Notes and Observations from the Race Course- by Arpan De Angelo
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Yesterday it was quite chilly but the cold winds died down compared to the weekend. When the sun comes out and the wind dies down it is more comfortable for the runners and they can spend more energy running without having to struggle keeping warm. Also the general lack of rain this year has been a blessing for the runners as rain can make life a bit miserable and more challenging out on the open and exposed race course.
Working in the medical tent can be an eye opener into the lives of the runners. The problems and the joys of running most of the day and night are revealed more readily when the runners are resting or being treated in the comfort and warmth of the medical tent. Some of my stories will be derived from excerpts of runners’ comments as they are resting or being treated in the medical tent.
When I have time I also try to do a few laps with some of the runners to keep them company and let them express themselves a bit about their experiences. It may get a bit lonely out there for some of the runners although most seem quite content going around on their own most of the time. But when they do have someone to talk to some of the runners offer interesting words of wisdom as they freely offer tales of their experiences here.
One person who is quite fluent in expressing himself about his race experiences here is our great friend and runner Mark Dorion. He is an American runner from El Paso, Texas who comes here every year to run or to help with the Ten Day Race. He has run and raced at all distances for over three decades and has run in many of our SCMT races over that time span as well. (Photo by Prabhakar).
As a ‘senior’ runner who has slowed down quite a bit since his speedy days of yore, Mark still embodies the enthusiasm and energy of a dedicated runner who understands and manifests the principle of self-transcendence.
Having had serious operations and procedures on his foot in the past few years Mark has to struggle with keeping pace to stay in a race as long as this one. He is doing the Ten Day race as a personal challenge to keep in shape and stay in the racing spirit even though he has had to walk most of the time this year.
While walking with me for a few laps Mark has offered some brilliant observations about the course here. One of the things that one usually does not see on the race reports is the activity of animal life in and around the course as the runners spend most of their days and nights going around the one mile loop in this large park in the middle of Queens, New York City.
Mark was telling me about the animals that he has observed ‘sharing’ the park with all of the runners. Some of them are more common than others and are expected to be seen in a park like this. Squirrels, raccoons, ducks, dogs and all kinds of birds are plentiful here this time of year. Other unexpected animals that have been spotted are skunks, porcupines, muskrats and rats. It could be quite shocking for a runner, especially at night, to encounter one of these more unusual animals. But since the animals are used to seeing people and are foraging for the leftover food from picnickers, etc., they just go about their own business usually unafraid and non-threatening if they not provoked by people.
Mark also related that he sees more animals in this park than when running on trails out West. He said, “In a trail race people are making noise as they are running and they just focus on the trail as the animals hide in the bushes trying to avoid them. Here in the park they are all out because they go for the trash and the muskrats go back and forth to the lake.”
John Geesler also offered an observation on the movement of the animals here. John is one of the Six Day runners who have won the Six Day race here a few years ago. He also was the American record holder of the 48 Hour Race until a year ago when Phil McCarthy, another runner in this year’s Six Day Race broke his American record. (Photo: Prabhakar).
John was saying that this is a flyway at this time of year and the birds heading north see this giant greenbelt and they come down to the lake. Cardinals, robins, geese, ducks and other birds come here a lot especially this time of year to share the park with these human beings who play games here as well as those who are ‘strangely’ circling around and around a one mile loop in this beautiful setting.
I would like to end with a few personal observations about Monday, April 22 here a the park, which was the end of the fifth day and beginning of the sixth day for the Ten Day runners and the end of the first day and beginning of the second day for the Six Day runners.
Sunday’s start was sunny but chilly for the Six Day runners. A whole day and night have gone by and this new group of runners have begun to tire and slow down from their faster and more energetic pace of the first few hours. Most of the Ten Day runners who have been on the course four more days than the newer runners have gotten used to the slower pace and the more frequent intervals of rest breaks and medical stopovers.
The medical tent is a great place for some runners to get out of the cold or wind or rain, although today it was not raining nor was it as windy as it had been a few days ago. It is more comfortable there than in most of the tents or dormitory facilities, so it is a place where runners get a quick break, a massage and check the status of their feet, legs, etc.
Working in the tent allows me and others who help the runners to get a really good feel for what is happening in the race. Although I have run this and other multiday races a number of times, it is more revealing to see what others are going through by working in the medical tent and spending time with each runner.
Today I spent nine hours there off and on as I would also accompany some of the runners around the course for a lap as well to see how they are doing. In that time span I, as well as other masseurs, doctors, chiropractors, etc. had seen many runners. Most of the runners so far do not have any serious problems or injuries or else they would not be allowed to stay in the race. Only one person had to drop out due to health problems. But there are always minor aches and pains and slight injuries that should be dealt with as they keep on schedule to cover as many miles as they can.
Most of the problems are muscle soreness and things such as blisters, tightness, tiredness and other temporary discomforts. Sometimes we may have to deal with a few mental problems such as lack of motivation, but in general the runners all seem to really want to enjoy the race.
As time goes on in both races now the frequency of runners stopping into medical is increasing. Yet all the runners seem in good spirits and are excited about getting back out on the course and moving forward towards their goals.
I will offer more accounts and observations from ‘medical’ as the race proceeds.