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

Self-Transcendence Virtual Marathon - August 2021

I  knew I was not going to run fast on this occasion - a tough time at the Two Tunnels race barely a week before - from which I was still a little stiff and tired - had left me under no illusions about the shape I was in. Nevertheless, the international virtual marathon was a chance to share an experience with all the other disciples of Sri Chinmoy around the world who were unable to travel to the USA and run the main event in Rockland. Sometimes it's important just to be a part of something.

I was up early to meditate and sing Sri Chinmoy's marathon songs. I felt optimistic (is the phrase "triumph of optimism over experience?) that I might even break 4 hours just on the strength of the triathlon training I'd done earlier in the summer. Around 9am I was ready to go and set off alongside Kokila (who was doing a half marathon) on a loop of just under 4 miles that ran past our front door. In the garden I had a stash of gels and run-aid bottles and on my first lap I carried two of these little loop-handled things with me to stash at key points on the route for later on. One was hidden in a willow tree at 40 Acres and the other stashed behind a circuit box on New Road.

I began at 9 mins pace and managed that for one lap, then held on to it for another, but once I'd lost time nipping into the house for a comfort break I couldn't seem to get back on track. It was cool for the first hour but the temperature began to climb quickly after that and my energy levels were going in the opposite direction. I also had some achilles trouble and there was constant pain - fortunately it dulled over the course of the run and didn't get progressively worse.

From half way onwards I knew I was struggling and by 16 miles my pace had collapsed down to a 12-minute-shuffle, but for once I didn't care. I had spent so much of the previous year and a half running doggedly against a GPS speed on my wrist, desperately straining for PBs and SBs, that to do one race just for the experience of oneness with the others doing it around the world seemed more than fair. After all, just to complete the sacred marathon distance is no joke. Apart from the Ironbourne Triathlon 5 weeks before I hadn't clocked up a run of over 15 miles since February.

The second half of the race went on forever - under the hot sun, with my headphones on, listening to Everest Aspiration, just pushing one foot in front of the other and trying not to give in to the temptation to walk. I ran the whole thing in the end, with a resounding personal worst of 4:31, but finished with a smile on my face and a sense of satisfaction. I have lost count of the marathons I've done over the years - it's probably only around 20 - but every one is special. I hope there will be many more.


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