Day Ten: Much More Than Running

Luckily I have done these before, and I’ve gotten through a lot of pain and problems.  I knew that if I tried to enjoy the race as much as possible and be cheerful and move forward than I wouldn’t have to worry about the pace.  Then eventually my body would pick up.”  A couple of days ago when I was at the race, I saw someone coming towards me that I simply couldn’t recognize.

The figure that was moving along was so hobbled over and bent out of shape  that I thought I was looking at some crippled old man.    I was wrong, it was Arpan.  He tells me that a quadricep problem in one leg and a hamstring in another had simply stopped working.  His forward momentum looked more like a crawl than a walk.  I couldn’t tell who it was until he was practically right in front of me.  I was shocked.

In many areas of life when the obstacles appear to be insurmountable it is advisable to stop and simply retreat for safety.  In ultra distance races the usual guidelines that we apply to normal human activities simply no longer apply.  Logic and common sense are our dear friends most of the time, but when we have them as our constant companions, we can only go so far.

Our relationship with our own negative qualities never ever has an upside and when we put all our trust in our mental faculties the definition of our world becomes constrained and limited.

We are all aware at times of the higher possibilities that we all have within us.  Whether because of timidity, or simply plain fear, we sometimes simply fail to even attempt  to reach and attain a lofty goal that is clearly beckoning us. In a multi day race there is very little room for hesitation or for for fear.  When failure attempts to stand in our way we simply have to find a way to go beyond it.

First thing this afternoon I find Arpan walking along side of Shashanka and they are having a great time together.  They are now well into the final day of the race and it is now clear that Arpan did the right thing by simply pushing on through the pain.  He tells me that he might just run again soon.  “I am just conserving my energy for the last 12 hours.” He has seen his original goal of running 100km a day, now down sized, to hopefully an average of 60.

Shashanka has also seen a readjustment of his own goals.  “One was to smile more than last year, and that is not easy especially when you are hurting.”  In this regard he has definitely succeeded.  He says that despite having to adjust his goals, it was worth going through all the pain, the fatigue, and all the nameless torments that a runner become intimately acquainted with here.

For him running  these races is not just a good thing it is a necessity.    “It is always beneficial.  Because in whatever state you are, you are always making progress.  You are having all these experiences.  I had 4 days that were very hard.  It is the name of the game.  It is about much more than running .”

Arpan says, “you are challenged to be happy, when inevitably things are going to be tough physically. When you are hurting and things are not going right, and you learn how to be happy through that.  Then it is easier to be happy in real life.  It is a real valuable experience whether you do good or not.”  He says that despite not getting all the miles he would like, he still deeply appreciates the experiences that he was able to have here. Both vow to train more before they do it again,  “You can’t fool your body in this race.”

“Tomorrow at noon we are gone.  You know you get happier towards the end, but during the race you have to find happiness no matter what happens, and that is the real challenge.  It is really beneficial.”

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The fog has rolled in this afternoon off Jamaica Bay and the steady winds, ideal for sailors, add another level of challenge to the beleaguered runners heading into their last day of running.  Whatever might have taken place in the preceding days the finish line is now inexorably lying just a few hours away.

When you are not here 24 hours a day sometimes your perspective of the race becomes a little out of balance.  It can be pretty difficult to get into sync with the cycles and rhythms of all the runners.

Unfortunately I can manage to be here only in the late afternoon and that has been a time when Lars Christoffersenis usually takes his break. I know he has a lot of followers out there and I am determined to track him done before the finish.  It has also been pointed out to me that yesterday I got his country wrong, I apologize.  For the record, he is from Denmark.

Also for the record Martin continues to endure and reach new ground.  This being the first time he is going to complete a 6 day race.  His Dad has sent him some extra love and cheer, as he goes into his final 24 hours on the course.

 

As usual the pictures can more often tell  a much better story than I can.  Daria Yashina is doing her first multi day race and is doing a wonderful job.  Her mileage is extremely impressive.

Gudrun has also had an impressive race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Upkaraka Tolstopyatenko is having a remarkable first time experience in the 6 day race.  By simply running consistently he has racked up 343 miles in 5 days of running.  He is also in 3rd place in the men.  Prior to this race the furthest he had raced was 24 hours.

“I assumed that I could be able to run using my own physical capacity, for one day two days, maybe a maximum of 4.  But beyond that I couldn’t fathom doing it.  My imagination just refused to comprehend it.”  He describes that coming here and running the 6 day has opened a new world for him in ultra marathon running.

He is impressed with all who participate in such a challenging event.  He tells me that he wonders what inspires others to do it.  For himself he says he came just to see for himself, to participate and to get experience.  He plans on coming back but realizes the importance of being able to train more for it next time.

He tells me that, “I think my physical capacities are closely linked to my spiritual capacities.  I hope that my spiritual growth will follow and manifest itself in my running.”  I tell him that his mileage for a first timer is very impressive.  “I am surprised,” he says, “as much as anybody else.  I don’t like to compete for place, more, I like to experience joy.” He says that pursuing joy, should be the very least one should attempt to attain in an event such as this.”

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Sometimes I have to remind myself that Don Winkley is 73 years old.  He loves these events and all the old friends who show up as well.

Tirtha tells me that Ilvaka is simply tired.  A little while ago she reached 500 miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two years ago Tom McGuire ran 80 miles in a 24 hour race.  By tomorrow noon he will like have surpassed this total by 300%. He says when he looked at coming here to do this he felt a combination of both excitement and trepidation.  “It was going to be an opportunity to make a lot of progress.”

“I think the main thing is to detach yourself from the problems that you encounter.  The pain, the suffering, the boredom, and that sort of stuff.  Feel that it doesn’t really belong to you.  It is something that you are just observing.”  He says that it is much like meditation, which for him allows him to go beyond all the things that pester him in his normal life.

When it comes to multi day running he says, “most people don’t register what you are talking about.  They can’t comprehend it.    He hopes that in the time left to him on the course he continues to make progress.  He sees this as a major part of his spiritual life.  It is an opportunity for him to become a better person.  One who is both more peaceful and more detached.

Dipali runs by his as we are running and I ask him if gets inspiration from those who are very experienced here.  He feels that even though he feels he doesn’t  have the talent of those who run big mileage, the opportunity for transcending and having positive experiences is the same for all, no matter your capacity.

He says he has learned a lot more in how to prepare for the race since coming here.  At the moment he is wearing a pair of borrowed tights that he says have helped his legs tremendously.  Like many first timers he recognizes the need for more training before he comes again but interestingly enough he is contemplating the 10 day race next year.  He says that after 5 days, “I am just starting to getting used to it.  Humans are very adaptable, after a while it becomes normal.  I could go deeper if I had more time here.”

“There is nothing quite like it , the community here.  Everyone is so helpful.”  In addition he says, ” I have had little meditations happening spontaneously while I run at times.”  He describes also enjoying nature in a way that he has never experienced before.  He points to a tree covered in pink blossoms.  “There is a lot of beauty here, even through all the pain and suffering.  It is good to be alive.  That is what we should be really grateful for.”

 

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Vasanti continues into the final hours with 175 miles after 5 days.

 

Yuri takes a short break as he heads into the final hours of the 10 day.

 

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One of the few people who seems to be simply flying around the course is Sarvagata Ukrainskyi who came in 4th last year in the 10 day race with 600 miles.  He is upbeat but tells me there is no hope of beating the miles he accomplished last year.  He is running fast right now but says, “there is not much time left.”

I ask if he has had tough times and he describes his experiences as, “blessingful.  I got my both friends (shin splints) the second day and they stay with me until now.”  I suggest that since he no longer can break his record why not just take it easy over the last 18 hours.  Instead he says that now that he doesn’t have pain he prefers to simply enjoy the experience to the fullest, and to run as much as he can in the little time that is left.

“Yesterday I had really nice experience of running, and being an instrument, and divine spiritual things were involved.  This continued on through till this morning.  He went through a bad patch he says where he was feeling less than positive and now he feels like he is coming back to the bright side once again.  “I hope.  It is all ups and downs.”

He says that Dharbasana had given him some good advice about dealing with shin splints.  The trick seems to be not in taking a remedy but confronting the pain head on and trying to be very tuned in to the message it is telling you.  “You don’t try to defeat pain you have to try and incorporate it.  Just work with yourself.”

When asked if he is having a good time he give me an enthusiastic, “Yeah,  I will definitely come back here.”

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When I am happy,
I say to myself,
“So much I have done!
Just a little more to do.”
When I am unhappy,
I say to myself,
“Just a little I have done.
So much more to do!”


Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 205, Agni Press, 1994.

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