Few people look forward to an ultra race. Even fewer positively relish the chance to have ten days of nothing but! Meet one in a million - the indefatigable Niribili File.
Wards Island, New York, 29 April- 9 May 1999, Aucklander Niribili File completes her first 10-day Race.
Yippee! 10 whole days with nothing to do but run- and meditate. The mundane matters of life would be handled by my helper, Eta Field of Christchurch, and she was a tireless worker for the cause.
That was my feeling as I lined up with 7 others at the start of the 10-day race. I confess to a slight nervousness also, conscious of my inexperience. It was my first 10 day, and I was a latecomer to running (started at age 49).
We set off at noon in perfect, mild, spring weather around the 1-mile loop road, winding through the attractive tree-dotted park alongside the river separating Manhattan from Wards Island. The view of the Manhattan skyline, particularly at night, was spectacular- a blaze of light, a view one never tired of. Overhead at one end of the road was a huge motorway bridge which we passed underneath each time around.
On the third day, it seemed that half of New York had descended on our park for picnics, and it was a case of dodging people, noisy motorbikes, and the buggies, roaring up and down until the police got them. Day 5 saw our 14 comrades in the 6-day race joining in, and light rain falling. In the two races combined, 14 different countries were represented.
Overall, the weather was excellent- mild and calm. This, combined with a happy and encouraging atmosphere generated by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team organisers, volunteers and supporters, made for most enjoyable running conditions.
The style of the race is"go as you please", which means no timetable. My schedule was simple: sleep from 11pm to 2am, emerge from my tent at 2:30am and (hopefully) keep going, with a snooze after lunch. Two or three counters were on duty in shifts around the clock and food was available at all hours.
The little cluster of custom-made buildings comprising the"camp" are specially erected each year just for the race, taking a week of voluntary work to put up. Dormitories are provided but most runners and helpers prefer to bring their own tents.
But all was not fine and dandy, and I developed shin splints on Day 2. It took massages (ouch), lots of walking and double doses of painkillers over two days for the condition to ease enough to allow running. There was also the unusual remedy of cabbage leaves with ice packs wrapped around the leg.
After three or four days of (yahoo) running again, blow me down- that old shin splint returned with a vengeance. After yet another trip to medical- at least I gave them something to do- I resigned myself to the inevitable and walked the last three days.
In order to achieve a 50 mile per day average, I cut down on rest and on the last night I walked through until closeoff at noon next day. There was a bad patch or two that night, but the reward was a lovely pink sunrise next morning.
Sometimes a mile would take half an hour, but at least I was putting one foot in front of the other. I can't remember a lot of smiles at that stage of things.
Shortly before"time'sup" on Day 10, my goal of 500 miles was realised and I passed by the counters in a fatigued and slightly disoriented state, whereupon someone from the medical tent carted me off for repair work to my ever increasing crop of blisters.
The race gave me the opportunity to test and transcend my inner strength and my physical endurance level. Afterwards the pain was quickly forgotten, but the satisfaction of completing the race remained. I was still in one piece, albeit minus three toenails and 5kg of weight.
I think I have caught the multiday bug.