April 22: Dance of Life

It is Monday afternoon and the one mile loop of the Self Transcendence races is alive with movement.  Some like Alex Swenson are running with such strength and poise that I have to remind myself that he has been here now for more than 24 hours and has already completed 116 miles in that time.

There is an economy and beauty to his stride.  His steps so lightly touch the ground that they are almost silent.  Imagine watching a ballet dancer leap across the stage with what looks like no effort at all.  Their face serene and tranquil.  Always moving precisely to the rhythm and music of an orchestra.

The ballet, or race that is, has just begun of course and there will be many more scenes yet to come for all who run here.  Each with their own unique steps and movement.  A fortunate few who will have moments, or hopefully many miles, when they appear to have the boundless energy and beautiful motion of Alex.  Running with the poise and grace of dancers, while many others have resorted to awkward shuffling.   Progressing sometimes with such labored agony, you  cannot understand how they even stay erect little alone continue to shamble on.

Each runner listens and moves to a tempo and sound that is unique only to them.   Everyone will no doubt wish that they had practiced and trained more.  Done just a little bit more so that they could move and flow like poetry in action.  Alex moves this afternoon like that, while the only real noise and disturbance I hear is that of my own labored breath as I gasp trying to keep pace with him.


Alex was last here doing his first 6 day race in 2010 and says that he has wanted to return ever since.  “Stuff happens.  Injuries mostly, and just life stuff.” He put in a tremendous performance at that time but things didn’t turn out ultimately as well as he hoped.  He came then he says with a preexisting injury and then the weather was awful, which led to a bad case of blisters going into his final day.  “They killed me.” He finished the race though with 396 miles.

For this race he says he just wants to race more consistently.  “So far it has worked.  Yesterday my goal was 100 and I ran 100, and I am on track.   What I want to do today and that is 80.  So one day at a time.  If you can do that one day at a time than the numbers will add up eventually.”


He describes the conditions for him here now as ideal.  “Just perfect.  50’s temperature, cloudy, sunny, not too cold.  My biggest fear is that you get the freaky 80 degree week.  I am liking this weather, a little windy but I am not complaining.”

“I love the race.  It is a wonderful event.  I have wanted to come back.  I have actually worked my running year around it.  So I am really pleased to be able to come back.”

Alex Swenson

The 6 day board


The 10 day board




“I have settled down a little bit.” Yesterday Philip McCarthy was running so fast and powerful that he looked as though he was running a marathon and not a 6 day race.  The energy of that first day is an intoxicating energy that eventually evaporates into the cool darkness of the night.  Philip had a very good first day.  “I am keeping with what is a comfortable pace right now.”


He says that in an earlier long race he had a problem with the cold.  This time he says that the cool evening was not a problem.  “it was still and there was no wind.  I kind of ran out of energy at one point.  My feet were hurting me a little bit.  So I slowed down, and took a short nap and got back out again and I was feeling real good again by daybreak.”  At the end of his first day he had completed 120 miles.


“Predictions at this point are out the window.  I am trying to keep this pace as long as I can and not feel like I am pushing myself too much.  So it feels comfortable.  I will get more sleep tonight.  That first 12 hours I did take a risk.  I was zipping around there pretty fast.  Then I figured that was too much.  I had better take it back a notch.” The pace he is moving at this moment he feels he can continue with for the next few hours and then he will simply see what happens next.


Kaneenika has taken over the lead of the 10 day women


Samita is now in second place with Ilvaka.  A few problems but still happy.


Ilvaka did 61 miles yesterday


The lake


Don and Louis a great team


For the 10 day runners who have had the track to themselves up until yesterday, the arrival of the 6 day runners  has been both a blessing and a distraction.  I ask martin if they have got in his way at all.  “O a few times I have gone into a dark place, and the mongrel was playing up.”

“When it started yesterday there was a big feeling of increased energy.  I found it a real boost.  It was wonderful.  There was just so many more people and the excitement was infectious.  I think if you asked the other 10 day runners they would say the same thing.  You feel something extra out on the course.   But unfortunately today a lot of them are feeling bad and I feel a really really low energy on the course this morning.  It was so strongly palpable across everyone.  Normally you can see some souls bouncing along happily, but they were few and far between.”


Martin-and“Right until the middle of today I felt I had no energy at all, and every part of my body ached.  I had just to go back to my tent and get some recovery and recharge a bit.  I think I needed to be separated from that energy for a while.  I back into a good patch right now.  That is because I have gone and taken that hour off.  I haven’t taken any real long sleeps like some of the other people have.  That takes its toll.  Once my pace drops off and I am loosing form I just say to Allan, there is no real choice to make here.  So I go in and have a short rest.  The duration we play around with.  We have played around from 10 minutes to half an hour.  We don’t have some scientific plan to it.  It is very much ad hoc.”

When asked about his numbers.  “The scientist tries to peak from out of the cupboard but I try and put him away.  He is interested in the numbers.  But the numbers can be dangerous.  ‘I think in this event being new for me.  It is really about each day being a new day.  It is fascinating just watching the sun come up and the sun go down and I see the same lady cycling every morning at the same time.  It is remarkable.  It reminds me of the HG Wells movie, The Time Machine.  Where the guy is sitting in a chair and sees the days flick by.  Except this is going much slower.”

Martin Fryer

This afternoon Sylvie celebrates completing 100 miles.


The counters and helpers are more than busy.


“I had to dig a little deep over night.  I always try and get over 100 the first day.”  Underneath all the clothing is Dipali, she got 103 miles.  “It is always difficult that first 24 hours and the second 24 hours are also difficult then you settle in on the 3rd day.  I am feeling okay.   I am still feeling that freshness and that newness.”



Dinner time in the camp.


Don and Louis


Spring has come.


“I have been better,” says John Geesler this afternoon.  “Something happened to my knee at the end of the first day and I can’t run.  I am walking.  I took an hour off resting it and now I am back out seeing how the waking goes.  If I can run later I will try.  Right now if I try and run it will knock me out.”


John-and-PhilipHe made 100 miles for his first 24 hours.   “I thought I would be better than that but nobody had tremendous mileage for the first day.  I was in 2nd place but Alex caught me just about that time.  Alex and Philip are teammates of mine from the 24 hour.  We have known each other for quite a while.  We are friends.”

He says that Phil is doing well.  “He is not overdoing, he is pacing himself well.  He looking good like he should be able to maintain it.  But of course things happen.”

He suggested to his friends that they should, “bank tons of mileage.  You go out really hard and fast the first day.  Pile it all up if you can.”


Of his knee, “it doesn’t feel like the sort of thing that it is going to heal up really good.  But, there is always the chance so I have to keep plugging away. ”

When I ask him if it is ever possible that he would drop out, he says, “If I am going to pay I am going to play.  You are here.  You are not going to have fun sitting in the tent playing tiddly winks.  You have to be out here.  That is where the fun is.”

“Right now I am walking fairly smooth.  Earlier I had an awful hobble and it was real bad.  I have improved so I can enjoy it.”

John Geesler

Kumar after having a fast started has finally found his rhythm.


First timer in the 10 day, Nirbhasa, continues to amaze.


“I am really surprised how relaxed I am.  When I woke up this morning there was no pains in the legs.”  Rasmivan, a first timer in the 6 day race is also very much a surprise as he appears to be moving effortlessly this afternoon.  “I force myself to go to bed at 2 o’clock.  I had 2 and a half hours sleep.  Obviously in the morning it is more difficult.  Gradually got into it and everything feels really good at the moment.”

We pass the counting area and I ask him if he is aware of his mileage.  He says he hasn’t been looking but I can hear the number 113 being called out.  He says he did pay attention to his 24 hour split.  “I did 90 miles and that exceeded my expectations what I was aiming for really.  It gives me a bit of cushioning for the last 5 days.  I am just taking each day and each hour as it comes.  Ultimately I am just so grateful to be here.”


“I am not trying to go into the mind.  I don’t want to calculate how many miles I should be doing.  I am trying to live in the here and now.  It is such a beautiful day like this.  I have been so blessed with such wonderful weather.”

“Issues have arisen with my feet, but I have resolved them.  I am really trying to stay relaxed, and I suppose all the hard work and perseverance of not giving up is starting to come through.  It is still early days.  It is just 30 hours but I am now here for the duration.  Putting some work in until 2 o’clock in the morning.  Last night was really beautiful, because it was quite still, it really quiet and there was hardly anyone out on the course.  There was only a few of us and it was just so peaceful.”

Ultimately he feels such gratitude for having the opportunity to be out here.





The eternal promise of Spring





“I first came to the race when I was 15.  My mom often comes and helps out one of the runners.”  From an early age Subala got inspired by multi day running and particular this race.  “There was something about the air here, the whole community.  It just made me fall in love with it.  I just knew that one day I would come back and do the 6 day race. That was about 13 years ago.”

“I am actually finding this to be the easiest race that I have ever done.”  She says this even though she has never run for this long before, not even ever running for 24 hour.  “The longest race I have done is a 50km.


“I would just like to see that I can make it to the end.  A good amount of miles I guess.  Do more than I ever thought I could.  It was not too long ago that I couldn’t even finish a 2 mile race that I do every week.”

SubalaHer previous longest distance, 50 km is quickly slipping behind her.  As of now she has completed 69 miles.  She is surprised at just how good she feels.  She started the race making one small mistake she says.  She wore thick socks hoping they would protect her feet from blisters but in fact they heated her feet up and started to create blisters within the first couple of miles.  “Apart from that everything is fine.  I can move fine and there are no injuries.”

She says that during her earlier 50km race she had such knee and hip pain that she could barely keep moving.  Here however, “I haven’t had any pain whatsoever.”

As for what she would like to see happen here.  “I guess I just want to get rid of my mind.  I just want to be able to control it.  Because quite often when I run my body feels fine.  But my mind says, you can stop now.  By the end here, I would like to be able to run without being controlled by my thoughts.”

“I am really just trying to surrender.  Let everything happen as it is supposed to happen.”


Another young New Zealand girl who has spent a lot of time here.


Under the sun


Smiling, singing and dancing,
We must run
Towards our Goal.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 49, Agni Press, 2008


4 thoughts on “April 22: Dance of Life”

  1. Pingback: Multidays.com
  2. Great blog posts, but is anyone going to post updated results of the six-day race on the website? The run started more than 48 hours ago, but no updated race results yet.

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