July 28: Push Limits

“My first race was a new experience (2011) and I had this child attitude.  Everything was interesting and exciting.  So I was discovering limits and speed, and things like that.  My second race was a little competitive.  I was discovering new athletic sides to my character.  In my third race I was mostly inside myself.  Working it out and figuring out stuff.  Somehow it has all combined.”

sarvagata-silouhete

“In this race I think I still have this child attitude.  To push limits.  To discover what is beyond my present capacity.  I think I have got a little drop of wisdom.  How to accept my limitations and incapacities. To also understand that even if I have one it is a temporary thing.  And actually it doesn’t depend on me.  And the capacities as well.  It all depends on the one who owns all that.”

“Also it was an interesting game.”

He describes how for the Supreme it must be boring at times if we don’t push and test what we have and who we really are.  If we live a life that doesn’t explore and challenge and transcend then as spiritual people there is no way for the divine in us to appreciate his creation.  “There is no game for him.”

He says that when we really test ourselves, “I feel it is a little more fun for him.”

He describes how it is not enough, at least for him, to remain complacent or take for granted anything about being part of the 3100.  As a runner his first task is to aspire and strive here at the race at all times, and cheerfully accept whatever number of laps that you complete each day.

“Then when we achieve something we are playing with him in his his own game.”

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I suggest that he means don’t take anything for granted.. “Yes, fight for that.  It is okay.  Compete it is fine.”

There are many extraordinary things about Sarvagata Ukrainskyi and what he has in fact achieved here over these past 43 days.  Sometime tomorrow he will have completed the great journey and win the race by more than 100 miles.  He has led the field here since day 5 and in the long interval since has not looked back or anywhere else for that matter other than towards the once distant finish line.  When he indeed does cross the line tomorrow he will in his 4th attempt also set a new personal best.  Likely moving as well from 5th to 4th place overall.

There is a tremendous irony in what he has achieved if not excelled at each summer he has come here to run.  Throughout most of the year training is secondary to almost every other part of his busy and dedicated life.   Where I suspect every other runner here has looked at the starting line with some trepidation and concern that they have not trained and prepared enough he does not.

Instead he has learned, and once again proves, that if he listens to his body and more importantly listens to the divine whispers of his heart he will endure and he will succeed.

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There is no other runner I have ever seen here who has been able to accomplish so much by preparing so little.  Yet he still knows that the race for him is not just about muscles and strength and determination.  It is also about giving, and being happy and content to receive little or nothing in return.

That surrendering within is to not give up.  It is to accept gratefully whatever experience every part of your being needs to have.  And if there is something else that separates Sarvagata from all the other fine athletes who have been his family for the past 44 days is this unequivocal understanding.  That tomorrow is just one more finish line to cross before reaching all the other timeless goals still ahead, leading to his perfection.

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In 1973 a horse named Secretariat was attempting to complete the triple crown at Belmont race track.  He was a favorite of course but what Secretariat did that day was something we don’t expect to see.  He didn’t just run a great race he also ran into the record books and set a time that has yet to be surpassed.

The records in horse racing have not climbed as they have in human competition because Horses don’t look at records but only try to beat the horse who runs beside it.

In 1973 Secretariat ran with such speed and conviction that everyone who saw that race were thrilled and surprised.  He won by 31 lengths

*Note:  Jockey Ron Turcotte at no time during the race used his whip to encourage the horse to go faster.

“It was a hot day, but it was beautiful. He was the best ride you ever wanted to have. He is the greatest horse that ever lived, and he was so generous and gentle and did everything I asked of him. Whenever he was right, no horse could beat him.”*

 

Satisfaction is not only
At the finish line
But also
At the starting line.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 16, Agni Press, 1999

sri-chinmoy-at-starting-blocks-e28093-olympic-park-melbourne-march-1976

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July 27: Summer of Grace

Enthusiasm, enthusiasm,
God’s main food,
He begs me to eat
For my good.

Sri Chinmoy, Enthusiasm, part 1, December 19, 1999

parvati-car2

Photo by Jowan

Their performance lasts less than an hour.  Their audience, if you can call them that, rarely hears more than a snatch from a phrase of any of the perhaps dozen songs they sing each morning.  Occasionally a sleepy teacher on their way into the nearby school will hear something, and awaken just a little.

You often see smiles brighten across tired faces as they pass this group of girls who wear a different colored t shirt each day.  On a good day you might call them a choir but it is such a loose and friendly mix of short English songs the word choir sounds just a little too grand.  But yet the more you listen to these simple sweet songs that are constantly changing every day you sense quite a bigger thing behind this group of girls lined up in front of a brick wall at 6:40 every morning.

There is a beginning to everything if you look hard and close enough at it.  The 14 runners who orbit pass the girls and the school and the big fat block have their own rhyme and reason for doing what they do. They are of course the main audience and reason for just why this little performance happens here.   Just as it has been going on now for 9 long summers.

The arch and trajectory of the runners is a lot more easy to trace and to understand, because just down the block a big yellow plastic board clearly says it all.  They are trying to run 3100 miles.  As of this morning they have been circling for 42 days and today is 43.  The end of it all will come a little quicker for some but for all the rest when day 53 comes the block will be empty of both runners and singers and the great event will come to rest for another year.

parvati-car

The whys and wherefores of how Sri Chinmoy created so many things we might never really understand.  For how do you combine sport, literature, art, and music after all.  And how does his legacy continue to be perpetuated in events so difficult as this one, running 3100 miles.  Or just what is it that compels a group of girls to come here each day and sing songs to a world that looks as though they barely notice as they pass them by.

But of course they do notice and they do treasure the little jewels of sound and music that the girls so lovingly offer up.  Stutisheel who has been coming here since before the girls began to sing says, “I cannot imagine the 3100 without the Enthusiasm Awakeners.  It would be incomplete.”

“They are the most sincere group.  They are not singing for applause or appreciation.”

Over the years many groups were formed who sang and still continue to sing some of the thousands of songs that Sri Chinmoy wrote.  In December of 1999 he asked a crucial question of Parvati, the groups leader. One that 15 years on still continues to inspire, challenge, and fulfill her like nothing else.  He asked her simply enough, would she like her own singing group.

Knowing that all his other groups sang his Bengali songs she responded directly and honestly to his request with, what sounded like hesitation then, but now sounds like an epiphany.    She confessed that she found it hard to pronounce Bengali.

Sri Chinmoy on Music The Universal Language

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Sometimes it looks like a Spiritual Master throws dice but the outcome of it all was probably exactly what he was trying to subtly encourage to happen in the first place.  That is create this unique musical group that sings only his English songs.  There was no end of material for her and her hastily put together group to sing.  For he was writing songs at such a prodigious rate.  In fact there was more than enough material for all the groups to sing even if they tried to learn a new song each day.

So by 2006 Parvati’s group had amassed 1225 songs.  She thought, let me honor Sri Chinmoy’s 75th birthday that year and come to the race and sing every song.  That would mean singing 75 songs for 17 days.  No joke.

Now when 2007 came Sri Chinmoy asked her if she was not going to come out and do the same thing again. She said, well we already did it, didn’t we?  “What? 76 is not significant?”

She discussed it with her members and they agreed to come out every morning and sing,  it was the right thing to do, she says now as she looks back at it, and all the beautiful summers since.  Self Transcendence comes in many different shapes, dimensions, and colors after all.

Sri Chinmoy over fhs course of that long hot summer composed 65 songs just for her group.  It was an amazing and fulfilling inspiration for her and her group that just continues to shine and grow.  She says of 2007 now, “it was the summer of Grace.”

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On this day now 7 years past, Sri Chinmoy asked them to come down from the stands at a function so that he could teach them a song.  Something he had down hundreds of times by now.  After a while it finally occurred to Parvati that the song he was teaching them was now the name of her group. Enthusiasm Awakeners.

Stutisheel says, “they are singing most sincerely and most soulfully.  Beaming with joy.  Giving everything to the runners, so I can really appreciate them.  Over the years these qualities they have have increased.  Today which is their anniversary they have given me so much joy.  Sincere, soulful, pure, it is just amazing.  And I like the songs they are singing.”

He says he heard one song in particular that was about joy.  “It helps with our outer journey and our inner realization.”

He is also amazed at just how much effort went into their anniversary celebration this morning.  They came long before their performance to put up decorations and set out special treats for the runners.  “We really appreciate them.”

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July 26: That Is What The Race Is About

By day 11 last year Sarah Barnett could see her dream slipping away and there was absolutely nothing she could do to hang onto it.

As one of the best ultra distance runners in the world, coming to do the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race was going to be the ultimate challenge for her.  Something that she had wanted to do for several years.  One, as well, that at 37 years of age she was prepared and as experienced as anyone who has ever lined up by the chain link fence near Thomas Edison high school at 6am in the morning has ever been.

silouhete-sara

She came strong and talented and she also came injured.  A kind of physical problem that would not bend to her will or her wishes.  An injury that would snatch away any chance of not just victory but any chance of even reaching the finish line.  Causing a persistent pain that made steps hurt, laps feel excruciating, and worse yet, assuring her that the goal of finishing now lay hundreds of miles beyond her dwindling hopes.

We all like to think we can go on and endure hardship.  But what courage is it that allows a young Australian woman to stand at the starting line each day for 52 and keep going around and around with nagging pain, and persistent doubt rubbing hard at your shoulders, and a goal that you now no longer can see at all.

But Sarah clearly felt something even though she could not see it.  That something that said to her just this, keep going, keep going.

sarah-and-board

So she did this impossible thing in a race that even itself is impossible.  At the end of 52 days she had completed 2573 miles.  It was the farthest she had ever run before, and its own muted way offered her a quiet glimmering victory that was probably more important than all the trophies and awards that she has ever received in her career in ultra races.

It was something that she could not put on the shelf because it would remain where it belonged, in her heart.

sarah-good

Sometime today she will pass that mark of 2573 with strong confident strides.  Few if any will remember that little footnote from last year.

She tells me this morning she remembered it last night but this morning had forgotten it until I brought it up.  She laughs easily as she talks about it now.  For now she does see a finish line ahead that is not obscured by doubt or pain.  And sometime today with a tick of her lap sheet she will be charging boldly and clearly into her own realm of Self Transcendence.  When I ask her about this she says, “That is what the race is about.”

I made this film several years ago.  It is Called 3100 Mile Impressions probably 2009

Music by Parichayaka

In the fall of 1991 New Zealand runner Sandy Barwick  ran 1300 miles in 17 days and 22 hours.  She is pictured here with Sri Chinmoy and Al Howie.

Her 549 miles in a six day race in 1990 in Australia is a record that has yet to be broken.  Sarah will be the first Australian woman to run 3100 miles.

riley-barwich-howie-sri-chinmoy

Not what you say,
Not what you do,
But what you ultimately become
Is the only thing that God cares about.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 42, Agni Press, 2005

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July 25: One Dream Together

“He is very close to me.  Many times people mix us up when they see us.  We are very similar.  I am sometimes mistaken for Vasu but with Volodymyr it is more often.  But it is not just an outer similarity.  But also a deep inner oneness.  Volodymyr is very strong inwardly.  He has strong spiritual qualities.”

yuri-and-volodymyr

“A long long time ago he taught me how to run.  He graduated from a Physical Culture university and he is a coach.  In the beginning I didn’t know almost anything about running.  For many hours we used to run together in the forest and he was teaching me as we ran.”

“How to move your arms and legs, and how to breathe properly.  I am deeply grateful to him for this.”

“We both shared one dream together.  We both wanted to run the 3100 mile race.  Now my dream has become a reality.  I am praying that one day as well his dream becomes real as well.”

“He has come very closely to this dream.  But this 3100 mile race is a very special place.  This road, does not allow you to come to it.  Sometimes it keeps you at a distance.  You have to develop a deep inner cry so that this road allows you to be here.  I feel that Volodymyr has this inner cry.”

yuri-and-volodymyr2

“He has been in New York visiting for some time now.   I am sure that his dream will also become a reality.  He is not far away from his dream.”

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As Yuri starts his 41st day of running here it is important to note he has run a superb race in every possible way you care to look at it.  Compared to his mileage this time last year he is more than 240 miles better.  In addition if he compared his mileage to the leader in the race last year this time, he would have the lead by 40 miles.  In fact, if it weren’t for Sarvagata’s amazing performance this year he would be leading the race this year and not in second place.

But these are trivial things when compared to what Yuri is really seeking as he makes his way once again down this long sacred road.  He has a precious friend at his side this year who is contributing more than a little to the great journey he is taking.  One, who because he cannot take these steps himself, is helping to lift and carry some of the burden that Yuri himself must endure along the way.

On this Monday a great dream will be fulfilled, not just by Yuri Trostenyuk from Vinnytsa but also by Volodymyr who is from there as well.   Two great runners sharing a goal, that through their oneness will be reached, realized, and then offered to the world.

These 2 have also competed in races many times.  There are many stories of genuine affection and comradeship that happens during competition.  There may be no story more powerful and poignant in all of sport than what happened in the final of the Long jump at the Olympic games in 1936.

The great Jesse Owens was having trouble in making his jumps when his German competitor Luz Long, came to his aid.  He not only helped him make qualifying jumps but also in so doing enabled Owens to secure the gold medal and the Olympic record at the same time.

Jesse Owens, Jesse Owens, Jesse Owens!
O deathless jump, O breathless speed,
Eternally, athlete’s world you will feed.
Dictator Hitler’s Aryan supremacy
Surrendered to your Himalayan ecstasy.
Champion of champions, Hero of heroes!
In your service-heart America glows.
In Berlin, four gold medals winner;
Eternity’s diamond-heart owner.

Sri Chinmoy, Run and become, become and run [songbook], , 1982

sri_chinmoy_with_jesse_owens2

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July 24: Beginning Of A Beautiful Life.

“Think of how beautiful it is that we have come to this moment.  Our previous lives and this life have brought us to this divine space, that we are taking up. This is very unusual.  It can be compared to a mini avatar.  These runners and everyone are stabilizing the negative and the positive here right now.  Righteousness is being lifted and unrighteousness is being suppressed.”

“The neighborhood cannot but succumb to the divine energy that is radiating from this.  We have come to this point and we have to move forward.”

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Day 40 had just begun and Swamiji and I our were out walking on the course.  Like so many people, his life has intertwined with that of the race in its own unique way over the years.  He mentioned the word sustainability and it intrigued me.

For over the past few days I have become increasingly aware that day 52 is now no longer a distant almost inconceivable destination, but instead is literally right around the corner.  For some of the faster runners of course the finish line will be a few days closer, but not too long after that the board comes down for another year, no matter how many numbers are beside your name.

Maybe the experience I have here is similar to that of a flower that blooms each new season.  Bringing forth its beauty for just the period of time allotted to it.  But at the same time I am feeling a little greedy that the rest of the year cannot have this same intensity and dynamism.

swami-flower

“We shouldn’t think about the past.  Because the past is what brought us here good or bad.  So we have to say that this is the beginning of the rest of our lives.  Treasure it, be conscious about it, revere it and move on.  When negative thoughts come, we have to say, you don’t have a place here.”

“You have to be conscious about it.  You can’t go back in the past lives.  It is God’s grace to make the transition from the past to the present and then to the future.”

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“This is wisdom  and this wisdom we always have to keep in mind.  There will be moments when weakness will come in.  But we can fall back on the experience of the runners running here.  You can say no, I am not going to succumb to that weakness.  I am going to have the image of the Guru constantly in my mind.  The Guru is the manifestation of that perfection and that consciousness.”

“We should never say it was a good race. It is the beginning of a beautiful life.”

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In February of 2007 a series of races were held over a few days at at a track in Chaing Mai Thailand.  Each day there was a race Sri Chinmoy himself would as well go out on the track and attempt to run 400 meters.  It did not matter that he did not feel well, or that he was in pain.  Regardless of his condition he went out around that track and ran just as fast he could.  Each day that he raced, the time was taken, and he would try and improve upon it.  That was just who he was.

As I took this footage I did not know that this was probably the very last time he would run on a track.  By the 11th of  October of that year he had left us.  The poem you hear with this video was recorded on his last night on earth.

Only a student can learn

If I remain a student of peace

I willl be the happiest and the proudest person

Only a student can learn. 

So I am a student of peace.  If you people call me a student of peace I will be extremely, extremely, grateful to them. 

Peace is a subject that is inexhaustible.

There is no limit. so if I can be a student Peace, I shall be able to learn, I shall be able to learn. 

And I shall be able to enter into each heart and see how most sincere cry each individual has in his heart.

Peace is not a dictionary word.

Peace is the heart breath of God. 

God will never be satisfied unless and until his heart breath

he can share, with his entire creation……..Sri Chinmoy October 11th 2007

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July 23: Why

“It was my second year here and it was my last day and I was just so exhausted.  I knew that I had to finish in 52 days and I was pushing like anything, and it was afternoon.  I was completely dead at that point.  I was passing somewhere here, (points to a light pole) and I realized.  I am dead.  I couldn’t make it.  I was mentally out.  And then I saw a poster on the pole about Sri Chinmoy.”

He turned to the poster and said, “I can’t make it.  I am completely tired.”

pranjal-sun

“Then suddenly a white dove landed right under the poster.  Out of nowhere.  I was coming there completely dead and saying, I cannot make it.  But when the dove landed there I felt, I will make it.  I can make it.”

Then in an instant he felt within the answer, not just to why he was running the race, but also to everything that he was really seeking in his life.  “You are doing it for me.”

For those who don’t have spiritual teachers or who are not practicing some form of spiritual discipline, the answer, ‘you are doing it for me,’ will not mean much.  Explaining spirituality and the inner life is one of those subjects, that you either grasp almost immediately or maybe at least are able to sense a faint glimmer of recognition.

All of us at some point try to make some sense of this great puzzling universe that we all have found ourselves cast into.  The more clarity and purpose you have than things start to look and are a little easier.

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That is of course if you define easy, as you watch a 200 and something pound guy, sweating and shuffling around a half mile loop every summer for the past 10 years.  Who as of today has done a little more than 30,000 miles.

Regardless, every runner at the 3100 has to find inside themselves a very powerful motivation and a clear understanding of just why they want to come to the starting line.  To then go the distance and continue it again and again, year after year requires something nearly all of us simply don’t have.

But as Pranjal is unique in his faith and his dedication so too are all the others here.  Who have reached within and found something bright and strong that brought them here and continues to inspire them to move and run through such incredible adversity.  Maybe they all don’t have the clarity and insight to see what it is,  but they all most definitely feel it and express it with their footsteps. Mile after mile, day after day.

Pranjal is a 41 year old Slovakian.  The greatest Czech runner of all time is most definitely Emile Zatopek, who over 2 Olympics won 4 gold medals and 1 silver.  In 1952 in Helsinki he accomplished something unprecedented and which has never been repeated.  He won all the distance events, 5,000, 10,000, and the marathon.

“Zatopek, Zatopek!” was not a name when he entered into the Helsinki Olympic stadium and was about to win the first marathon he had ever run. “Zatopek” was not a name but an incantation: joy-invoking, love-spreading and oneness-becoming reality unparalleled.

The 1952 Helsinki Olympics and Zatopek will always remain inseparable and unique. The Olympics gave Zatopek the opportunity unparalleled. Zatopek gave the Olympics the glory unparalleled.

Sri Chinmoy, Emil Zatopek: Earth’s Tearing Cry And Heaven’s Beaming Smile, Agni Press, 1980

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July 22: Friendship

It was probably the best race he ever ran.  It was also his very first attempt to run for 24 hours.  It was being held  on a track in London by a group who were doing something brand new as well for them.  It was a first for lots of people in a way.

alan-london

It took place in October of 1993 and probably should have attracted a larger field, but another more established event in Spain seemed to get the cream of the crop.  None of this mattered to Alan Young. Living in Scotland he wanted to test himself to his limits to see what he could do as an ultra distance runner.

So Alan came to the inaugural Sri Chinmoy marathon team 24 race in Tooting Bec and won.  He didn’t use tactics, he didn’t use guile, he ran as hard as he could until there was no more time left.  His distance of 138 miles was the furthest he had ever run and getting this little trophy wasn’t bad either.  The next man was 2 miles behind and as Alan talks about this race now nearly 21 years ago his eyes twinkle with delight.

But at some point over the years he came to realize, “I wasn’t particularly good.  But I got an insight.”  He came to realize that maybe from the sidelines he could actually achieve more than he ever could on the track.  Not that he completely gave up his own dreams, but winning the 24 hour race in Tooting Bec was just about as good as it got.

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Being crew for a runner has to be one of the most thankless jobs on earth.  There are no trophies or records for the man holding out the cup and rubbing sore backs and legs.  Keeping track of laps and supplements, and running off for heavy cream is not a job that pays well if at all.

Something very much else happens that says more about how far a friend will go for another, what oneness and a hearts bond really means, and can you realize and become one with another’s triumph. Even when they hold up the trophy up and you carry a towel.

I have joked many times with Alan about his job and just how good he is at it.  I have seen lots of helpers at these races over the years and he really may be the best at what he does.   He has crewed for Alan for 10 years now.  You can see Alan adjusting, shifting, and recaclutaing just what he needs to do from morning until night.  He has been here 8 days now and his job is not yet done, not by a long shot.  He has probably 15 more days of this routine yet in front of him.

william-alan

In the beginning he wasn’t sure he was going to be any good at it.  William was a fast marathon runner who wanted to move up and so 10 years ago asked Alan to help.  The first three 24 hour races were a disaster.  Basically William blew up after 18 hours and that was that.  Somehow they worked and fiddled and fine tuned and well, you can see where Alan is now. What they learned more than anything was simply slowing everything down and being more patient.

William jokes when I ask him whether he wants to send Alan back to Scotland.  “O he is all right.  It took a few days for him to bend in.  But I will keep him now.  We’ll get on, we will manage.”

I ask William,  that without the help he has gotten from not only Alan, but also Tim and Tarit what would have happened to him here.  “That is the one mistake I made before the race.  I thought I could crew myself at the beginning and still manage it.  Preparing the food was something I just couldn’t possibly manage and do all the running.  High marks for Alan.  I don’t want him to get too big headed.  He is doing alright for the moment.  We will have to keep on him, to keep him up to the mark.”

Alan says that by late tonight, after many many days of being off the needed pace, he will once again be back on schedule to finish the race in time.

Ron Clarke was one of the greatest distance runners of all time.  In his career he accomplished 17 world records but somehow failed at the Olympics to win a gold medal.  The achievement, that for most athletes stands at the very pinnacle of their competitive life.  Having more significance than any record or title.

Fate however would not deny him this honor.

In March of 1976 Ron Clarke would meet with Sri Chinmoy for the first time. He composed the song below at that time.

From 2004 to 2012 he was the mayor of the Gold Coast in Australia.  He once said, “I agree very much with Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy of promoting friendship through running and sports,”

Ron Clareke

Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke!
O runner-world’s pinnacle-spark,
Australia’s pure treasure-light,
The world salutes your champion-height.
In distance-speed a stupendous soul.
With seventeen crowns, yours is the goal.

Run and Become, Become and Run    [song #35]

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July 21: Champions All

If this picture were to stand alone by itself I have no idea what the caption would read to accompany it.  For a photographer to see 3 smiling runners coming up the course towards you is a golden opportunity.  But as a fan of the race, there is a significance to this particular moment for me that just a couple of words cannot express.

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It may be my age, my gender, and my own background as a runner but I am truly inspired by this scene as it played out in front of me this morning.

Just in my lifetime women could not run the Boston Marathon or was there any long races for them in the Olympic games.  For 13 years this race saw just one exceptional woman running in it, and now there are 3 remarkable female athletes. Who between them, as of 36 days of running, have completed 6542 miles.

In the great roulette that is the race there are moments, when despite whatever speed you are running you will most certainly have every runner in the race on your shoulder at least for a moment.  If you are running at about the same speed it might not happen very often at all, or it could go on for laps and laps.

Or in this case the 3 girls, at least for this stretch have lined up perfectly. At the same time they are celebrating what they are doing, who they are, and most definitely what this experience is enabling each to become within. It was their choice at this moment to truly share the road and the fellowship of the race, and maybe by noticing that there was a camera in front of them, share it with the world.

3-girls5

The truth about the statistics is that these 3 girls are not that far apart when it comes to mileage and as of this morning out of the 14 runners they are in 6th, 7th, and 8th place.  What I enjoyed about seeing them run like this was just how happy they all are.

If there is any secret to success to achieving your best here in this the most difficult sporting event in the world then being happy has to be one of the simplest remedies.  Not just to ease the hard times but also to ensure that each step takes you that much closer to the higher goal beyond.  Where self transcendence is not reached by tears and pain alone but by the precious gift of a true heart’s cry and a soul’s divine smile.

One of the pioneers of Women’s sports was Fanny Blankers-Koen.  A Dutch runner who despite being 30 years old and a mother as well, wanted to compete in the Olympic games in London in 1948.  It was in 1938 that she set her first world record, with a time of 11 seconds in the 100 meters.  Because of the war she thus missed 2 opportunities to compete in the Olympics.   So her wish to compete in 1948 was a dream come true.

Of her excellence in competition and how it inspired so many, she once said: “But times were harsh and people were glad of the opportunity to celebrate anything. It made me proud to know I have been able to bring joy into peoples lives.”

Sri-Chinmoy-Alisson-Roe

Allison Roe, Allison!
O lightning wonder-speed,
O soaring energy-light!
You are your dauntless soul.
In you, a fount of delight.
New York sings Auckland’s Victory-Song.
O champion of champions,
New Zealand’s thunder-gong!
[Allison Roe of New Zealand was the 1981 winner of the Boston and New York City Marathons. In the NYC Marathon, she set a new world record of 2:25:29.]

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July 20: Something New To Achieve or Become

“I had a lot of fun yesterday.  I wish all my days could be like that.  It wasn’t a struggle at all.  The whole day there was no problem with anything.”

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Most days the runners struggle just to make their usual laps.  Pace and push themselves throughout the 18 hours they have on the course to get just a little bit closer to the 3100 miles.  After 35 days it is rare for there to be any surprises other than the kind no runner likes to receive.  The bad kind, injuries, sickness, and fatigue.

But yesterday, in what had to be at least a bit of surprise to Sarvagata, he ran more laps in a single day than he had ever done in all of  the 4 years he has been competing on the course.   He completed 148 laps, which equals 80.68 miles.

When you do something like he did yesterday it is not an obvious thing at all. It is not something that springs up dramatically.  At least not at first.  It is a long slow process that not even the counters would have been aware of until quite late at night.  It is than that his clipboard was obviously getting unusually full.

At some point through the day his fellow runners can probably sense that something great is happening, but most of the time they have to just focus on picking up their feet and putting them down again.  Not on Sarvagata who was in the process of doing something quite remarkable.

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If there is anything about his marvelous performance yesterday, that will soon become a foot note, to the overall greatness of his overall performance this year.  Is that what happened yesterday is a reminder to him, to his fellow runners, and to us, who are trying to make sense of it all.  That great things can come happen to all of us as well.

If I had asked him directly how he thought that it was even possible, he probably have answered that it was all due to grace.  That is just my word for it, but knowing him and his devotion to the race I am probably not too far wrong at best.  But to receive that 148 laps meant that he had to dedicate himself so powerfully and with so much oneness and receptivity with what he had to do, that it was only then that it could even have been possible.

Across the street from the race is Jamaica High school.  Back in the 1960′s a young man who had a troubled background was trying to get some direction in his life.  The track coach at the time, Larry Ellis saw in a young Bob Beamon a gifted athlete.  He suggested that if he worked hard he just might one day make the US Olympic team in the long jump.

Bob-Beamon-mainIn 1962 at age 15 he won the junior Olympics with a distance of 24 ft 1 inch.  He said, “It proved to me that I might come through with something worthwhile in my life.” By 1968 the time of the Mexico Olympics he was certainly one of the best jumpers in the world.  But in qualifying for the final in Mexico, he nearly didn’t make it.  It was only on his last jump in the qualifying round that he managed to make the distance.

Many things have been said about the finals that took place on October 18th.  How the wind was perfect, how the altitude aided records, and that all the conditions in the stadium indicated that the 22 year old Queens NY jumper could somehow surpass his personal best of 27ft 4in.   And maybe just maybe break the then current world mark of 27 ft 6 in.

Before he took off down the runway, “I felt alone. I could not feel my legs under me I was floating.” Once he took flight he did not come down to earth again until 29 feet 2 and 3/8th inches later.  An incredible new world record by 21 and 3/4inches.

Immediately after his jump there is great confusion by the pit.  Bob Beamon had no idea at first how well he had done. The optical measuring equipment was incapable of measuring the leap and it took many minutes before it was officially measured and recorded.  When he found out what he had done he fell to the ground in shock.  Even as you watch it today it is still unbelievable.  It took 34 years for it to finally be broken by American Mike Powell.  It is still the all time Olympic record.

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Bob Beamon would say later, “It was an incredible surprise. As a matter of fact we never thought the record would pass 27ft 10 or 8.4m but I like surprises.”

bob beamonThe Eternal Newness of Life

There is no end to our realization; there is no end to our manifestation. There is always something new to achieve or become.

Those who do not live the life of the heart are like broken records. They keep playing the same ignorance-tune over and over.

But if we are seekers, every day we have to make a new record, sing a new song, discover a new melody. Those in my boat who are consciously aspiring are singing a new song every day.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Divine Secrets, Agni Press, 1987

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July 19: Simplicity Of Running

In British distance running there are 2 names that stand out above all the rest.  Don Ritchie and Steve Jones each set records that have lasted for more than 30 years.  In some ways there was a similarity about their approach to the sport, even though the distances they each competed at were at the other ends of the spectrum.

They both liked to run from the front, and simply run as fast as they could for as long as was possible.  For spectators it was a delight but sometimes for fellow competitors it was even better.  Let the man at the front do all the hard work and then slip across the finish line just in front.

In 1984 when Steve Jones was about to complete his first marathon in Chicago he was surprised to learn about 2 miles from the finish that he was on a world record pace.  Something he had no idea of at the time since he didn’t wear a watch.  In his inaugural marathon he broke the world record  by 13 seconds in 2:08:05.  The following year he returned once more to Chicago and set the new British mark of 2:07:13.  A time that has yet to be surpassed since it was set October 20 1985.

“I run with my head, my heart and my guts, because physically, I don’t think I’ve got a great deal of talent or ability. I started at the bottom and worked up.”…Steve Jones

I spoke with Williams helper Alan this morning and we were talking about attitude and confidence, what qualities it takes to be best in the world.  In races like the one in the video you clearly see that at the moment Steve Jones was passed he could have surrendered.  Backed off half a step and nobody would have known the difference.  But the kind of man and runner that he was, that choice simply wasn’t possible for him to make.

William told Alan that for the first month of the race he wasn’t feeling very good.  Alan laughs at not only the absurdity of feeling not your best for such a long time but also that his runner has at last found his pace and rhythm.  Who over the past few days is now excelling and reaching a whole new performance level.

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Photo by Sarvadhara

Last night William completed his 2000th mile.  Before he headed home he added an additional 5 more miles.  Alan would call it, in his understated fashion, “A very good and well judged day.”

He has still a very long way to go.  But on his 34th day on the road here in Queens he ran 124 laps which is 68 miles.  The total for this 60 year old runner from Sanday Orkney was only bested by one other runner that day, Stutisheel.  Who is 16 years younger and is running this race for his 10th time, not his first like William.

In the weeks and months to come statisticians will be click clacking their pens and calculators to make it all add up just so.  For a new river of records has seriously begun to flow from the heart, and feet, and very fiber of the best super ultra runner in Britain, and we will know soon enough in time, the world as well.

New York City Marathon director Fred Lebow said this:

“The simplicity of running is the heart and soul of the sport. The ordinary, everyday runners are the mainstream. I can never forget this because I am one of them, regardless of what else I am.”

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Simplicity
Is the most
Striking
And
Challenging
Speed
When we run along the road
Of Eternity’s
Fulfilling
Achievement-light.

Sri Chinmoy, Union And Oneness, Agni Press, 1976

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