Thanks to Dan who has penned this excellent report on a memorable race.

Sri Chinmoy A.C. Self Transcendence 24 Hour Race 2003 (11&12 October)



Dan Coffey, ultrarunner & much valued friend of the Sri Chinmoy AC.

This was a continuation of the race last held in 2000, cancelled in 2001 due to 9/11; the following year postponed to allow the 100 mile track race to honour Don Ritchie's world mark of so many years ago - 25 I believe!

 Despite rumours, the Self Transcendence / Sri Chinmoy race is now back on the list so don't believe anything to the contrary!!

This race was first held at New River Stadium, North London for two years before being moved to Copthal Stadium where Don Ritchie ran an astonising 166 miles; then moved to Kingsmeadow Stadium, Kingston where the recording marshall's tent was blown away in very windy conditions; moved to Tooting Bec where it has been held ever since; it might be worth remembering that on the last occasion it rained for the first 23 hours of this event. What would this year bring? I was mulling over these thoughts as I sat lost in the one way raffic system at Streatham with just under an hour and a half to go and still wondering whether there was any truth in the magnificent write up in Runners World re the Hull 24 hour event in July that that was the only 24 hour race being promoted in the UK this year.

However I had total faith in Ongkar Tony Smith, Race Director, who had invited me; he surely would not have left me lost in a one way system if there was no race as erroneously reported! Finally I extricated myself from the system and promptly got lost again; now reslved that I would only stick to the track as I could only go two ways without mch chance of getting lost. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I had packed a silva compass in case I got in trouble on the track, at least I would be able to spot magnetic north and work it out from there! At last I arrived at the track and parked my trusty steed then prepared myself for the coming onslaught; was greeted by many very fit and young looking competitors including the President of the RRC Don Ritchie MBE. I asked him how he would go and he replied that he would be taking it easy as he was getteing on; I believed him, what a mistake!

 Also spoke to David Green about whether numbers were required front and back - he was not sure as this was his first atempt at this kind of race. Fortunately Ongkar had arranged a short but informative briefing about half an hour before the start which answered most of my questions as every race is different. After a week of windy weather I was certain that it would be a continuation of the same but Ongkar Tony Smith had promised good weather and he was a person who kept his word. There was no wind on the Saturday just bright sunshine and warm too; this could not last. It did not, as the night became cold, damp towards dawn, and the night seemed to go on for a very long time. The birds got up at dawn, sang their songs and prmptly went back to bed but finally a new day dawned, the Sun finaly got up, so did the wind and a chill breeze but we wereon the way home by then and nothing could stop us!

Noon arrived and it was all over yet again; if only I had had a few more hours what I could have achieved: at least another mile!

Thanks:

Firstly the lap counters, I had only two, to my knowledge, for the whole time and I had total confidence in them and remembered to thank them. This is the most arduous of tasks as one has to be always alert and polite to a runner who is tired and does not know whether they have been noticed or not. Then those good folk who work behind the scenes preparing hot food and having it available almost at the drop of a hat with a welcoming smile. The magnificent support staff who supplied me with endless cups of tea when I could not digest anything. PS I must remember to get the recipe for bean bake, it smelled so appetising and I was able to manage tw spoonfuls of an excellent meal (I did not waste any as Ken Shaw, Father of the 24 hours event who had turned up to lok after me was able to finish it up and still give very vocal support to all the other runners).

The handlers for the other runners who were always available to urge one on as you passed their "patch" - always the word of encouragement even though one did not know them and this went on for every hour of the race. If you have never done an ultra then this is where you will find true comradeship, friendship and real honesty. Lastly but not the least, mention must be made of the Race Director who updated the leader board every hour and organised the four hour turnround with the help of the race referee Ian Champion, RRC, who kept a very sensible eye on the event the whole time. Finaly the official timekeeper Don Turner, also RRC, who with his assistant made sure that the clock was always running and ensured all the intermediate distances including the most important 100 miles times for the fortunate ten runners rigtht up to the end, and then measured all the final bits of laps around the track for the last minute or so.

The Reader might be forgiven at this stage for wondering what the runners, walkers and shufflers were doing all this time so now I will finish with a resume of activities on the track. The RAce Before the first four hour change of direction it was apparent that Don Ritchie and eof Oliver were not out for an afternoon stroll, with Garth Peterson who believe3 was third in the earlier Hul event they were establishing their credenials. All comparatively young runners, Gath (RRC) 40, Don (Moray R) 59 and Geoff (100 Km Association) a mere 70! Several other runners were to feature in the final analysis including Brian King and Timothy Rayney who bided their time.

Just in case the reader thought that this was a Man's race I must draw your attention to Sandra Brown (Surrey Walkers Club) who walked the whole way and topped 100 miles yet again. She has now done well over 100 24 hour events so is just getting the hang of this event (a few weeks earlier achieved her best position ever in the classic Paris to Roubaix walk, finishing in 6th place!). Also Jane Janman (RRC) another Hull contender who quietly just gets on with it. There were so many individuals who achieved their own greatness whom I should mention but if I do

I will undoubtedly miss out someone who quietly achieved their own personal target and should have got a mention; suffice to say that to me it was an honour to be permitted to take part in such an epic adventure of courage and for some delving into the realms of the unknown. This is why it is called the (Self Transcendence Event). One thinks that it could be possible and then allows the body and mind to prove that it is really possible to achieve. There is a truly magnificent feeling afterwards of achievement.

Of course one hurts both during and after the event but this fades into insignificance on a personal result. Consider Don Ritchie who looked to be on course for somehting fantastiv yet had problems with his feet but still won the event with 117 miles plus. Consider Geoff Oliver who set a new world best for 100km for an over 70 year youngster with 11 hours 02 minutes 02 seconds and then went on to set a 12 hour world age best; I do not know what other records he broke on the way but it must be quite a few! He finally finished up 6th with a distance of nearly 106 miles.

Consider Tadeusz Syty cannot speak a word of English (from Poland) yet achieved an impossible 100 miles when it looked impossible; this was his third Sri Chinmoy race and his third 100 in this event! I will stop here as he was the last century maker in tenth place but this does not in any way belittle the achievements of all who competed and I apologise to all those not mentioned; you were carefully noted by one who now moves with the grace of an ancient sailing ship, becalmed, because I cannot go any faster.

Once again on behalf of all the competitors very grateful thanks to those magnificent folk who gave of their time and talents to enable us to participate in the sport that we love .......and this also includes the Physios, who were available to help when desperately needed.

DAN COFFEY
More about:

Self Transcendence 24 Hour Track Race London

View event page »