I have been counting at the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race since 1999. Usually, I just come for the first 10 or 11 hours, then drive home and do a cycle race on Sunday. It’s a good shift, but I always feel a little bit like a part-timer compared to those who stay from start to finish.
This year, an injury meant I had no cycle race and was free to attend the whole 24 hours.
The first 11 hours went quite quickly and I enjoyed the experience. The main job of a counter is to concentrate on being ready to mark down the times of the runners – as they come around the 400m circuit, every 2-4 minutes. It might sound easy, but as the hours go by, it becomes a challenge to keep focused and always on the look out for the next time the runner comes round the track.
Often, you need to keep eyes open, whilst at the same time writing down the numbers and working out the splits. Amongst the counters, there is a bit of chat and good humour, which is helpful to keep spirits up. But it is a constant challenge to keep the balance and remain always on the look out for your runners.
By acknowledging the runners every time they come past, you become part of their race. A good counter can hopefully encourage the runner. It also works the other way – as a counter, you can pick up on the energy and determination of the runners. I often have difficult sleeping after a days counting shift – which is strange as you would expect to be tired after 12 hours of sitting down counting runners, but the race creates a lot of energy.
The hardest part was coming back, after a fitful sleep, at 6am the next morning, but it was good to be able to see the finish of the race. I was lucky to have the lead runner James Stewart from Scotland, who kept up an excellent tempo for the whole race to set a new course record of over 160 miles. Counting him in the last hour, I could feel his joy as he achieved real self-transcendence; he had that aura of an athlete who was on a good day.
It was interesting to be on the other side of the counting shed so to speak. Usually, I am the one being timed racing up hills. Today I was the one counting. I enjoyed the experience and look forward to next year and trying to do a good job for the runners.
Amateur video of race
This is a video of the race made up of a few short videos and photos whilst counting. It is the first video I’ve made, so I’m just using it to learn about the art of making videos. But, you can get a small idea about the race from the counters perspective.
Watch out for 1.58 where I point down the camera and a large slab of chocolate momentarily pops into the viewfinder. You might think that was just more amateur videography, but actually it was very carefully planned and expertly executed. Just after the chocolate appearance is the best bit with James Stewart’s finish.
Mahasatya ran 103 miles this year.
During the race, Ann Bath also set a new women’s world record in her age group (0/65) for 24 hours. (115.9 miles)