“O my, that wind that first day battered us.” For those who spend every waking hour trying to run as far as you can, a discussion of the weather is not just a casual conversation. Bad conditions are not just a matter of adding a layer of clothing. For multi day runners the weather is crucial and may, and often does impact dramatically on their performances.
A bad weather day can set off a series of tumbling dominoes that affect your performance and eventual outcome. The significance of both hot and cold, and wind and rain is extraordinary. The Ultimate consequences of which may be, of not just missing a few additional miles, but also causing (almost) intolerable hardship and suffering.
Dipali jokes about her windy and cold first day of the 6 day race. “Nobody knew who anybody was, because they were all covered up.” At which point she pulls her face scarf up over her nose, leaving very few recognizable bits of face remaining. That seems like a long time ago, and by the board at least, a little more than 300 miles back down the track.
In this her 18th year at the race Dipali has seen just about everything that nature has had to offer. As we are running on the far side of the course we pass Shirley Kolakovich who is running her first 6 day race. I ask Dipali about her first experience in running a multi day.
“My first race was 1991, the 7 day race in Flushing, and o my……. I was clueless. I did not know how to do these races.” (laughs)
She uses quite a few uncomplimentary adjectives to describe her attitude at the time. She sums the experience up by saying, “I was really bad.”
Her spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy heard about her discomfort and offered her the option of making a strategic exit from the event but also tactfully queried her, could she not keep trying and in addition….. try laughing.
She admits, “I didn’t want to laugh.”
But as she recalls now with a big smile and a sweep of her hands, the moment she started laughing she was able to simultaneously release all the tension that she was hanging on to. She says now that first race was simply so new and so hard that she didn’t understand what the whole event was really about.
“It just shows that if you put determination into something, and practice meditation, that you can really do extraordinary things in your life.” The span of her career so far, and all her achievements in this world of distance running are amazing.
The lake is off to her left, the sun, at least for now is bright and high in the sky over hers shoulder, and…… there is no wind blowing. “Every lap has a story, and each runner will tell you that each lap is a journey.”
She also says that one of her strategies is to simply feel childlike and play around a bit. “That child like spirit gives me energy. I am very determined out here as you can see. I don’t waste time even for one second. It does make you happy. It brings an energy. It brings a force. But you have to believe in yourself, and you have to believe in that force.”
Dipali is currently leading everyone in the 6 day race. She says her real competition is looking back at what she did last year here. “I did 475. I am thinking abut that. I am not thinking about anybody else.” She says the goal of self transcendence for herself is always the main motivator.
We pass the New York worlds fair unisphere and start heading back to the camp. She says the past 24 hours have been particularly hard. She will not make 70 miles for the day but she is not dejected. The race always has a way of teaching you a lesson, on not just the need for, but also on all the infinite varieties on the theme of humility.
She remembers a time when she was able to run mileage every day in the high 80’s. She reflects upon this long long period of running excellence that shows no sign of ending, with tremendous gratitude. “It is not me. I am just being so blessed with this opportunity.”
Her hands sweep open. “I can only thank Sri Chinmoy for making these races such an important role in our lives.”
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