3100 Mile Race : Sri Chinmoy “Self-Transcendence” USA : The First Day
William sent me an update just before going to bed after his first day of running.
He wrote that he had covered “71.39 miles today” and that the weather had been “Hot for a loooong time – tough”.
For those of you reading this who come from an ultra-running background, you may well be thinking that 71.39 miles doesn’t sound like all that much for the first day of running (heat notwithstanding). There are a few things to bear in mind in order to put the distance in context :
Unlike most of the longer ultra-distance races, this event has a mandatory rest period. Although the clock keeps running, the athletes are not allowed on the track between 12 midnight and 6 am.
This means that in real terms a “day” of running last for a maximum of 18hrs, not 24hrs.
This is also a very very long race. Before the event began and after much discussion we decided that there was little point William trying to achieve record-breaking performances over shorter distances during the first few days of the race, rather the sensible strategy was to keep his mileage at a reasonable and above all sustainable level, because no matter what distances he may cover after 24hrs, 48hrs, 72hrs, 6days, 8days etc etc, it is going to take an awful lot longer than this to get anywhere near the 3,100 mile target.
So while William most definitely will have records in his sights along the way, most of the first week of running will be about William settling into the race and aiming to achieve a state where running 60+ miles in 18hrs become his normal day.
I’m really not joking. The idea we have is that William will simply get up, go off to run and do so all day long, treating this in the same way that most people treat going to work or to school etc. It’s just going to be what he does every day.
But unlike work or school, he won’t get to take weekends off and there will certainly be no laying in bed on a Sunday morning!
One of the most challenging aspects of a race of this kind is that unlike a fixed duration race such as, for example 6 days, where the aim is to achieve the greatest distance within the set period, this is a fixed distance race (i.e. 3,100 miles), the idea from a competitive point of view being to achieve the distance in the shortest possible time.
This however creates a different state of affairs in many respects. In a fixed duration race such as a 6-day race, if a person managed to somehow run 100 miles per day for the first 5 days (500 miles), then on day 6 they tripped over their shoe-laces or were hit by a careless cyclist or came down with food poisoning (or whatever), even if they could not run another step, they would still have achieved a distance of (hypothetically) 500 miles, which might well be enough even to win the race.
BUT… in a fixed distance race such as the 3,100 miles, while the winner will be the first person to achieve the distance, if a person ran 1000 or 2000 or even 3000 miles and then for some reason was unable to run any further (due to illness, injury or whatever), then basically in many ways their distance simply doesn’t count – they will have failed (quite possibly through circumstances beyond their own control) to reach the target distance of 3,100 miles – full stop.
This isn’t a unique feature of this race, it is exactly the same principle as a person entering a 10km race but for some reason only managing to cover 7km.
However, it is worth saying again that in this race even if William or any of the other entrants manage to cover hundreds or indeed thousands of miles, if any circumstances stop them from completing the full 3,100 miles by the cut-off point, then they simply will be classed as not having completed the event.
For many who enter the race though, the event is less about attempting a sporting achievement and more about transcending their own individual limitations. In this respect, perhaps an exact distance isn’t really all that important as the challenge is less a matter of athletic prowess and more one of personal growth.
But, for a highly motivated competitive athlete there is more than a little pressure in knowing that you could successfully run for more than 6 weeks continuously, cover a mind-boggling distance, and then still the whole thing could be virtually wiped away by some sudden freakishly bad weather, or an outbreak of flu, or a blister becoming infected.
Multi-day ultra-distance racing is often something of a war of attrition, with victory going to the last person standing at the end of the race.
The 3,100 mile event perhaps epitomises this more than any other, as the competitors must keep their nerves and focus not for hours or even days but for weeks.
This will be a very long ,and very hard race, and one thing is pretty much certain. No matter whether a person enters the event with sport or spiritual development foremost in their mind, after well over 3,000 miles of running, no-one is going to be quite the same person at the end of the journey….