"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Celebrations 7 x 2 x 0.9 miles relay (?) - Jamaica, Queens - August 2018

 Anugata seems to be on a roll with race organising these days, with races all over the world to his credit including the Siem Reap Trail 7 I took part in a few months ago. This time his offering for August Sri Chinmoy Centre Celebrations was a relay with points on offer at two 2-mile races, a marathon, a 47-mile ultra and the Team Relay. I was not in any kind of shape to run the long events and I arrived too late for the first 2-mile race, but I was well up for the relay. Each team was 7-strong with each runner completing two legs of the loop we use for our 2-milers on Saturdays. As we run two laps plus a significant extra section to complete the 2-miler, the relay loop must have been roughtly 0.9 miles. I'd be interested to find the exact distance out some time!

We got a team together between UK (me, Devashishu, Balavan), France (Ashcharjya, Pierre, Durdam) and New Zealand (Uddipan). Durdam is a genuine Frenchman despite his american connections, so Uddipan was the only ringer and we were well pleased he'd pledged allegiance to France/UK so we could have a full team of 7.

Having signed up first I had my name at the top of the team sheet and to be honest I was more than happy to run in the first bunch. There was an excited mood at the start line opposite the sacred 3100 Mile course, plus a lot of chaos as people tried to rustle up a coherent team of 7 at a quarter to six in the morning. I warmed up with a lap and a bit of the course, slowly jogged but with a few strides. All in all it was probably 15 minutes which is slightly short, but it was enough to confirm that I hadn't inflamed my tendon in the 2-miler of the day before. Lining up we had our usual silence at the start then I was off at a stupid pace (400m speed probably) trying not to let the faster runners out of sight. Early on I was lying 5th then eased up to 4th as we approached the first bend. I had gone off too fast - way too fast really - but it didn't seem to matter as everybody else had done the same and we all eased up approaching the hill. Here I overtook the 4th place runner, Vaibhava, and eased on to the flat and then the slight downgrade past the park. Everything was hurting and I was already breathless, alternating a count of one stride per inbreath / 2 per outbreath with a more deserate rythm of one stride per inbreath / one per outbreath. In other words I was treating it like the three quarters of a mile in a 2-mile race which I had banked on being about right. Lengthening my stride a bit on the downhill past the spot where we have breakfast (no sign of life there at around five past six in the morning) I managed to stay with the pace and not lose the fast runners completely. Of course I was never going to reel them in but I hung on to third place and a satisfying time of 4.57. I am guessing that's around a six minute mile...but who knows?

I was handing over to Ashcharjya and he did a proper relay start by running as I approached and it required a big effort in the handover zone to actually catch him and touch hands to send him on his way. Next came a long wait while the others completed their first legs and I jogged to stay loose (I would't say I warmed up as the temperature was well in the high twenties even at that hour and I had no fear of my muscles getting cold).

Lap 2 was a very different experience, as I ran the whole thing solo without anyone in front to catch or anyone behind to try and stay clear of. In the end it was 5:13 so probably quite close to my 2-mile pace of the day before.

In the final shake up we were 7th out of 9 and the only teams we beat were Russia-India and Canada, but I took satisfaction from the fact that we'd got a team together and put in a really hard effort on every loop. Germany and USA were notably absent from the team list, so as I see it we beat them too! With our best talent available (Sadanand, Suswara, Rasmivan, Prabala) I reckon we could improve on that for sure.

Everyone had a great time, with the novelty of running as a team instead of solo as per usual going down very well. Hopefully word of mouth will hype up this race before our next Celebrations and we'll have more teams? If I can stay in shape I'll ask for the start leg again as it was a great feeling going off at that pace in a bunch. Not something I get to do every day.

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