After 12 hours running, and a little under 3 hours sleep in my tent, I bounded eagerly out of bed at 3am for some more.
Not at all.
I had arrived at Flushing Meadows with a sense of returning home, of arriving to do what I was meant to be doing. I had trained for this and I was here to do it. I was in better shape than I had ever been.
By the end of day one I had covered 93 miles and was in second place.
And it had not been difficult.
I told myself to relax, to take it easy, just to trot along lightly.
‘It’s just like running to Little Huia’ it seemed to me.
Running to Little Huia had been the highlight of my training. Previously when training I had done a high weekly mileage but – it seemed to me – had failed to do sufficient individually long runs. This time I would rectify that.
I came up with the notion of running out to Mark Harvey’s house. He lived in Titirangi which seemed a very long way from where I lived. How impressive would that be? – to pop in for a glass of water and then run home.
Titirangi means ‘the fringe of heaven’ – how delightful to run to heaven's fringe!
And the first time I did it, I startled myself by finding it easy. Some years before, I had done a ‘gargantuan’ run in that direction. This time, when I got to the point at which I had turned around previously, I hardly felt I had started to run. I trotted on to Titirangi and back again happily.
The next weekend I decided to press on further – beyond the fringe of heaven . . . into heaven proper. I soon discovered that heaven was – to coin a phrase – as hilly as hell, but that was ok: hill training was good for you.
Each time I did that run, I went a little further. And it was heavenly. People who live in the centre of large cities, as I do, get in their car and drive to the countryside that they may run in more inspiring environs. – I was just running the whole way. When I finally got to the stage where I was running past Titirangi and all the way to Little Huia, people asked me - ‘where do you start from?’ ‘Oh, from home,’ I would reply insouciantly. But, in fact, nobody was more impressed than I was myself. When I started running, my standard run was down to the park and once around - eight minutes it took me, and it was difficult. Now my standard run was out to Little Huia - eight hours it took me and it wasn’t difficult at all. Once, it would have taken me weeks to recover from an eight-hour run: now I had a shower and went to work in a cafe and then had a game of tennis: doubles - Muslim and me against the Armenians.
The road to Little Huia is long but once one passes Titirangi it wends it way through native bush, past green, swampy fields where the pukeko stalk about, and shaggy horses graze. It passes the placid waters of the Nihotupu dam whose waters undisturbedly reflect back the bush, the sky. You hear your feet on the road, the sound of your breath, the call of the birds.
At Huia there is a shop. I would stop and buy a toasted sandwich and eat it looking out over the sea before pushing on to Little Huia. At Little Huia there is a boat shed and nothing else. High above the step, bush-clad hills a single harrier hawk circles. In the rough fields a pair of putangitangi honk softly to each other. I sit on the pebbly beach as the sea gently rustles up the stones.
I pick up a shell and slip it into the little pocket in my running shorts and head home.
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