guest post by Soren Goard
On Monday, four of us Trotskyist milers ran the Sri Chinmoy 3 x 1 mile self-transcendence relay in Battersea park. Run and Become, the party responsible for the race, seems to see itself as the Pret a Manger of the sports shop world. It likes to sell running shoes and gear by hinging it onto higher principles and ethics. However those ethics are less about the economic origins of the garments and more about a semi-religious vision that everyone can and should run. All the time. In specially fitted and astoundingly expensive running shoes. I went to the place once, because my partner needed a sports bra. The high walls are covered in 10ft pictures of Sri Chinmoy and his mantras, which of course fits the semi-religious metaphor nicely.
This is, of course, slightly unfair. Its probably good to have a place which takes running seriously – injuries are more likely in unsuitable shoes. And whilst I turned up at Battersea Park on Tuesday half-expecting something involving Kool-Aid or large wicker structures, it was completely normal. Pedestrian even.
Having slightly messed up organising the teams, we ended up with 4 of us for a race which required groups of 3. Sam, my arch nemesis who infuriatingly fooled me in the Trotskyist miler earlier this year, decided to defect to a ‘real’ running club. Me, Dave and Robin were left to fend for ourselves. It was a 3x1mile relay and our times were actually pretty good. I got my personal best, 5.17, a whole 30 seconds faster than the Inter-Sect Trot-Off I mentioned above. In all honesty I was still anxious that there was not, in fact, some kind of cruel punishment for those who failed to meet an adequate time/level of transcendence, which definitely motivated me to run faster. Robin, having only just escaped from a gruelling Welsh labour camp, and its accompanying diet that consisted solely of lamb and thick sliced bacon, got 7.03, which he was happy with. David got 6.18, so we had an overall time of 18:39 and placed 28th. Some of the teams that came in the top ten were achieving three four-minute miles, which is a bit of a mindfuck. What was really galling though, was being beaten summarily by David Harvey’s doppelganger. Zizek would have been at least bearable.
Sam ran 2 seconds faster than me. 2 seconds. It was a good time and I think he was proud of it. I will have my revenge nevertheless.
Did we transcend our individual selves and achieve a greater one-ness with athletic enlightenment? From what I can tell this was Sri Chinmoy’s shtick. One of the many gurus who got big out of the 1960s, Chinmoy developed a kind of competitive meditation, where you achieved clarity of mind through a transcendence of your physical limits. Chinmoy would demonstrate this through superhuman tests of endurance and, later in his life, superhuman shows of strength.
There’s probably some truth in that idea. We’ve all had that point where physical exertion stops being ridiculously painful and perversely sweaty all of a sudden and you actually start to lose yourself, but most of the time you’re torn quickly out of that celestial plane by a low hanging branch or when you slip on a Durex wrapper (who has sex in a layby on Brixton Hill? Why?). Personally, I find running is good because you can forget how much bullshit is going on by making your body doing ridiculously unnecessary exertion. And I’m happy with that; there’s a lot of bullshit going on. But I didn’t get that in Battersea Park – it was over so quickly.
The Trotskyist milers will be running next on Sunday 31 August at Victoria Park in Hackney as a fund-raiser for Rosa Malloy-Post. more details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/224184284401202/.