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

Lee Valley Joy Day Race - 20 March 2022 - Cheshunt


Although it was clearly Spring, or at least the very early beginnings of it, the temperature had real feel of 1 Celcius when we gathered at around half past six to get ready for our first joy day race since, well,  who can remember when? I had a chance to warm up after helping the marshals find their spots on the course (I'd measured it the day before) and the only sounds were birdsong and the loud pecking of a woodpecker while I was out jogging on the footway. The course I'd found was perfectly flat, twisty in places, and probably a tad over-distance as I was measuring using GPS on a bike and being very careful to over-estimate rather than have the disappointment of a short course. I added on 1% for luck and in the event it was probably 20-30m longer than needed but I was happy with that. I hope everyone else was.

There must have been around 20 of us, a real mix of nationalities with France, Brazil, Switerland and Ireland all representated as well as the UK. It's been a while since we had one of these so it felt great to be back there on the start line of a 2 miler. I was still coming back from injury - I'd made steady progress since restarting running in February with tentative 7-minute, 10-minute then 13-minute jogs and built myself up to a 5-miler but this was my first race effort since October 2021. Beforehand I had thought I would be in with a chance of being in the fruit as we call it (among the first 3 in other words, who traditionally might receive a banana as a race prize at one of our New York or Prague races) but with Sadanand away on a training camp and Suswara sadly injured (ankle) I had the dubious honour of front-running which I hadn't been expecting.

I was the starter as well as one of the runners so after our race prayer and brief silence I counted us down 3-2-1-GO! and launched straight into what felt like my 2 mile pace, running it from memory, which meant I actually ran way too fast! As the course wound through the trees and came out alongside a long, narrow lake I was slowing down already and probably running at close to six minute pace. In perfect condition I can cover 2 miles at that speed but not off the back of a 4-month break from running, that's for sure. The course was exquisite, on a flat and even footway with only a handful of people out there because of the early hour, the tangible presence of the lake through a single line of trees on one side and open grassland with wood-sculptures and coppiced trees on the other.

The shock of pushing myself so hard pretty much emptied my mind and I had little going on in the way of thoughts, or even appreciation of the landscape, as I passed first Dave and then Vilas on my way to the turnaround. I crossed a wooden bridge and forced a tired smile at Tejvan as I covered the 1 mile and turned to kick back to the start. I was aware that Agnieska was not far behind me and she looked full of energy as I passed, so I wondered if she would put on a surge and ease ahead of me on the second mile. I was slowing down but still running at full effort, so in the event I stayed in front, but the finishing time of 13:15 was a minute and a half slower than my 2020 times. Clearly there's work to be done but there was no more than a dull ache in my dodgy knee - the same as I get if I rest it completely so no harm done - and I felt as if I had made a really positive re-start to my running.

Agnieska came in second and it was great to see Karteek in good form and Devashishu back out running again in time for this year's Peace Runs in Spain and alongside the Danube from source to - well I would say the sea, but that depends on the situation with war in Eastern Europe. A sobering thought.

Next will come the 2-milers in New York in April and maybe an endurance race walk - something we traditionally hold in April each year on the anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's arrival in America from India. Thanks to Ascharjya for grabbing these photos on his phone as he marshalled at the finish.



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