SELF TRANSCENDENCE RACE SERIES,
Post race analysis and comment from our international team was always available....
I was out in Malaysia for just under a month - my gratitude to my hard-pressed work colleagues just can't be put into words, I really owe them one for this! Although I was primarily out there for meditation, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team was organising regular short races of one or two miles - short enough to be over before the sun rose and the heat became a big challenge for us northern european types. Rupantar from NY was the main man when it came to measuring and setting up the courses, and he did a great job in the circumstances (arrive in New Town, find traffic-free road, measure, register runners from umpteen countries, etc. etc.). My thanks also go to him & his helpers - long may he continue as one of the much-loved stalwarts of the team.
In Penang, the course was a quarter mile straight on an undulating road, and we ran in the pre-dawn darkness which was surprisingly still very warm and humid. Racing the day after an epic on Penang Hill I was not fit for a good time, and clocked only 11.46 for the two miles. For the one-miler I had no excuse, but couldn't do better than 5.33 at the first attempt. Disappointing, but probably a result of the heat and the loss of momentum at all those 360 degree turns. Still, I rested up before the next one and gave it everything - only to fall short of the 5.30 barrier again, by just one second. Still, the races were very enjoyable, all of us struggling together in the hot conditions and enjoying the good-humoured banter and dissecting of each other's performances afterwards as the sun rose over Penang. Sri Chinmoy attended all the races, meditating after each one before composing a spiritual prayer-poem which he then recited to all present. The atmosphere at these post-race meditations was really special, and each race also began with a few seconds of silence while we focussed inwards in preparation for the run.
Pic - runners lean into the turn
Moving on to Langkawi, I fared somewhat better in the one-milers, though I'm ashamed to say I have no record of my two-mile time. I do remember that it was nothing great by my standards, I please as an excuse the after-effects of the longer runs which were sapping everything I had, even though they were not that long and run at a much slower pace than usual.
The Langkawi course was a causeway that led out for over a mile into the sea before ending blindly, surrounded on all sides by the placid waters.For some reason there was a perfect road laid on the causeway with a yellow line to keep the non-existent traffic on the correct side of the road. This made measurement easy, and as the road was flat and cooled by the proximity of the sea it made for vastly improved times compared to Penang. Sri Chinmoy would often venture out on to the course just before the race, and we would pass him, in his meditative mood, as we toiled out along the gently curving highway and then see him again on our even-more-breathless return.
My memories of the two one-milers have merged pretty much into one, and the times were only one second apart - a 5.19 and a 5.18. In both cases I took position near the front of the grid, knowing I should manage a top ten finish. The races had good attendances, sometimes over 200 runners (in separate men's and ladies' heats), but despite my age I am quite handy over a mile compared to most of these runners who generally expert at the long distances (marathon and ultramarathon) and suffer as a result on the short stuff. And of course there is the usual list of injured, recovering, under-trained etc. We've all been there....The pack ahead of me was invariably made up of the really quick, experienced guys - Goshanakari, Sanjay et. al. - and the youngsters aged under 25 who always have a good chance over this distance.
Pic - a big field line up for the ladies' race
I love one mile races. And I dread them. Once the shout of GO! has been uttered, you really have to go all out from the first step. If you don't start fast you risk entanglement in amongst the numerous optimists who have lined up in front of you but are going to finish way further back despite their best efforts. Once you are clear, in space, with your stride the length you want it and your arms free, you have to keep your foot on the gas all the way through - just lose your concentration for a few seconds and you lose your pace - but you can't sprint, as still you need to save up the energy you need to complete the second half. In short races I try to keep my mind perfectly focussed on one thing - usually a mantra - usually the word "Supreme". I'm aware of what's going on around me, but try to keep the mind fixed on that one thing - the repetition of the word. Without this practise I find my mind wanders and doubts & anxieties about my performance creep in - shouldn't I be tired by now? Am I going too fast? Am I going to feel shattered and exhausted in a few second's time and have to slow down? All the usual mental rubbish, and of course it does slow you down - those negative voices are like self-fulfilling prophecies. What I love about a one-miler is that I can keep my concentration just long enough to finish the race. What I dread is that you have to run the whole thing outside your comfort zone - that always makes the race a little intimidating as you expect to push yourself to the edge of nausea by the time the finish comes around. The plus side is that you do reach that finish very soon and can get back into that comfort zone, where you feel, well, comfortable...
Anyhow, my times here were my best ever in a road mile, so I was well pleased. I clearly remember coming round the bend on to the home straight in about eighth place and hearing the timer shouting "five oh four" - surely I must beat my 5.22? And beating PBs is just the best feeling. But the air was treacle and my limbs were leaden and those yards were sooo long....an endless 14 seconds passed before I crossed the line but the PB was won in 5.18 and the nauseous stagger to the water station, hands on hips, gulping in the humid air, was nonetheless a very happy stagger for me.
To finish as high as seventh in the second race was also a nice surprise. The winners were well under 5 minutes, close to 4.30, so congratulations to them. Oh and my best on the track is 5.12, set in my youth in somewhat more temperate New York.