July 31: To Make Progress

Perhaps if one had the ability to truly  listen then you could always somehow hear the sands of time as they slipped away forever.   But how does one soberly comprehend this, when you are caught up in those precious moments of glorious celebration, such as when the race began here 50 days ago. Each day that followed a turbulent mix of hope and pain and yes, progress.

Runners, helpers, well wishers all caught up in a dizzy swirl of anticipation.  Who dares or wants to see that an inevitable  stone faced conclusion was going to simply march forward to end it all.  Perhaps not to mortal ears but certainly to some, the distinct discordant note of finality could always be heard, even when the calender made it all seem so so distant and so endless.

Back then certainly I could not peer forward into the murky mists of time.  Now of course you don’t need any telepathy, or crystal ball, or conjuring spell.  An ever increasing weight of quietness, and a sobering lack of energy is tangible and real here now. The great fat luxury of what appeared to be endless time has now been reduced to just 5 stick thin days.

Four runners have retired victoriously from the course and one was felled by injury.   The math is clear, that leaves but 5 gallant souls to continue the great odyssey on their own.  The board is static with victory banners, a few are still creeping their way up there as well.  But 5 less bodies means 5 less footfalls, 5 less smiles and cheers, and all who are left are more alone on the half mile loop than ever.

 

Then you have the incomprehensible saga of Surasa.  The luxurious reservoir she had in order to reach the goal has been reduced to vapors.  2 days ago she completed just 12 miles and yesterday 27.  In front of her is 261 more unflinching miles and 5 hot days in which to do it.

 

The Las Vegas odds makers certinaly wouldn’t  put any money on her chances here, and yet.

And yet today she begins to tentatively run once more, if even for a few steps here and there.  To push and prod her way back from the brink of disaster. How this story will conclude I cannot yet see or hear.  It is only on the tablet of her heart that it is etched clear.  Eventually time will be forced to share it with us all.

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July 30: The Way To The Goal

At the end of its life the Phoenix bird would go to its nest, and once there, be consumed by flames.  It is a mythological bird and its story seems to exist in many cultures with some variations.

What is similar throughout all the variations of the tale is how, once it is reduced to ashes, it rises up again to take flight.  It somehow lives again as it did before.

Surasa has amazingly reappeared on the course again this morning.  Maybe not rising out of the ashes, and certainly not immortal, but just perhaps maybe unstoppable, as she refuses to give up her flight of self transcendence.

I am just trying to see if I can walk properly.  I like to be here and to be out, and not to lie down.  I just came and I will try and see if it gets better.

The first Doctor said that it was a very deep muscle inside my calf and it was injured, and I have to rest for 3 days.  Then I should see her and she would tell me if I can walk or run.

After this I thought, I have to try everything.”  Then she visited a local auyervedic Doctor who gave her some pills and a massage oil.  “Ahh, in 3 or 4 hours you can run.”  (Laughter)  “And I was looking at him, hunnh?  He was absolutely sure, yes.  Of course.  In 3 or 4 hours you will run.”

After this she went home and applied the oil, took the pills, and came back to the race.  So she continued.  Not flying, not running, but at least she is walking.  “What can I do?  You have to take it and accept it.  That’s life.”

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July 29: Another Dream Complete

In most team sports whenever  a player is injured or not doing well they can be benched or substituted with someone faster or stronger or simply better suited to face the game conditions.  But in individual competition taking a break for long is never an option or a solution.

For individual runners who are competing here ultimately they have only themselves.  They are alone on this 3100 mile road and whenever and whatever the experience may be comes, it has to be felt, experienced, and endured by them alone.

Nothing can be avoided or put off until tomorrow.  There is no hiding from duty, no shirking of responsibility, you must stand up and confront adversity with who you are and what you have inside.  Today Surasa is facing a foe, who with brute and painful force is trying to steal away from her, what appeared just yesterday to be inevitable and an almost certain victory in the 3100 mile race.

When she started on day 47, Thursday morning, she looked as relaxed and confident as she has been all summer.  Yet even then the pain was building in her leg and refused to be subdued and beaten back by her will.  “These muscles were tight for a long time, especially after the day off.  Then in the evening and the next day they were very tight.  Then yesterday they were worse.  Then all of a sudden, I couldn’t move any more.”

Today is Friday morning and rain drifts across the course in brief yet drenching bursts.  Eventually it stops but Surasa does not.  Her quest to complete the race bravely and gallantly continues.  This morning she has returned to the race after pain forced her to leave the course yesterday.  She is walking and it is obviously painful.  In front of her appears to be an impossible task.  321 unyielding miles more to go, and now only 7 days left in which to do it.

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July 28: What You Are Meant To Do

Photo by Jowan

One more runner will complete the 3100 today.  Unlike the previous 2 finishers who were first timers, Ashprihanal has crossed the line before.  Today in fact he will complete his 11th self transcendence race.  Not one for overstatement or bravado of any sort he says this morning simply, “I am very happy, very glad.  One more race for Guru.  So That’s good.”

When asked if this race was the hardest of them all?  “Last year I felt also was hard, with heat all the time.  So I don’t know.  So I would say the last 2 years were hard.  Before that I don’t remember.” (laughter)

If we all really thought a lot about very hard projects in advance, before we did them, most likely not much would ever get done.  Even just to prepare yourself for a single one of these races is terrifying little alone accomplishing what Ashpihanal is about to do.  How can you even begin to fathom what it must be like to have run 34,100 miles around the block here.  Only one other person can understand of course, and that is Suprabha, who accomplished the same thing 13 times.  Still if he somehow knew that he was going to do this 11 times, he probably never would have got on the plane in Helsinki even the first time.

It is clear with not just him but with all the runners who come here that something deep within compels them all to come and do this.  Whether it be just once, or in his case, now close to a dozen times.

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July 27: Comes From Within

This morning Igor makes a small joke with Sarvagata.   This marvelous young runner, from Vinnitsa Ukraine, is is looking at the daily lap sheet report and points out to his friend, “you only made 99 laps yesterday.”

It is just part and parcel of the quiet and gentle humor that is Igor.  Sarvagata of course had no reason to run even one additional lap yesterday.  For on that day he completed his journey.  In the process setting a record for first time runners of the 3100.

Tomorrow perhaps another runner will also be able to make a joke about Igor’s laps,  for most certainly they will be much less then his friend Sarvagata.  Today of course, after he completes just 12 miles more, his race will also be over, and he will be the second finisher of the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.

A few hours later, when he at last has taken his final step and he felt the ribbon of the finish line embrace his chest.  I ask, are you overwhelmed?  “It is not overwhelming.  My consciousness is so spread out that I can’t join it together.”

He has tremendous experience in multi day running, I ask if any other race can compare to this.  “This race is so big that I cannot compare it to any other.  My mind cannot compare it to anything else.”

When he finished his race, he gave no speech, made no grand gestures of celebration, other than to offer up a sweet and humble smile. Yet it was within that smile that there was a brilliance and a brightness that was not overshadowed by the morning sun itself beaming through the canopy of trees.  He had only one request, that Sri Chinmoy’s song, My Own Gratitude Heart, be sung.  Those who were there to celebrate his victory obliged.  I ask him why he asked for it, and he says, “I heard it inside myself all morning.”

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July 26: Gift From Heaven

Sarvagata’s sister, Sarvadhara is with her brother on this his final few hours here at the race.  This morning he will simply continue to do what he has done now for so many long days.  At the end of this day though, he needs go no further, and what is more, he will also be the champion.

He has but 55 miles more to go now, so small a gap it is almost as though his foot is already poised to step at last across the finish line.  Just a few laps more,  when compared to all the suffering and joy he has experienced and endured now for 44 days.  Using an American expression, I tell her that what he has left to do now is but a ‘piece of cake.’  I ask her if there might be a better expression in Ukrainian.  She says his race is like a, ‘Gift from Heaven.’  Her expression is much better.

It was a little more than a month ago that she was able to visit her brother only briefly before having to leave for Chicago.  “He has changed a lot.  Outwardly his appearance has changed.  He became darker and thinner. (laughter) And stronger.  Also I feel that something inside him also changed.  He became more sensitive, more subtle.  It is difficult to explain, but he is like a soul here.  I cannot see his body, it is something very new for me.  Any way he is my brother and I feel a deep connection with him.  I am very happy that I am here and can be in touch with his experience.”

When I saw her last she was a little disappointed that she would not be able to spend the entire time helping her brother.  In fact she was able to be with him for less than a day.  “Of course in every situation we have to see some positive sides.  We just have to look for it.  If I couldn’t be here I feel it was very important for me to dive deep within and try to feel what is going on.  But it is better to be here.” (laughter)

Instead of being her brother’s helper the job fell upon the very capable and tireless shoulders of Dimitry.  “When you have a supporter it is definitely easier to run.”  She describes how he supported Sarvagata both inwardly and outwardly.  On a practical level he simply had to rarely stray from the straightest possible course.  Those few extra steps Dimitry did for him, she says.  “Every lap, 4 or 5 steps.  He saved time and he saved energy for Sarvagata.”

 

 

 

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July 25: That’s Possible

Early this morning Pradeep showed me something wonderful.  We had run a few laps together and I was just about to go when he invited me over to his table and he pulled this amazing picture out of his bag.  He was really happy and proud to show it to me and I could see why.  For it showed the front of the Health Food store in Den Haag in which he is the manager.  In his absence his employees, instead of goofing off, have dedicated the entire front window of the shop to him and his exploits here at the 3100 mile race.

Front in center of the window is posted his daily mileage which all his friends are anxiously watching as well as I am sure the customers who know him so well too.  I can just imagine the person whose job it is to go to the results page and print it out every day.  Now with just 11 days of running left just about everyone can start wiggling all 10 fingers and come up with the exact math of what he needs to do.

 

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July 24: It Is Just Real

They are the quiet heroes.  They are but 10 and yet though so small in number, these runners are a veritable army rising up to challenge impossibility.  If you look for champions who wear capes and wave magic wands they will not impress you at all.  For their foes are not diabolical wizards but things that can subdue us all, like weather and weariness.

When our most crushing enemy is a simple lack of faith in ourselves they demonstrate each day, by simply lacing up their shoes that all ignorance can be defeated. You just have to try.

Just a day ago they entered a battle like most had never seen.  Nature launched a twin salvo of suffering.  With one hand it threw at them heat and with the other it showered them with humidity.  A deadly combination that ground much of the city and country into submission and yet they continued to respond as best they could.

Slowed, and certainly humbled, they nonetheless ambled on through it all.  Each making at least 40 miles when much of the rest of humanity was scampering to  shelter at beaches and cozy air conditioned homes.

Not surprising, at least not to those who have watched the great escapade unfold this summer, is that the ones who surrendered to it least of all were Pranjal and Surasa.

Somehow Pranjal, with his big Slovak engine inside, churned and rumbled his way all the way to 57 miles (104 laps) on Friday.  The gentle Austrian lady Surasa also completed 104 laps.  She who is skipping lightly over any of our usual notions about surrendering to the limitations of age.  Each day she continues to prove that has to be composed of some much more tougher stuff inside.  There are times when it appears as though she just makes it all looks so easy and almost effortless.   As though we all could be quiet heroes.

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July 23: Race Postponed 24 hours

Due to the severe nature of the current weather forecast for the New York region the race has been postponed for 24 hours. The Self Transcendence race will resume once again on Sunday morning.

The race directors made this decision in the best interest of all the runners who will now take a well deserved break and try and recoup from Friday’s severe conditions.  The health and safety of the runners is their first and foremost objective.

A decision has also been made to extend the running schedule by 2 additional days.  This means that when running resumes the total available running time for the runners will be 54 days now and not 52.

Please check out this space tomorrow when the race resumes.  I appreciate any and all interest in this race and hope you can find some inspiration in my daily stories.

As always the runners can be contacted by sending Emails to:

ny@srichonmoyraces.org

July 22: Happiness Has To Come

Do you remember how your mother used to wake you up on schooldays.  My Mom had just that special kind of tone to her voice that I assume most mothers just naturally use with their children.  It was a blend of affection, tireless support, and just the right hint of the much tougher parenting material.  Every morning here for the past 40 days Rupantar has had a similar kind of tone to roust exhausted runners out of chairs and gradually get them shuffling towards the starting line.  Today he was using some of the tough love talk that I have rarely heard him use before.

Conditions, not just in New York, but across the entire east coast have now dramatically shifted from intolerable to dangerous.  When people from other places suggest that it can’t be that bad because they regularly experience temperatures  which are just as hot. People here resort to an age old mantra, ‘It is not the heat it is the humidity.” Rupantar was going around to all the runners and asking them to be extra careful.

He said to Atmaivr, “Start drinking now.  Don’t be afraid that you are not going to finish the race.  If you have to, slow down.  You know what you have to do.  You are going to finish the race.  Today you just want to survive.  If you want to take a long break it is okay.”

“It is hotter than the hottest.  This is as hot as it gets.  Some of the runners are new, and they haven’t experienced it.  If they are not careful I will pull them out of the race.  It is as simple as that.”

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