Day Seven: 3 pm - midnight
I once met a man who had met an alien.
Now that is a great line to bring out at parties. You wouldn’t want to say you had met an alien yourself – people would think you were a freak – but to have met someone who had met one: that makes you a wild guy living life on the edge.
The alien that this man had met looked and spoke . . . just like a human being. You may well wonder then how he knew it was an alien. Aha! Well, it had – apparently – hanging in the air above its head, large, brightly shining, green neon letters – A-L-I-E-N.
You may be of the opinion that anybody seeing large neon letters floating in the air has problems.
I only bring up the matter because for months before the 10-day Race I had been seeing large neon letters floating in the air myself. Numerals to be precise. And they were a long way off but very large and golden and may well have had lines of shining light bulbs around them like a sign outside a movie theatre, and they said . . . 1,000 km.
It was my goal, and I imagined drawing ever nearer to it and finally arriving at the foot of those great golden numerals as I crossed the finish line at Flushing Meadows. It was possible. And I couldn’t help but notice that the previous year the first place-getter had done . . . 908 km.
By definition, racing is about competition. Almost by definition, multi-day racing is about competing only with yourself. But competing with the other competitors does definitely come into the picture. It may be as simple as trying to keep up someone for a lap, it may be as complex and devious as deliberately fooling another runner about your routine so as to be able to sneak out and run wild miles while your competitor is in bed, or running deliberately slowly so someone draws near and then speeding up and taunting them with how far behind they are falling in order to break their spirit. These latter of course not something I would recommend, or do, but it happens.
Sri Chinmoy, writing in 1981, related one of his own experiences of competition:
Another day I saw an old man running. I said, ‘If my speed has really increased, I will be able to pass him.’ I came nearer, only to discover that the runner was a lady. I said, ‘Let me run according to my speed.’ After two hundred metres, I turned around. O God, she was so far behind!
I tell my disciples to have no competitive feeling, to compete only with themselves. Here I was competing with an old lady! Competition-blood will never leave me.
Indeed on another occasion he wrote:
Competition is good
Provided it is the competition
And not the competition
Boris looked like he might be a challenge; Pavol seemed to be fading – I didn’t want to write him off but I was desperate for an opportunity to say ‘Pavol over’. As time progressed and the end of the race came in sight, I realized that actually Luis Rios was my competition, and my competition-blood began not exactly to boil but definitely to simmer gently and it was a definite motivating force in keeping me going. In the end I ran 509 miles: Luis ran 501.
With the arrival of my shinsplints all my sense of competition departed. I actually stopped even registering how many miles I was doing. I was competing with nobody, not even myself.
After five days sunk in the experience of shinsplints, I noticed that I was actually beginning to note the miles passing by, that I was actually starting to think, ‘I’ll just get to such-and-such number of miles before I go to bed.’ It was a good sign. Then I started noting what the other runners were doing - competition-blood was started to flow again.
Unbeknownst to me, my spirit of competition could have had another spur. There are only two other New Zealanders who have ever competed in the Ten-Day Race. One set the world record – I wasn’t going to be competing with her! The other, I discovered subsequently, covered . . . 510 miles.
So there I was – competitive, but a long way from those big shining golden numerals, and definitely . . . the slowest kiwi.
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