Self Transcendence Marathon 2005
Rockland State Park, New York
Like last year, the marathon seemed to rush up on me unawares; I was so busy with all the activities of my visit to New York that I didn't have time to think about it at all. I wasn't really worried about it; I was able to do some long runs over the summer in preparation so I knew I would at least finish. However, I had not been able to fit in any tempo or interval running due to the hectic schedule of my PhD which meant for the marathon I wasn't going any faster than training pace.
After about three hours sleep, I got up, meditated and headed down to the buses waiting to take us the 90 minute drive to Rockland State Park in New Jersey. The buses pulled away at 4:30; the marathon was scheduled to start at seven so the runners might escape the heat of the day. We arrived as the sun rose over a beautiful lakeside scene; the calm before the storm. After a bit of preparation, some light stretching and massage and a bit of olive oil on the feet to avoid the blisters, I lined up with everyone else for a short meditation before the race started. Everyone would have their own unique story to tell at the end of the race.
At the very beginning, I found it quite hard to judge my pace. I thought I was fine, as I was surrounded by people who I thought might be running the same pace as me. It was a bit of a shock when after two miles the runner beside me confirmed we were running at seven minute pace. I realised I was being pulled out of my own natural rhythm by those around me, and I was glad when I emerged from a quick toilet break with no-one in sight; I could now concentrate on running at a pace that suited me.
I got a little worried when my legs started showing the first sign of tiredness at 10 miles. I just had to assert myself and tell my body that I had trained for the distance, that the fatigue wasn't as bad as the body made it out to be, and there was no way I was not going to finish. In any case, I said, let's just get to the half-marathon mark and see how we get on. I was making great use of the Chi Running method to transfer the strain from my legs to my abdominal muscles and keep some semblance of posture. I reached the half-marathon stage to great relief, tacked on another few miles and suddenly the end was in sight, albeit distantly...
I think the highlight of the race for me was the inner aspect: instead of complaining and counting the miles to the finish as I have done in previous years, I stayed cheerful throughout, just grateful for the fact that this time injury hadn't kept me back from getting out there and soaking it all in. I passed by Sri Chinmoy three or four times; he was out around the track, silently encouraging all the runners. It felt less like a race and more like the long training runs I did in Dublin, where I could roam the city exploring all the nooks and crannies.
That's not to say the last five or six miles weren't hard. I broke a pre-race vow not to take any energy or electrolyte drinks (I was suspicious that they might have given me the major stitch that plagued me last year) and tried to ignore the impending malfunction signals my mind was sending me. In the last three-mile lap however, as the realisation dawned that I was going to finish very soon, I found a burst of energy from somewhere and those three miles were possibly among my fastest.
I crossed the finish like in a time of 3:21 and headed immediately for some stretching and massage; I was anxious to learn the lessons of last year where I couldn't walk for the next four days. All in all I was very happy with the race, and it gave me a great incentive to put together a proper training programme to do better next year.