Shankara Smith, co-organiser and scoreboard official, describes the race.

For the first time I was able to attend the race from the start. Usually I work at Run and Become during the day and then go on to the race to do the midnight to midday counting shift. But this time I was lucky.

 

It was interesting to see how the race started easily with a low key atmosphere and then, as darkness descended, became more intense and electric. It was as if with the challenge of running through the night came an extra strength and energy. At this time the rest of the world ceases to exist and its just the runners, counters and helpers and together they create this amazing atmosphere. I always feel it   as soon as I arrive at the track in the evening after work and found myself a little surprised in the first few hours because it wasn't there. Then I realised it only comes when it is needed. Ultras are really unlike any other races. The competition is between the runner and the distance not the individual competitors. A successful 24 hour race depends on everyone working together: the lap counters have to communicate with the runners and offer support, encouragement (and accurate lap recording!); the runners support each other and it is not uncommon to see pairs going round together in the middle of the night, keeping each other awake and entertained. Then the helpers and track side refreshment team need to offer not only food and drink but smiles and cheers.

 

This year my job was score board. It took me about 20mins each hour to update the score board so that the runners could see how far they had gone. Then the rest of the hour was free, so I could check out how things were going in the counting area, chat to the refreshment people, or just watch the runners (quite hypnotic, you can do it for hours!). I got to see the runners like Tarit Stott, digging deep down to find the power to get back on the track after injury threatened muscles or stomach upsets had taken them into the warmth of the medical room. And at about 6.30am we were all rewarded for night of no sleep with the most beautiful sunrise, I have never seen a sky painted so beautifully in pink and blue. Then before I knew it we had reached 24 hours and the race was done for another year.

 

I have never run a 24 Hour race but I have helped at many over the years and each time the race draws to an end, I feel such happiness and pride in the runners. I may not have run a step but I have been part of the support group and feel I can fully share in the runners' achievements. Its a case of real oneness. Its then that I appreciate why Sri Chinmoy puts such emphasis on these long races. Not only do people transcend their limitations but everyone involved works together and created an atmosphere of enthusiasm, support and respect. All things that this world needs more of right now.

 

Shankara Smith
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Self Transcendence 24 Hour Track Race London

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