Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Race
“Transcendence is perfection.
Perfection is transcendence.
When we transcend our capacities,
Immediately we get an inner joy,
An inner thrill,
Which is another name for perfection.
No perfection can ever be achieved
– Sri Chinmoy
Previous women’s World Record for 48 hours: 411.458 km ...
New women’s World Record for 48 hours: 435.336 km ...
The stage was set, the curtain raised, cast assembled. Legendary Australian and World marathon champion, former World Record holder and founder of the Indigenous Marathon Project, Robert de Castella AO MBE acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land, then offered some prescient words for the runners now nervously gathered at the start:
“It’s only through the difficult challenges in life that we really find out who we are. This is an opportunity for us not just to develop our physical strength and our wellness, but also our spirit.”
With this perfect summation of what was about to unfold, Australia’s greatest marathoner gave the starting orders – and thence gradually, inexorably, before our eyes over the ensuing 48 hours, a new history unfurled.
On the eve of the race, Camille Herron had remarked: “I feel like there is magic inside me every time I toe the line. I know that there is the possibility that I am going to do something magical and I have to keep going and persevering and working through all the challenges… I hope to see it through to a new record and to find out more about what’s possible for women, and what my human limits could be.”
Thus it was spoken: now it would be revealed and manifested.
Little did we know when preparing to stage, participate in, or spectate at yet another race, that we would be joining an event of historical significance for our sport, our own lives and the progress of our world family: an event which changes everything, and potentially, everyone.
Camille Herron came to this race an established superstar. She departs, a supreme champion. Even if she were never to run another race, Camille’s name is now etched on the honour board of running immortals, synonymous with soaring vision, stellar daring, dauntless conviction, exuberant excellence, superlative athletic prowess, wholehearted sacrifice, consummate self-giving and dazzling glory. Canberra’s AIS Athletics Track has hosted numerous Olympians and high-level competitions, yet it will forever resonate and be remembered for this one resounding achievement. The guiding purpose of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is the promotion and facilitation of self-transcendence as a means to personal wellbeing and the progress of humanity: thus this race itself, this Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Track Festival, has achieved through this diamond offering, its pinnacle fulfilment.
On track, Camille was an ocean liner, bravely and blithely coursing through the ocean waters of the known, the unknown and unknowable, casting aside all fear, insecurity, doubt and pain in her wake and spreading a wave-surge of sparkling joy and coruscating confidence all around the track for others to surf upon. As the stadium flood lights lit up the track; so the flood of Camille’s inner light and aspiration, lit up the race.
As barriers receded, new landmarks were planted:
Marathon – 3:30:18
6 hours – 72.243 km
100 km – 8:49:41
12 hours – 131.807 km
100 miles – 14:41:04
200 km – 20:01:18
24 hours – 239.480 km
So far, all marks were ahead of World Record pace. But Camille would soon be running beyond what she had ever run in a race before. How would she cope physically and mentally with that challenge, flying so high, untethered from the mundane, soaring dauntless beyond the comfort-clouds of the known?
From the outside, we see only the relentless gait, the incessant forward momentum, the surges along the back straight, the searing focus, the never-fading smile: we don’t see the sheer crushing enormity of the inner Himalayan quest, the sky-vast faith and ocean-depth of daring, the adamantine courage and laser determination amidst battering storms of obstacles. We know there was physical suffering and mental torment: around about the 18 hour point when the world was closing in on her, Camille reached an agreement with husband and coach, Conor Holt, that she would continue to 24 hours, gain a qualifying time for the US National team to compete in the World Championships later in the year, and exit the race. This had been her first goal and motivation for coming to Australia, so that box would be ticked. But as 24 hours neared, those inner clouds passed, the landscape shifted within, Camille hearkened again to the stirring of her inner magic – and the plan evolved. She would stay and run, and run – sleep when required, then run again, and run – and run some more, then run some … then, run.
Knowing that she had to face the same hurdles and demons as every other runner; that she is 100% human in every sinew and heartbeat after all; that she too, struggled to rouse herself from every mini-break – is not only comforting to us mortals who can barely get out of bed in the morning, it further heightens the value and magnifies the worth of Camille’s achievement. We expect perfection from the perfect: when we witness the miraculous from the human, our own human sympathy is touched, our wonder engaged, our inspiration ignited, our capacities aroused and our aspiration surcharged. We are transformed.
At the awards presentations post-race, Camille put into words the phenomenon we had all felt, witnessed and been swept up into for 48 hours straight: “I just have such a relentless joy when I run…” Such a simple statement, embodying a universe of spiritual truth, depth, power and infinite possibility for all humanity… a veritable mantra for life.
Camille continued: “I really thank everybody who got to be here and be part of it; making history for women. … It was an amazing moment; I hope everybody appreciates what I just did: it was ridiculous!”
To put in context just how “ridiculous” is this achievement: Camille ran the 3rd furthest of any human in 48 hours, after only Yiannis Kouros of Greece, and Andrii Tkachuk of Ukraine. Yes – though this is incidental – they are both men. Camille’s distance is only 110 metres short of the mark set by Tkachuk at the Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour race in Vinnitsa, Ukraine in 2021. Tkachuk would later be called up to serve in the Ukraine military, and hospitalised after sustaining injuries in the war. His running career is presently on hold – he would not be able to defend his record if it were broken right now, as he defends his country and his people’s very existence.
The previous 3rd furthest human over 48 hours was none other than Dr Martin Fryer, the timer and race referee for this event, whose incredible 433.686 km set in Surgères, France in 2009 was the final barrier Camille would surpass today. Fittingly, Martin – now one of the world’s most qualified and respected coaches of ultra runners – was on hand throughout the race, offering practical advice, wisdom and boundless inspiration to assist Camille to transcend his own phenomenal PB and was trackside to personally witness and graciously surrender his record to Camille.
Camille is now a daunting 24 km ahead of the previous women’s record of 411.458 km, set just 6 weeks earlier by Jo Zakrwzeski of the UK in Taipei, Taiwan; and far clear of both the US Women’s and Men’s 48 hour records.
In the context of this Festival – and this in no way diminishes the fabulous efforts of all the event winners – Camille's split times would have won her every race on the program: Marathon, 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour and 48 hour.
A sample of media coverage of this World Record:
– Runners are Smilers blog
– I Run Far post-race interview
– Run 247
– The Norman Transcript, Oklahoma
– 20 minutos deportes (Spanish)
Rare indeed, is the race where a gap of 140+ km separates 1st place from 2nd – just one of innumerable extraordinary outcomes of an event that seemingly took place on a rarefied, super-human plane … another example: despite being only a quarter of its length and with a smaller field, more runners would withdraw from the 12 hour race than from the 48 hour event.
Gesiane Nascimento from Brazil, is a relative newcomer to running, with 2 previous 48 hour races, and using this event as preparation for the Sri Chinmoy 10 Day Race in Flushing Meadows, New York next month. Striking in colourful costumes and running sandals, Gesiane explored and transcended many inner and outer limits in her journey. Impressing all through her devotion and eagerness, Gesiane collected 259.849 km for a Personal Best and 2nd place female.
The next 4 ranked women all represent the Golden Age of Ultra Running – the 50-59 bracket. Paola Flury ran a beautifully controlled race to take out the main prize in the F50-59 with 243.784 km; from Beck Myors’ 226.16 km; evergreen Karen Woon Cheung Chan with 219.019 km; and Australian 1,000 km record-holder, Annabel Hepworth offering her wealth of experience to the race, while depositing a round 200 km into her vast treasury of lifetime miles raced. Alison To, in the Female Under 50, consistently wore the brightest smiles while gathering 173.135 km.
Rare it is, to find the top 3 places of an open men’s running race claimed by two 50+ year-old walkers and a 70+ year-old runner!
Carrying on the trend set in the 6 hour and 12 hour races, local Canberra lad, Joffrid Mackett returned the race of his life – winning the men’s 48 hour race, claiming the title of AURA National Men’s 48 Hour Champion, all from the supposedly “older” Male 50-59 category … and did I mention, Joffrid WALKED the whole way? Loaded with trophies, Joffrid also walked into fame, claiming the all-comers 48 hour Australian National walking record with his 294.973 km (previous record was 283.5 km), and entered the exclusive “Centurion” club by walking 100 miles during the first 24 hours of the race.
Having set new Australian men’s 70+ records last year from 6 hours up to 24 hours, Greg Wilson from Kyneton in Victoria came to Canberra with a clear purpose – and no prizes for guessing what his goals were! Cliff Young will forever remain an icon of Australian ultra distance running, and a few of his records have stood for 30 years – including his M70 48 hour mark. Greg showed incredible focus and discipline – even eschewing the chance of claiming some intervening records along the way, as that would have entailed running out of the zone he had set for himself – aiming unerringly for the 200 km record, which he broke by 6 hours, then continuing all the way to a stellar new 48 hour record of 287.404 km, which also earned Greg the 2nd placed AURA National (Open) Men’s Championship trophy. In addition to his own records, over a span of decades Greg has participated in World Record breaking race performances by the greatest male and female ultra runners – Yiannis Kouros and Camille Herron.
Greg was in esteemed company indeed in the 70+ category. Ron Schwebel has been twice Australian 48 Hour Champion and twice 24 Hour Champion, and held 17 National records, which he has since kindly passed on to others. Ron’s presence on the track and vast experience are a boon to all and we’re most grateful he continues to compete. The figures tell only a glimpse of his value to the event, his 207.6 km a priceless contribution to the collective story. John Timms at 80+ years, is the oldest Australian 6 day runner still running – and on occasion when his inner sprinter comes to the fore, flying – bringing a unique energy and application, and completing a mightily impressive 167.2 km over the full 48 hours.
Also walking 100 miles in 24 hours, David Billett from Adelaide, showed amazing equanimity and persistence throughout, despite coming up just short of his personal best – yet nevertheless claimed 3rd place trophy in the AURA National Men’s Championship, and the admiration of all, with 266.705 km.
Completing the talent-packed Male 50-59 category, Robert Flury (206.476 km), Zed Zlotnick (205.607 km) and debut 48-hour runner, Paul Gay (186.285 km) all saw out the full 48 hours on track, while Andrew Meagher made it to within touching distance, taking a bow after 173.2 km and nearly 46 hours. The sole entrant in the Male 60-69 category, and one of the most gracious gentlemen among a packed field of contenders, Anyce Melham – who holds the world record for most Sri Chinmoy 24 hour races completed (33, plus three 48 hour races) – found his body simply not cooperating this year, saw the writing on the wall and returned his timing chip after 14 hours and 92 km.
Racing at full intensity at an élite level, exerting one’s all towards and beyond one’s limits, real and imagined, is to tread a super fine line between control and abandon. Defending race Champion, Canberra’s Matt Griggs started as favourite in the men’s field, and all appeared to be going well with his race: during one of Camille’s breaks, he actually came to within one lap of catching her, the closest anyone would ever be. At 24 hours, Matt had clocked 221 km, but 3 hours later, Matt drew the curtain on his race with 238.4 km – enough to take out the award for 1st Male Under 50, despite being off the track for 21 hours. Peter Murphy, who claims he has not set foot on a track since year 7, showed amazing grit and stamina to stare down the full 48 hours and claim 2nd MU50 with 212 km. James Quaife was next with a more than creditable distance of 188 km from nearly 25 hours on the track; while Steve Bingley found all he needed from the experience during his 70 km in 14 hours.
Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour Race
24 hours is the fundamental measure of time and span of our existence: one rotation of the earth upon its axis, affording every conceivable point of view upon the heavens. Indeed, the euphoria, crises, challenges and triumphs experienced in a 24 hour race, take the athlete on a comparable inner journey through every conceivable attitude to the Problem of Life and our place upon this troublesome little sphere spinning suspended in space.
With the AURA National 24 Hour Championships scheduled for just a few weeks after these 48 Hour Championships, understandably the field assembled here for 24 hours was smaller than usual – but 24 hours is 24 hours, a journey at once commanding absolute respect and calling forth extraordinary sacrifice and heroism.
Each runner-seeker-warrior who toed the line, brought something unique to the field – the field of contestants, field of vision and field of battle. And none disappointed.
When trophies were assembled and distributed, 6 of the top 10 placings were claimed by women. Remarkably, the entire Female Under 50 category – 6 brave women in all – bettered the magical 100 mile, or “Miler” standard. Leading the race outright for much of the race, the remarkable Maree Connor finished 1st woman with 212.6 km, ahead of Amanda Pavey’s 194.1 km and one of a new generation of Indian ultra runners, Priyanka Bhatt, who flew from India for this race, completing the podium placings with 185.5 km. Rachel Sykes took 1st prize in the Female 50-59, with 143.8 km completed.
Every ultra runner experiences troughs of energy and inspiration, moments of darkness or even despair when all appears lost and hopeless. Usually these occur later in a race; yet for Grant Brisbin from Woy Woy, his biggest “hole” came around the 7 hour mark, relatively early in the journey. Somehow with the encouragement of other runners and supporters, Grant managed not only to hang in there – he recovered to such an extent, he covered an amazing 225.1 km and won the race! 2nd place was taken by another Indian runner, the smiling, gliding Ullas Narayana, with 220.6 km, ahead of Troy Ruivenkamp, who ran strongly throughout for 173.4 km. Reid Meldrum also reached his goal of 100 miles with a finishing distance of 161.3 km.
Sri Chinmoy 12 Hour Race
The 12 hour race is one of the hardest to master: long enough to hurt badly, to need a careful nutrition and pacing plan; not long enough to incorporate sleep breaks as a legitimate racing strategy.
Today, Kevin Muller – one of Australia’s most reliably excellent ultra runners – presented a master class in how to tackle the 12 hour, treating the half-day timeframe with the respect it demands, while executing a bold race plan with confidence and resolve. In winning the race outright, Kevin established a sensational new M50 Australian record of 138.015 km.
Meanwhile, Sharon Pieterse won the women’s race also from the F50 category, in a sterling 92.518 km, ahead of Female Under 50’s winner Niboddhri Christie’s 90.518 km, and 2nd place F 50-59, Leah Weeden in 87.718 km; while Lib Smith claimed the F60-69 with 73.812 km.
Daragh O’Loughlin was fastest among the Male Under 50 with an impressive 124.618 km, from Stuart Wallace’s 110.072 km.
Sri Chinmoy 6 Hour Race
In the context of an all-weekend Festival featuring epic challenges of the magnitude of 48 hours, a mere 6 hour event may seem almost trifling. Yet it is a maxim of running, that a race of any distance can offer a supreme challenge, setting a stage to bring forth surprising qualities and capacities from within. Every distance invites us to give our all – and in that crucible, is forged life’s defining dramas.
And so it proved, that the Sri Chinmoy 6 Hour race produced one of the standout performances of the Festival. After a dazzling start from Dom Bullock, who almost lapped half the field after one time round the track, and sprang his way to 27 km before withdrawing from the fray; Baden Reynolds led the field and controlled the race to establish a new Australian M50 record of 79.461 km for 6 Hours – 3 km further than the previous benchmark. Baden absolutely poured himself into his race, inspiring all who followed in his footsteps and all who were privileged to watch him, from on and off the track.
An excellent duel ensued behind Baden for the Male Under 50 title, between Tom Allen, who eventually drew away with 71.865 km, and Ashley Colquhoun who presented with 71.236 km. John Nuttall showed his class to win the M70+ with 54.374 km, while David Von Senden completed 29.443 km to take out the M60-69 title.
As with the men, the women’s race was also won outright from the F50 category, with Canberra’s Kelly Bennett 1st overall with 54.185 km, though just ahead of 1st placed F60-69, Nikki Whelan’s 54.146 km. Sue Archer won her accustomed first placing in the F70+ category with 43.519 km completed.
Fastest among the Female Under 50s was Bei Hu with 50.541 km, ahead of a super tight finish, with just 53 metres between Gemma Worland (47.088 km) and Stacey Marsh (47.035 km).
Just as they had appeared in the afternoon with a surging of energy and enthusiasm, so, with a brief awards presentation and another shower of bonhomie and goodwill, the 6 hour runners merged into the night, the inside lanes reclaiming their aura of concentrated tranquil purpose and focus…
Sri Chinmoy Midnight Marathon
From the grandstand overlooking the athletics track, the Midnight Marathon was the only race of the Festival you could actually hear – with that associated thrill of the sound of shoes striking the track surface in rapid cadence. Commencing on the stroke of midnight, there is something madcap about launching headlong into the heart of the night.
Emmanuel Vergara was 1st home in 2:58:07, ahead of Luke Thompson’s 3:03:06. Next home was M50-59 winner, Andrew Leigh with 3:10:36. Women’s winner Lindsay Hamilton ran 3:36:57, with Amanda Jones (3:55:53) and Marnie Shaw (4:07:05) taking the podium placings. Debra Campbell won the F50-59 category with 4:52:18; and the amazing Ray James, the Male 70 and Over with 6:01:35.