!
I somehow didn’t quite have the intelligence to alter my schedule during the race to avoid being in my sweltering tent during the hottest time of the day.
Each year for the last 41 summers I have celebrated the birth of the Christ with Aileen Therese Philomena McBryde and Ernest James Leonard Bede McBryde - my parents.
In the first two decades it was also in the company of my sprawling collection of siblings; in later years it has often been just the three of us raising a glass for the Lord’s birthday celebrations.
My parents live, these days, in Dunedin. In Auckland one can see penguins on the beach beneath the banana trees: in Dunedin . . . they have just the penguins. Which is to say that even in sunny, summer Christmas-time the temperature is sometimes not all that hot.
The Otago harbour is a beautiful place; Back Beach a particularly magical spot, but only once in years of visiting did I feel disposed to brave the chilly waters and go for a swim. It was
cold. When I came back to shore I found I left a trail of bloody foot marks behind me on the stony beach. I had somehow contrived to acquire a series of deep cuts on the balls of my feet and the cold had been such that I hadn’t even felt it happen.
My sister spent some time trying to extract the fine gravel that was embedded in these deep gashes.
As I lay sweating in my tent in Flushing Meadows, the memory came back to me - I had had no cause to recall it for many years.
The night during the race that it rained, most of the runners disappeared into their tents. For me, however, it was one of the most enjoyable periods of the whole race. The steady drumming of the rain, the splash of foot-fall - it seemed to bring nature even closer . . . the lake surface patterned with rainfall, the reeds and trees washed clean.
By the time I did withdraw to my tent I was well and truly saturated myself - my feet were white and shrivelled and pruned. In this new and withered state, suddenly stood out across the balls of my wasted feet, a series of disturbing lumps. It took me some time to realise that these were the remains of that summer adventure long ago at Back Beach.
Rather than swell, my feet seemed to waste away as the race progressed - dry, desiccated, shrivelled, they seemed stumps of bone and these lumps of ancient scar tissue. Had I had some soothing unguents I would have rubbed it gratefully on my battered feet, but I was far from home and had far to go . . . and with nothing to comfort my tattered feet.
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