Finish Line: Each New Day, Each New Mile

There once was a time, not too long ago, when how fit and strong you were had a much deeper significance in our lives than it does today.  It is a relatively short journey back along our evolutionary ladder when in fact if you were not fit or strong, or perhaps extremely cunning you simply wouldn’t survive.

It was back in the age, when if you wanted to eat dinner you either had to chase it down or till the earth and make it grow. Also in that time, when danger came along, you had better be able to out run it, or you would be diner for something much fiercer and stronger than you.

The 6 & 10 Day Self Transcendence race finally came to an end today.  It was a breezy overcast day with alternating showers mixed with tantalizing glimpses of bright sun.  By all accounts it was a wonderful event in which nearly every one declared that they had a wonderful time.  One can hope that if there were a few abstainers from this view than we can predict that there perspective just might mellow a little with time.  That maybe in a few weeks, when the aches and blisters are all gone they may reassess their opinions and declare it a great success.  Everyone I spoke to at least said they had a great time here at the Self Transcendence race.

Most likely there were moments when it felt like it would simply never ever be over.  That 10 days or 6 days is an eternity when you are trying to run as far as you possibly can.   In the great scheme of things this amount of time is nothing.   Perhaps though, what each of  the runners achieved here may in fact be much more precious than they dare to even realize.

The race was not covered by any big news network and though 17 countries were represented here it was barely a blip on the global news radar.  It was of course pretty important to me and also to many others who have tried to follow the events taking place here.  As monotonous as it might seem there were ever evolving dramatic changes taking place here, on a moment to moment, mile to mile basis.  For me it least it was a place of dreams and hopes.  It is simply almost impossible for a non participant to adequately recognize all the toil and effort that goes into it, with a just an added dash of suffering thrown in for good measure.  The reward for all who worked so hard here  is negligible, that is when you consider just how much effort was sacrificed over this brief but intense period.

No one’s survival was ever at stake, no danger lurked behind any bushes, and food was always available, without the need for a spear or a plow.  The real value of all this individual effort however is another matter.  There were, from time to time, moments of ego and pride that surfaced and helped push a runner out of bed and back on the road.  Perhaps chasing a glory that only they could see, and maybe they caught the golden ring and maybe it slipped away, but still something was gained in all this mysterious incomprehensible action that is masked by our human frailty.

For beneath our goretex running suits and anatomically correct shoes is the real us.  Something that we all hope we can draw closer to, even though we may not understand nor clearly see exactly what it is.  There is an inspiration that comes from our heart and continues to push us onward.  It is not bad to believe that maybe, just maybe, we can make at least a little progress each new day and with each new mile.  For in our present age running is no longer just about physical survival but can be about something deeper, soulfully illumining, and much more profoundly transcendent.

Yesterday Sarvagata told me categorically that he had lost any hope of surpassing his record of 601 miles from last years race.  At the time he was running strongly but there was apparently not just enough time left to do it, or so he thought.  He had been running something like 60 miles a day and would need a colossal number of over 70 to do it.  I am sure a part of him clung to a little glimmer of hope that it was still possible, but if you sat down and did the math, it just didn’t look good.

Today one of those rare and precious miracles did in fact take place.  He didn’t sleep, he didn’t complain about his fate, he simply stayed out and ran all night long.  He somehow pushed aside the little math fence, and went on to the greener pasture on the other side.  He ran 75 miles in one day,  the most he had done since his first out on the course.  He ended up with 605 miles and the right to legitimately and accurately say, that he had transcended himself here.

Martin Fryer is running a 6 day race for the first time.  He will finish today with an overall win of 487 miles and deeper appreciation of what life is like on the road when you keep going past 48 hours.  He had to keep his eye on a certain hard charging Finnish runner named Ashprihanal Aalto who ran 92 miles his final day but Martin had run such superior miles over the preceding days it is unlikely that he could have been caught.

He wrote a report he says after his 48 hour race in which he describes the 3 personalities within him that fight for dominance during an ultra race.  “I call them the scientist, the hippie, and the mongrel.  The scientist is the very analytical side.  Keeping the splits and watching nutrition, and watching hydration all that sort of stuff.”

“The hippie is obviously more in the line of all the Sri Chinmoy stuff.  Where you are running in the joy and in the spirit, and the camaraderie.  And the mongrel is just the pure competitive spirit.  where you are looking at the next goal and target.  You are digging in using will power.”  He feels that if he can get the right mixture of these personalities that he can achieve an optimum performance.  “For example if you start a 6 day race in a mongrel mode you are going to be in a big problem rather quickly.”

At the moment he is walking and chatting with Allan Harman.  Asked to describe the mode he is in at the moment and he says, “definitely hippie.  It has been an amazing cavalcade of people and experiences, ups and downs.  It is nice if you can finish in a joyful way.  Though I am keeping an eye on the one who is right behind me in 2nd place.  I am watching him and I am injured and I can’t really run now.  I really wanted to have some sleep last night, but seeing him eat away at my lead I have had to stay out all night walking.”

As for his total this year, “I am happy with what it is.  I think my goals all went out the door after a couple of days. So I just tried to focus on what was happening each day.  I think the number I end up with be the right number.”

His partner at this moment Allan Harman suggests that he is in a scientist mode.  “It is an easy calculation to see how much I will make.  It is not my best but it is good enough.”

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Dipali is running into her final hours.  The early morning is just slipping away and I suggest that it must be a lovely day to go for a run.  She laughs at the absurdity of my comment.  “It has been 2 days of hurricanes out here.  It has been so tough.  It has been blowing and blowing and blowing.

I am probably going to be 10 plus over last year.  I had a very low day yesterday.  I had lost all my energy.  I think it had a lot to do with the previous day in the wind.  I was just beaten down, I had nothing left.”

“I finally picked it up again last night, I changed my schedule.  I have to be a happy runner, and last night I was really miserable.  So I went to bed at 10, and I never do that.”  Ultimately she got up once again at 12 with new determination and energy.  “So I have been out here since midnight, so by the time ends I will have run 12 hours straight.”

“So you can see, it is the last hours and I am pretty good.  I am just motivated to finish.”  She is running hard now and I ask how she finds the strength to do it.  “I do have tremendous faith.  I feel that if you do have a deep sincere cry, it will be answered.”  She confesses that she cried both outwardly and inwardly a lot yesterday.  “I couldn’t move.  I have to be a happy runner, and I was not a happy runner.  The energy had gone.”

She says that Mitch, the chiropractor had told her that her muscles had all switched off.  “Those things do happen.”  She is now of course a very happy runner.  The finish line now, is almost within view.   She is grateful for the grace that allows her to keep running so incredibly well and with such devotion and happiness at age 52.

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Kaneenika will win the women’s 10 day race with 724 miles.  Her running is relentlessly and there are those who sometimes speculate that she never sleeps at all.

 

Jayasalini will finish 51 miles behind her in second place with 673 miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I think you have to go hard right to the end.”  It is the final hour of the race and she is running with real speed and impressive power, yet her demeanor is still all lightness and she has managed to maintain a smile right until the end.    Sarah Barnett has run a courageous 6 day race.  She started here just days after running another hard race in Greece just a few days earlier.  The women’s 10 day field is as close and as competitive as they come.  In the end just 3 miles will separate her from the 2nd place Jayasalini pictured above.

“It has been awesome.  I try and be receptive, but my body feels like kind of a stone.  I am trying to get some energy through there.”  At this hour she has been on the course for almost 10 hours of continuous running.  “I don’t blame my body.  It is kind of tired.”  She is philosophical about the outcome.  “The Supreme’s will prevails, so it is all good.”

It is so inspiring being out here.  You don’t even have to say anything to the other runners.  You just feed of each other, and the others energy.”  She mentions that young Bulgarian runner Andrey Stefanov has inspired her.  “He is so silent as he passes.”

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Daulot’s story is one of those miracles that simply took its time to evolve, a mere 26 years.  He has had his wife and best friend there to support him and over his 6 days he ran a very respectable 320 miles.  He says, “it was fun all the time,” and jokes, “even when it wasn’t.”

“You have to experience the whole thing I guess, in its totality.  You know you start uncovering all the things you think is fun and find the real fun underneath it.  That’s it,” he says with joking emphasis.

 

 

 

 

He says that the long wait to get here was well worth it.  “It made it all more precious.  It was already special that I made it to the starting line.  That was great, the finish line is even sweeter.”

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“I tell you I am the guy who spends the most time in the tent,” jokes Lars Christoffersen.  He has been a remarkable runner to watch but somehow a bit of an enigma.  He always seems playful and looks as though he is having fun.  When he turns on the jets he can run amazingly fast.  On this, his final hour of the race he is walking.  When I suggest that he looks happy he says, “I am just happy that I got up.”

This is his 3rd 6 day race and he will finish with 395 miles for 3rd place.  I ask him to compare this race to his other races.  “In mileage it is not too good.  But still what I think it proves to myself, is that I didn’t quit and go home because it didn’t go my way.  The easiest thing is to say, O I am going to do 700 km, and if I don’t do that I am going to go home.  Just quit.  But I stayed in and I actually had a pretty good time.”

He enjoys talking to the many people he has met and has found that because he allowed himself to sleep he hasn’t suffered from excessive tiredness.  “And you are not chasing anyone or being chased.  That is the relaxing part.”  He confesses though, “in the long run this is not how I like to compete.  Most of the time I like to put a goal up and chase it.  I am pretty proud of myself that I stayed in this race.”

Here he says, “I learned a lot about blisters.  I had to treat them right away, don’t ignore the pain.  Do something right away.  the paper tape helped me a lot.  I should have done that at day 2.”  As we are walking Ashrpihanal runs by and I ask him what he thinks of him.  “I am on my knees with respect.  He has done the 3100 how many times.  “That is incredible what he has been doing.”

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Daria Yashina is simply one of those stories in the race that are remarkable, from her start 10 days ago, until her finish here today in 6th place with 522 miles.  “I feel as though I have just started running.”  She seems not to be concerned about her mileage at all.  She is one of those people who have a unique capacity to run and have joy while they are doing it.

“So many kinds of fun here.  On every level there are many many good things.  You can see here so many strong people and you can see how they go higher and higher.  Because I know for most of them it is really difficult, and they have a lot of pain.”

“It is a good school for me, because I get a lot of problems with my health, and now I feel better.”  She describes that at one point she couldn’t run for 2 days.  When she started running again after that, “It was like I had never run in a 1,000 years.  I felt like I was flying.”  That exhilaration and  joy she felt then she says inspired and impressed her a lot.

“After that everything changed.  It is very interesting.”  When asked if she will do a multi day race again she says, “I think yes.”

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“I just have this capacity to run so I do it.”  Ratuja Zub is running as fast as anyone on the course this morning.  Her performance here, her first, is remarkable.  On her last day here she runs 65 miles almost double her mileage from the previous day.  Her total at the end of 6 days is 286 miles.  “It is amazing, I don’t know how to explain it.”

She explains, “I had shinsplints for almost 3 days.  Maybe this is why I have a lot of strength, I don’t know.”

“This is my first race, so I am very glad that I participated in it.”  In practical terms she has learned first hand about shinsplints and how to manage them should they come again.  “Before, I didn’t even know what they were.”

“Of course I had very nice experiences of self transcendence, first of all.  You get great satisfaction when you transcend yourself.  When you go back home, you can say to your friends, I did it.  You can also do it.  It is not too difficult.”

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“Actually it came 2 days ago, a feeling of victory.”  Ilvaka has not been here running in the Self Transcendence races for 2 years now.  She has had health issues and yet she has returned to the toughest of the races, the women’s 10 day.  Her tireless helper Tirtha has been a constant companion on this journey.

“I mean we can always do more and transcend ourselves, but the transcendence is always on a different plain.  I feel that I gave what I could, and the feeling started 2 days before the finish.  That is very nice and with that I was able to go on.”

Tirtha laughs when I ask her how she is.  “I am not tired at all because we had such a long rest last night.”  Her days as a helper are probably numbered but in the time she has played that role she has done her best and really helped her friend.  She came up with many techniques for getting up her sleeping runner.  Including describing a gorgeous, but not existent sunrise.  And the tried and true of putting delicious food under their nose.  “You can’t tickle them on their feet, because they are so sensitive there.  Other wise I would have done it.”

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“This is one of the great shock results of my life, and I have been running races since 1971.  I had no idea I could have this result.”  Mark will finish with 544 miles and suggests that if the storm hadn’t blown in this morning the total might have been even higher.

“I have been running since 10 am yesterday morning with only a few 5 minute breaks.”  He goes on to describe how poor his training has been in the past year and thus how remarkable it has been for him to achieve so much here.  On his last day here he ran 73 miles.  “I am incredulous.  You will not hear me say that often in my life.”

“You never know what is coming in life so remain open minded.  Have your heart open.”  He describes that in the past 10 days he experienced some bitter cold nights.  One perhaps the most frigid of any he has ever spent while participating in a multi day.”

He describes as well how much he enjoys being playful and childlike.  “If I didn’t do those things it would be so overwhelming I would have left in my car and gone home.  You just have to take the good with the bad in life.  In my 40 year running career, I had no idea I could achieve this.”

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Pradeep Hoogakker is happy to share with me that he has run his best 10 day race ever.  He finished with 560 miles, which is an improvement of 70 miles for him.  “Well first I trained much better than other years.  I managed to get some days off and do real training.  I know the different pains now and know when to back off and when to keep going.  From the beginning I was very careful,  to rest when there was any sense of pushing on an injury.  I managed to get through the race without any injury.”

Usika, who is running with him tells me that he is more than glad to be back here running the race again after an absence of a few years.  “It is my best race ever, and that is mostly connected to the consciousness.  I had never before such an experience.”

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Michel Guoin and his family have been a fixture of the 10 day race now for a number of years.  His end total is 528 miles.  He told me he had a strategy of running hard at the beginning, running easier in the middle, and then completing the race strongly.  He says this is the strategy he used but laughs, “not enough.”

His total this year is still better than the 526 he ran here last year but not up to his personal best of 541 from his first year.  His whole family seems to enjoy being part of the entire race family.  Tommy says, “it is cool.”

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Ray Krolewicz gave a tribute to the founder of the Marathon Team Sri Chinmoy at the awards ceremony.  He composed it over the 6 days that he was running here.  He completed 338 miles.

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Some of the race directors keeping it all running smoothly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the cooks.

 

And just a few of the other many many helpers and counters.

Some final day music.

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Each new day
Is a gift.

Each new day
Is opportunity’s revelation-sky.

Each new day
Is reality’s manifestation-sun.

Sri Chinmoy, Transcendence-Perfection, Agni Press, 1975.

2 Comments to “Finish Line: Each New Day, Each New Mile”

  1. I also find that there was no news anywhere about this amazing event is puzzling!!! Similarly the Boston Marathon which took place during this race had many records and fascinating stories..like the fastest marathon ever, the best finish by Americans in a long time, etc. That day and the next almost nothing was reported on TV or in the newspapers!!! At least we has your great blog to keep us up to date with the drama unfolding of perhaps the most mind boggling sporting event in the world. Our media for whatever reason embraces baseball, football, and basketball..running is not even considered. to be important enough to include even though millions of people RUN!!. I think they would have covered curling before running!!!
    This event truly shows that we are spiritual beings having this physical experience. There is no other way to explain how the flesh can be transcended for 6 or 10 days and accomplish these spectacular results!! Kudos to all the runners!!!!

  2. Thanks so much to everyone involved for an amazing experience – to Utpal for his abolutely inspiring blog which was one of the reasons I wanted to finally enter a multiday race for myself, to all fellow runner brothers and sisters who helped to create such an amazing atmosphere out there, to the helpers and race organizers, kitchen team and medical – including of course our chiropracters Mich and Gaurish who made it so much easier on our bodies! Like many others I talked to I have a strong feeling I will be back for more….

    A few more amateur impressions from the race can be found on: http://gallery.srichinmoycentre.org/members/vasanti/Self-Transcendence+6+Day+Race+2011

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