Today, Wednesday, April 24, was a sunny and warmer day than yesterday, at least until evening set in. Then a cold wind came in over the lake at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the runners found themselves adding on more layers of clothing to stay warm. Meanwhile, in the medical tent which is usually the warmest place on the course, the medical and massage tables were full by the time I arrived around 6:00 pm.
Most of the maladies are lower leg problems like blisters or inflammation of the ankles or shins or Achilles. Depending on the person's past racing experiences and recent training these injuries could cause just minor discomfort. But they can also cause debilitating pain which would consequently result in them taking a long rest off of their feet. In most cases the slight injuries or inflammations just result in the person having to walk for some time until it diminishes enough to run again.
Dharbhasana Lynn, from New Zealand, is one of the runners who is no stranger to multidays or the maladies which one may incur during them. He was resting on a chiropractic table when I entered the very busy medical facility here at the race. He had not been looked after yet so I started to treat him mainly for an inflamed shin and ankle.
Treating inflammation of this kind one has to be careful. Massaging upwards to help drain the fluids out of the area and get blood circulation there is one form of treatment. I usually do it gently and try to increase the pressure as the inflammation starts to recede.
Another treatment I like to use for inflammation is to apply ice to it for about 20 minutes and elevate the area. There are other theories to this method as I know that Chinese medicine in general advocate using heat and not cold applications. I am sure that both of these systems can be effective depending on the situation and the person but in this case I like to use ice. As we discussed the pros and cons of both these contrasting methods of treatment, Dharbhasana jokingly commented that he preferred the Chinese method of heat even though there were presently no Chinese runners in the race.
Dharbasana is a very strong runner and determined athlete. He completed the 3100 mile race in 2010. But this year he has had a number of accidents which kept him from training properly for this race. Rock climbing and skating injuries have kept him from putting in enough miles to make this race competitive for him. Yet he started the race with a positive, hopeful and cheerful attitude and ran quite strongly for the first two days.
In this kind of race if one does not train `properly' to run most of the way then the runners usually find themselves walking and recovering most of the time after the initial running strength has been depleted. Because these two races are based on time and not distance many of the runners enjoy the experience even if they have to spend most of their time walking or jogging slowly. There is no pressure to reach a certain distance although most runners do like to set a general distance goal for themselves in the beginning to keep themselves motivated.
Dharbasana, as with other runners here in both races, says he is not interested in pushing or competing with others but in just staying in the race and enjoying the effort. He also said that he would not feel happy if he `pulled out' or quit. In his case he is fortunate to have his ten year old daughter, Shakti, as his helper for the whole race. He said it has been a most amazing experience for him and that "Her care, concern, love, devotion, kindness and everything extends beyond just passing me a cup or something
there is real love there and she has really stepped into being responsible."
Like this, some of the more fortunate runners have handlers, or friends or relatives to take care of most of their needs during the race. A runner can save much time and energy by having someone to take care of their needs as they come through the camp area or prepare to take a rest or sleep.
Salil, Executive Director of the World Harmony Run and Peace Run and a good friend who loves to run, has no handler and has not had much experience beyond the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. He is running the Six Day race for the first time and describes the experience as `basically a downhill race'. He lightheartedly said, "You start and you go downhill `til the end
but you know, it's great."
Salil says that he is `fundamentally happy' to be out there running and walking. But he is not always delighted after every mile. He describes that the hardest part of the race is getting up after a break, "Everything has tightened up when you get up from a break and you just have to be patient. After a mile it all comes back."
John Geesler, a much more experienced ultra marathoner and one of the previous winners of the Six Day race for men, stopped into medical to treat some blisters which have been hampering his running today. Yesterday he had a sore knee which seems to be doing better with a bandage or brace we gave him to support it.
Even the most qualified and experience runners cannot make these multiday races seem easy. Because of the intense challenges they present to all of the runners at any level these races become a testing ground for a person's need to endure and persevere through adversity while trying to remain strong and cheerful.
Rashmivan, from Bristol, England, is an experienced long distance runner who has never done a multiday race before. His first three days of the Six Day race went very well and better than expected, according to him. But today he came into the medical tent to take care of a host of problems which just seemed to come all at once. His back tightened up a bit, he developed some blisters, and now has a little inflammation in his ankle. He said the weather change from warm to cold and windy made it difficult to stay warm and get the proper clothes on. But he said that he decided to deal with one problem at a time and things were fine then.
Like a microcosm of real life experiences, the runners have the `ups and downs' of striving towards a lofty goal. With help from friends and their own faith and determination they try hard to be cheerful and overcome all the challenges and hardships that befall them. Most of the more experienced runners know what to expect when they enter into a race like this. But for the less experienced runners these types of experiences can be quite shocking at times while at the same time offering them opportunities to bring to the fore their strong qualities in order to reach the goal of making it to the last day.
The finish is now only two days away as I am writing this account. I am sure that many of the runners, while suffering some of the inevitable aches and pains of many days on the course, are also beginning to feel the joys of their achievements so far as they strive towards a goal which now seems much closer.