It was probably the best race he ever ran. It was also his very first attempt to run for 24 hours. It was being held on a track in London by a group who were doing something brand new as well for them. It was a first for lots of people in a way.
It took place in October of 1993 and probably should have attracted a larger field, but another more established event in Spain seemed to get the cream of the crop. None of this mattered to Alan Young. Living in Scotland he wanted to test himself to his limits to see what he could do as an ultra distance runner.
So Alan came to the inaugural Sri Chinmoy marathon team 24 race in Tooting Bec and won. He didn’t use tactics, he didn’t use guile, he ran as hard as he could until there was no more time left. His distance of 138 miles was the furthest he had ever run and getting this little trophy wasn’t bad either. The next man was 2 miles behind and as Alan talks about this race now nearly 21 years ago his eyes twinkle with delight.
But at some point over the years he came to realize, “I wasn’t particularly good. But I got an insight.” He came to realize that maybe from the sidelines he could actually achieve more than he ever could on the track. Not that he completely gave up his own dreams, but winning the 24 hour race in Tooting Bec was just about as good as it got.
Being crew for a runner has to be one of the most thankless jobs on earth. There are no trophies or records for the man holding out the cup and rubbing sore backs and legs. Keeping track of laps and supplements, and running off for heavy cream is not a job that pays well if at all.
Something very much else happens that says more about how far a friend will go for another, what oneness and a hearts bond really means, and can you realize and become one with another’s triumph. Even when they hold up the trophy up and you carry a towel.
I have joked many times with Alan about his job and just how good he is at it. I have seen lots of helpers at these races over the years and he really may be the best at what he does. He has crewed for Alan for 10 years now. You can see Alan adjusting, shifting, and recaclutaing just what he needs to do from morning until night. He has been here 8 days now and his job is not yet done, not by a long shot. He has probably 15 more days of this routine yet in front of him.
In the beginning he wasn’t sure he was going to be any good at it. William was a fast marathon runner who wanted to move up and so 10 years ago asked Alan to help. The first three 24 hour races were a disaster. Basically William blew up after 18 hours and that was that. Somehow they worked and fiddled and fine tuned and well, you can see where Alan is now. What they learned more than anything was simply slowing everything down and being more patient.
William jokes when I ask him whether he wants to send Alan back to Scotland. “O he is all right. It took a few days for him to bend in. But I will keep him now. We’ll get on, we will manage.”
I ask William, that without the help he has gotten from not only Alan, but also Tim and Tarit what would have happened to him here. “That is the one mistake I made before the race. I thought I could crew myself at the beginning and still manage it. Preparing the food was something I just couldn’t possibly manage and do all the running. High marks for Alan. I don’t want him to get too big headed. He is doing alright for the moment. We will have to keep on him, to keep him up to the mark.”
Alan says that by late tonight, after many many days of being off the needed pace, he will once again be back on schedule to finish the race in time.
Ron Clarke was one of the greatest distance runners of all time. In his career he accomplished 17 world records but somehow failed at the Olympics to win a gold medal. The achievement, that for most athletes stands at the very pinnacle of their competitive life. Having more significance than any record or title.
Fate however would not deny him this honor.
In March of 1976 Ron Clarke would meet with Sri Chinmoy for the first time. He composed the song below at that time.
From 2004 to 2012 he was the mayor of the Gold Coast in Australia. He once said, “I agree very much with Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of promoting friendship through running and sports,”
Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke!
O runner-world’s pinnacle-spark,
Australia’s pure treasure-light,
The world salutes your champion-height.
In distance-speed a stupendous soul.
With seventeen crowns, yours is the goal.
Run and Become, Become and Run [song #35]
The board shows us many things this morning. Teekshanam has once again returned to the race. William’s 119 laps was the 3rd most by any of the runners yesterday.
Another day starts
Can you even imagine just how stiff and sore everyone is and for how long.
Sarah has good reason to be happy. Her 120 laps yesterday is only 2nd behind Sarvagata’s 128.
The weather is going to be good all day. Humidity is not due until Wednesday.
Nidhruvi had a great day yesterday with 111 laps. She has 15 days to run 900 miles. That is 60 miles a day.
Stutisheel had a hard day but there is nothing to worry about. He did 79 laps.
Start Day 38
There are now just 15 days left and the weather has been kind.
Everyone at least a little has thoughts now that the end is drawing near.
Even Ananda-Lahari who marches for so long and sometimes falls asleep on his feet. He has completed 1710 miles.
When the sun gets bright the hat comes out.
This morning Ray will sing a song for the girls that he has just composed.
How has probably composed more poems in the past 37 days than he has in a year.
I would not dare guess how much phone time he has put in as well. I hope he has a good plan.
And yet after 37 days he has no stopped and continues on to a destination that even he still does not see. But knows and listens to its beckoning call.
The sun only briefly held in an embrace by the tree.
Sonpan did 64 laps yesterday and now has 1924 miles.
“All the runners we experience something, and we put it out somehow.” Sopan is talking about the blogs and videos that are being put out most days by some of the runners. I have used stories from his blog many times.
This is the link:
He feels that when stories or videos come directly from the runners, “it has a direct vibration. It is the most accurate.”
I ask him if he is contemplating the end of the race, “I am actually. I am counting down the days.” (laughs)
“This year I don’t care about the miles. To me it is pointless. It is not a 52 day race.”
He mentions that everyone here has their own unique way of participating. He mentions both Ananda-Lahari and Baladev as 2, who want to receive as much inner experience as they can.
“To the very end. This is the main reason they come. The inner thing. Of course for me this year as well.”
He mentions his friend Ashprihanal, “he is enjoying his year off by climbing.”
Click to Play Interview:
Teekshanam is once more back on the course.
He made 40 laps yesterday and has 1924 miles.
It is good to have him back on the course.
The sun blessing the earth
Baladev had a good day yesterday with 107 laps.
He has 2138 miles and he does get his fingers just right a second after the shutter went.
Having precious moments of fun so important when everything about what they do is just so hard.
Being friendly to everyone is important.
Something that we all need to do.
The irresistible force of life
Nidhruvi is simply remarkable.
Enough cannot be said of all her helpers. Vishvarupani has had tremendous experience now in helping and also cares so much for what happens to Nidhruvi.
Together they are a great team.
She is truly giving it her all. Those last 900 miles are not going to be easy and her 15 days in which to do it are not going to be lenient or forgiving.
Putting in laps again today with Jayasalini maybe the best thing that she could possibly do. And having fun at the same time.
As was expected William passed Nidhruvi yesterday.
This 60 year old man from Sanday is showing more and more each day just how strong and determined he is.
There are very very few who have ever shown such unrelenting discipline and focus as he has done here.
The numbers on the board certainly do not give enough credit to just how magnificent he has been to not just get back on track but to even rise up even further.
“I have made all the same excuses that the runners make,” says Williams crew Alan Young. The important of his job, “learning to sift.”
The runner will demand so many things and he realizes that as a helper he has to focus on the most important things. “All they are thinking about is themselves and what they want at the end of the lap.”
Alan had been devotedly following the progress of William’s race every morning before he came. Which is now a little more than a week ago. “I did the maths every morning.”
“He sent me a couple of voice mails, and it was like a long lost child.” He would tell Alan just how many laps he was loosing each day by trying to organize things, at least in the first week, by himself.
“It was the first time I had heard him even remotely mention just how much a crew is worth to him.”
Neither he nor William has ever attempted anything this long and difficult. It has meant that both had to adjust to radically different patterns.
“I think it would have been better if somebody had been with him the first week or two. To get this rhythm.”
He says, “we have done a lot of homework. For the last 2 months my life has been getting up early in the morning and having only 4 or 5 hours sleep. When usually crew for William at a multi day or up to 1,000 miles he does batches of 4 hour work periods. His best is at night. But he can’t do that here. But that is why I am so refreshed. I am getting 4 quality hours of sleep.”
“I find that when I get three hours during four hours spell, it adds up. I don’t have a long sleep during a 6 or 10 day any more.”
As of this morning, “we are back above the red line.” He had to get back 80 miles and reminds me, “and he is over 60.”
Click to Play Interview:
It is so easy to enjoy just how well Jayasalini is doing here.
Yesterday she had 108 laps. At the start of the day she has 2240 miles. Just 860 more miles.
Her running with Nidhruvi helps them both so much.
You have to hope and pray for the best in everyone here.
Time ticking away.
Sarah had just a spectacular day yesterday with 120 laps.
She has tremendous experience and strength.
This morning she had 2289 miles. That is 811 more miles to go.
The power of them all so clear at times and others you wonder how it is even possible.
Stutisheel had a hamstring problem yesterday. He did 79 laps.
Because he walked much of the day it seemed to make the problem worse. As if the change of pace from walking to running made him even more tired instead of his more efficient running stride.
He tells his daughter Alakanada that he is not concerned.
Vasu had 119 laps yesterday.
He has 2389 miles.
He gets some massage from time to time from Vajra
Remember that 119 laps is 65 miles.
Vasu has so much strength.
Pranjal had 117 laps yesterday.
He has 2413 miles, 83 more miles than last year this time.
From here to there.
yuri had 119 laps yesterday.
He has 2461 miles Which is a remarkable 236 more miles than last year.
The music of passing foot steps heard only by so few.
Sarvagata working so so hard each day.
So absolutely determined and focused.
Sarvadhara sharing some news with Sarvagata’s wife Sarvakamya who can only watch from far away.
Many try and be close to what is happening here. But only the 14 are on the course each day.
Prayer of the Day read by Nataliya
Click to Play:
Song of the Day
Click to Play:
Why do friendships fail?
Because of a subtle serpentine
How can friendship ever last?
By becoming only one thing:
A birthless and deathless oneness-love.
Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 55, Agni Press, 1983