This April 2018, I ran my second 6-day race. Somehow the impossible became possible: I ended up winning the Sri Chinmoy 6-Day Race ladies' with 370 miles, and was second overall.
There are many multiday races these days – some across deserts, mountain tops – most of them from one point to another. This 6-day race is different: it takes place in New York City, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, on a 1-mile loop. This year, because the park was undergoing reconstructions, it was a 1.3 km loop.
There is a 10-day race taking place at the same time, on the same loop. It starts 4 days before the 6-day and all runners finish together – a few minutes apart, but with quite different numbers on the big scoreboard. Just for reference, the winner of this year's 10-day race was Asprihanal Aalto from Finland, who recorded an astonishing 826.4 miles.
How does it work?
You have 24 hours a day. They are yours; you can run, you can walk, you can sleep, but you are there to cover as much distance as you can. One needs to be wise though, you can go all out on the first day but the chances are that you will get injured... and you know you have 5 more days to go.
There is no chip timing. Counters count your each and every lap. There are different shifts throughout each of the 24 hours. There is a special electronic system that backs it all up.
All you need is there: food, medical, toilets, showers, your table and tent or a dorm if you prefer – all inside the race village, as they call it. All is protected, so you can feel safe and focus on what you are there to do: run.
Going round and round – isn't it boring?
I tell you, it's the cleverest thing ever. You are constantly surrounded by people. When you are down, they lift you up; and the other way round. You get to chat to people that you would never ever chat to under normal circumstances – you make friendships that might transform your life. You laugh together, share stories, exchange valuable pieces of advice, you inspire one another.
Imagine a perfect world – where people help each other, support each other, are kind to each other; where people treat each other the same regardless of education, country of origin, appearance, age... To me this is what the race is about.
In my life's daily routine, I never experience so much body pain, yet I have to also say I rarely experience so much fun, kindness, camaraderie, the feeling of one big oneness world-family. I always wish it can spread to the whole world and transform it for good. I guess that is also why I run these races: because I believe that goodness spreads.
How does one train for a 6-day race?
I am sure you will get different answers from different people, but for me, I don't call it training – for me it's a way of life. My home is 11km away from my work, so my commute is my training. Either I run the whole way, or I get a Santander bike somewhere on the route, or I cycle the whole way and the same in the evening. I am on my feet most of the day at work too.
Of course there are days when I get the bus home or take the tube, but being outside makes me so happy! That's what I love about running and having an active lifestyle – you get to see beauty, seasons changing, the sky, the birds, you feel the wind, you cuddle a doggie on the way. You live.
I have events throughout the year that keep me focused. I have annual events like London to Brighton (non-official, we do it with friends), a 47-mile race in summer, usually 1 or 2 marathons a year. I try to do long runs – over marathon distance – especially leading up to bigger races.
We do events at Run and Become too. I do most of them and have learned a lot from them. I do pilates, yoga, swimming. I had periods where I used to go to the gym a lot and did weights.
I try to go with the flow and do what gives me joy. Because it is about JOY! Do not underestimate the power of joy :-) I mean, suffering and pain is part of it, but overlooking it all should be your fulfilled, joyful you.
How do you deal with pain?
How do you keep yourself motivated?
How do you cope mentally?
I do meditation.
It has been part of my life since 2010. It has transformed my life and I cannot imagine my life without it. It is something very natural, something that we all can do if we try to stop the constant flow of thoughts flooding our minds. It takes practise, patience, perseverance but it is 100% worth it.
Deep within us is an ocean of peace and if we dare to dive in, we realise how unlimited we truly are. There is power, determination, tranquillity, love – which we all need in our life.
I find that I use concentration techniques during my running, and then what I learn during running, I use in my daily life. The ability to concentrate and still one's mind is crucial when meditating. It is also crucial when running, and the same applies for our life.
I love journey, I love seeing life as a journey. I love running because it's a symbol of this journey of life. I love movement because life is about constant change and movement, whether we like it or not.
I find that running has made me stronger, not just physically but on many different levels. It is always when we go outside our comfort zones, outside what we think is possible, when we transcend ourselves in any field of life (not just running), that's the time where we need to dig deep, and when we do, we get glimpses of who we truly are and who we really want to be – for a happy self and a happy world.
There are so many other things that I could write about, but it would make this article too long :-)! I will write another article about clothing, shoes and accessories – using the right equipment can definitely help one stay away from injuries and make one feel more comfortable.
If you would like to know more about meditation, there are books like 222 Meditation Techniques or Sport and Meditation by Sri Chinmoy, that I found very helpful.
Thank you for reading and good luck with your running :-).