3 years ago in 2010, when Surasa arrived at JFK airport in New York, she was asked by the Immigration officer what was the purpose of her visit to America. She told the man that she had come to run the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race and would spend every day, that summer while visiting, running . He was surprised of course and said, “you must be very strong.” Surasa a veteran of many many multi day races remembers that she was a bit shocked by his words. For she did not think of herself as strong or particularly special. Perhaps there was part of her that simply thought that it wasn’t such a miraculous thing for one to run 3100 miles. For she simply felt so strongly deep within herself that this was the thing she was supposed to do and that was that.
Very early on during that, her first attempt at completing the race she had a bad case of shin splints. Within a few weeks it became clear that her chances of making the full distance before the cut off had slipped away. Time, always a relentless adversary would not surrender to her dreams.
Yet the nature of Surasa is such that she remained happy despite this setback. Now If you have never experienced an injury of this kind then picture yourself trying to run one mile in searing agony and then simply imagine continuing doing that same thing over and over again for another 1000 more miles.
Where so many would crumple under the burden she prevailed. She was so determined to do her best that she persevered, despite the pain, and finished that year with 2700 miles. At the end of all this she was happy and grateful to have made it that far.
The following year she returned and had no such problems or injuries. She appeared to run efficiently and with regimented precision. Finishing the race in an excellent time seemed to be well within her grasp. Then on her 47th day on the course, with just 320 miles left to go, her right calf was struck by a pain of such severity she could not move forward even one step. A car had to be brought out onto to the course and pick her up so that she could receive medical attention.
A chiropractor who examined her at the time suggested that due to the catastrophic nature of the injury that he diagnosed that it would be impossible for her to continue. He was so shocked by his examination of her leg that he couldn’t tell her his finding at the time. He described to the race directors how even touching the area felt to her like being struck by a knife.
This kind of experience would break the spirit of most us. Snatch away all your hope and extinguish the last bright beams of joy and and then simply toss what remains into into a abyss of despair. But this is where Surasa did not go, or even ponder this option for even a moment. If her leg was going to fail, if her body was going to suffer, then what and who she was inside would remain triumphant and undaunted by the burdens of the physical.
On her 48th day she returned to the course and somehow made a total of 12.8 miles. The following day she completed nearly 30 miles. Each step hurt, each mile she complete was one more hard fought victory of her inner self against the limitations her body was futilely trying to throw up against her. On the final night of the race, with just a couple of hours to spare she crossed the finish line triumphant.
Last year Surasa did not come back to the race due to injuries. This year she felt the imponderable yet enchanting call of the race once again in her heart. At age 55 there are few who would have questioned her decision not to come and run.
But she does not listen to the doubters. She has no interest in the prognosticators who would predict that completing the race at this age within the strict time limits as unlikely. She somehow has set aside fear and worries as being companions of which she has no interest or time for. As of Sunday morning, the start of the race, she set off with 11 others, under the brightness of a beautiful dawn sky and then on deep into the stillness of a warm NY night.
At the end of 2 days of this she has completed 134 miles and as you read this and think of her she will probably be continuing to run and run. You and I will, as the hot bright arc of the summer passes over us, be caught up in that same time, in challenges big and small, both compelling and boring, of some importance to ourselves but quite often just the silly little events that clutter up our days. Surasa this summer will be running and only running, and if per chance you fly into New York and meet that same immigration officer at JFK airport, who asked her if she was strong, you can answer for her.
Where the heart’s eagerness
Is strong, very strong,
Are weak, very weak.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 5, Agni Press, 1998