Day Two: Just Being Here

20 miles into her first marathon she was not certain that she could even finish it.  If there was anything certain to Grete Waitz at that moment, on a cold October morning, was that most definitely she would never run a marathon again.  Yet she did in fact complete the race that day.  The second half of her race would turn out to be faster than her first.  She not only completed running her first New York city marathon in 1978,  she broke the world record as well by running 2:32:30.

Picture by Bhashwar

Her run that day in New York was unexpected to everyone including herself.  She was a top notch Norwegian middle distance runner who had competed in races no longer than 3km.  She had been invited to be a pace setter and add  international flavor to an event that was just becoming popular.  Sadly we lost this champion today at the age of 57.  She inspired not only women athletes but distance runners of all kinds.  She would go on to win the NYC marathon 9 times and was a friend to Sri Chinmoy and many of the activities he helped inspire.

Grete’s lesson that day in 1978 is familiar to all who run in multi day races.  Not just in Flushing Meadow but everywhere runners try to push back the limitations they believe that are in front of them and holding them back.  Few have the capacity to break world records but transcending oneself is another mater entirely.  It can and should be a life long task.  It is of course something that doesn’t necessarily give itself up freely.  It must be worked and strived for.

Grete Waitz once said, “For every finish line tape a runner breaks–complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras–there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.

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Day One: “We Have To Have Faith”

“I think it really helps running with people when you are in a low spot.  I just did a long race 5 days ago and I am really struggling.”  It may seem a little peculiar for an experienced multi day runner to be having a tough time just a few hours into a 10 race.  There is after all still a lot of real estate between her and the finish line.

But for Sarah Barnett from Adelaide, as good as she is at modesty, she is undeniably world class when it comes to multi day running.  It will take me some time to check on what exactly the race was she ran a couple of days earlier.  As it turns out she had come here almost immediately from the Athens Ultramarathon festival in Greece where she placed 5th overall in the 1000 km race in 9 days and 12 hours.

When I meet her on the first day it is early afternoon and she has so far completed about 25 miles.  At that time she is running with Dasha Yashina a first time runner from Russia.  They are moving comfortably and their conversation seems like they have been friends for years and not just a few hours.  Sarah says, “people are being really kind.”  She was unable to attend last years race due to some complications involving a passport gone astray. She has regularly attended the race over the last few years.  Now she says, “I want to see if it is possible to put 2 races together.  Now I am wondering if it is such a good idea, and laughs.”  In the 2009 race she ran 684 miles.

“We have to have faith, and not put our trust in our negative minds.” Her goal is simple, to do better than she did 2 years ago.  After saying this she immediately adds, that if if she cannot do it, she will still be happy.  Sarah of course is an elite runner.  It would be easy to expect some bravado from such a talented athlete, but the opposite seems to be the case with her.  Her humility shines on a day when the sky is grey and the winds blow and push almost constantly.  Sometime later she will come up to me after our initial chat and say, that while she is here she wants to take the unique opportunity of being at the race and feel as though she is surrendering to her own spirituality.  Let it express itself through her running and let the results speak for themselves.

One can of course hope to come away from races, both big and small, with world records and great achievements.  This is after all the day it was announced that the record in the marathon was broken.  Self Transcendence however is something deep and it is something intensely personal.  The counters cannot mark it down nor can reporters with microphones record it.  We bystanders may be fortunate once in a while to see a certain smile and a glow about those who have stepped into a new realm.  We might, but most likely we cannot see beyond the boundaries of our own world and limitations.

Sarah has started something remarkable today.  A 10 day race so soon after a 1000km one.  It is impossible to predict any outcome for her this soon and with so far to go.  Yet despite this one still has to appreciate the strength and courage she has to undertake such a thing.  We all can be inspired by it, and wish her only the best.  Perhaps in just learning about a feat such as hers, a hope may be nurtured within us all, that maybe someday we too can perhaps attempt the impossible as well, and transcend ourselves from within.

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Perfection’s Address

It is decidedly an exclusive New York Address.  It is one in which there are many who would love to visit, but perhaps don’t have the very unique requirements to call it home.  A stay here is never permanent.  At the very best one can move in for just 10 days each spring.  For those who are brave enough to come and do their very best it will be no vacation, and certainly no metaphorical walk in the park.  To come and stay here in Flushing Meadow is to be part of the Self Transcendence 6 & 10 Race, an event so challenging and yet so fulfilling you will probably remember your stay here for the rest of your life.


For a week now, a construction crew led by Bipin, has been putting it all together.  The first race starts on Monday and the preparation, just to be able to say “Go.” at noon on that day is an incredible undertaking in and of itself.

To put it mildly, the weather has not been great.  For most construction crews this could mean lengthy delays but the clock never stops ticking here.  There is just too much to be done and so little precious time.

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