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

Tarka Trail 2 Mile "Oneness Race", Feb 2020

With our club (or should I call it a "movement"? A race director I was chatting to once did...) so spread out across the country and the world, it's no surprise that we find ways to do things together without actually being together. These include our club of distance swimmers who are all trying to clock up 50k this year, a loose-knit cabal of cyclists who ride as many miles as possible every June for "Sri Chinmoy Cycling Month" and perhaps the best club of all, the Oneness Race. We run 2 miles each month wherever we happen to be, measured on a known course or with reliable GPS, and pool the results to make a kind of virtual race. I suppose it's our Parkrun.

I was visiting my daughter in Devon and with her home just big enough for the family and dogs I ended up staying in a hotel in Bideford which happened to be 10m from the access to the Tarka Trail. I'd known about this off road route for years but never set foot on it so this seemed like a great opportunity to run my February 2 miler on a flat railway path, with some new and different views. It was blustery and cool with plenty of light rain in the air but that's not going to deter anyone from a rapid 2 miler. I was out at around 8am and warmed up with 2 miles out along the trail (actually a tarmac path fine for road bikes if you're interested) and then I paused, reset the Garmin, meditated for a minute and went for it. I ran hard down the cutting between moss-covered trees hearing only the swirling wind and spattering drizzle and my own footfalls. This was going to be an intense 13 minutes of me against me.

I have been running 2 milers as races and time trials for 27 years now. That's how long I've been in the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and with 2 miles being one of Sri Chinmoy's favourite distances, I've done many times more 2 milers than say 5k or 10k runs. It's that magic distance between the all out blast of a 1500m and the more sustained effort of a 5k, so if you're not used to it you could easily fly-and-die or start too slow and leave yourself too much to do at the end. I have never suffered from slow starts, and as per usual I went off "optimistally" hoping I'd be under 13 minutes despite the swirling winds which were bound to slow me down at some stage even if they helped me at times too.

I passed a gaggle of club runners out for a session, broken into pace groups. It was clearly a long haul as they had cambelbaks and bottles. They said Hi and I was only able to nod in return as even in that first mile I was out of the chat zone, approaching the breathless state...

I had my Garmin counting down the distance but without showing pace or time - I wanted to do the pacing purely on feel. Having said that my phone was still set to map my run and I could just hear the voice of the app when I approached the half way stage, telling me I'd run six something. I wasn't quite sure what the something was, but I thought it might have been 6.06 which would make sense as the first mile was sheltered and downhill while the second mile would be the opposite. I pushed myself into faster breathing (in on 2 strides out on 1 etc.) with only that one mile gone, which is something I only do when I'm racing properly - it's not a comfortable experience. If I want to just enjoy a 2 miler I wait until the last half mile before the breathing quickens....

The second mile got hard, as I came back over the river Torridge and down on to the flat lands at river level with a stiff headwind. Then came the upward incline towards the section of old railway line that runs elevated through Bideford - despite the double whammy of hill and headwind I felt strong and with 0.6 miles to go I went into my most rapid breathing of in on 1 stride, out on 1, which I can't sustain for long. I did it in phases interspersed with my usual aerobic in on 2, out on 2 rhythm. Flippin eck this was a hard session!

It paid off as I staggered over my 2 mile mark in 12.29, not a pace I can often run solo. I felt great afterwards and the buzz lasted all day, which included a walk in the gales on Instow beach where I charged around with my daughter's excitable dog, Boogaloo, to make my grandaughter, 2 year old Nerys, laugh. For some reason that combo of grandad and dog leaping around on the sand is comedy gold in her world.

Well, that's the Oneness Race. The club that makes you run into the torture zone of maximum effort when otherwise you just wouldn't do it. A noble enterprise.

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