Multiday running is not - as the saying goes - all laugh and lunch. But it has its good points.
People always ask one what the highlight was of a long event like the 10-day race. Perhaps people do have a positive view of life.
What about the low-point, the nadir, the pits of the experience - nobody wants to know about that?
Once I got my shinsplints I was set, I thought, for more low points than high points.
People at such a race always say to the fellow who is limping along and has obviously lost the physical ability to achieve any worthwhile goal – ‘Well, as long as you stay happy, that’s the important thing.’
Once, I would have had to restrain my desire to punch someone in the nose who said that to me when I was obviously in a condition where the only sensible reaction was to be completely miserable.
At a certain level I was miserable. The low point came, not while running, but one morning at 3 am as I sat alone in my tent trying to get myself clothed and out onto the track. I was sore, tired, dispirited, unmotivated, alone. It took a long time to get from sitting dejectedly on the side of my little stretcher in the dark to actually out the door. A long time and a big effort of a feeble will.
I whimpered aloud to the gloom – ‘I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to do this.’
Always it was the most difficult part of the day - sitting alone in my tent. It was when the whole ten day experience seemed at its most impossible and absurd. At midnight I would be sitting with my battered feet in a black plastic rubbish bag in a bucket of iced water - abject and grubby, surrounded by the noisome detritus that built up in my tent – dirty running gear, old spoons and half-consumed plates of food, encrusted socks, books, my passport all scattered and heaped about. Then I would struggle to get the legs on my stretcher straight and my sleeping bag under control. Three hours later I would be struggling with my mind – surfacing from insane sleep to nightmare wakefulness. What motivates one normally is the siren call of one’s goal; once that is gone the only things that can get that sorry carcass moving are the kicks and blows applied to it by a willpower itself enfeebled and reluctant.
The despicable interior of my tent
And yet . . .
And yet at some level I was happy, though I had no call to be. ‘Stay cheerful’ they said and I did. And I felt no desire to assault the nose of those who suggested it. For ten long and tiring days I was in some strange sense happy.
One gloomy morning when things were at their worst, I found myself shuffling along the track, singing the words from the song in Jesus Christ Superstar -
Try not to get worried
Try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you
Oh don’t you know
Yes everything’s fine
. . . And it’s cool and the ointment’s sweet
For the fire in your head and feet
Close your eyes
Close your eyes
Think of nothing tonight
Yes everything’s fine . . .
And for days on end, like some doomed soldier in the summer of 1914 whistling happily off to horror and unthinkable destruction in Flanders Fields, I whistled and hummed and quietly sang -
It’s a long way to Tipperary,
It’s a long way to go.
It’s a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Farewell Leicester Square!
It’s a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart’s right there.
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