When you are sitting comfortably back in your armchair it is actually pretty easy to claim to be some kind of expert on what is really happening at the 3100 mile race. You might even be able to convince others but convincing yourself is another matter.
You can come every day, have endless conversations with each of the runners. Run around and around the course so many times that you might just to begin to mistakenly believe that you are one of them. But when you begin to become just a little too comfortable with that perception, the reality will always inevitably rear up in your path and confront you with the truth. It comes for me usually the moment I get to go back to my comfortable home and they all have to continue on.
I am not a psychologist and I am unfortunately noticing of late that my running ability has seen better days. There is a part of me though, deep inside that relates clearly and deeply to what these 10 incredible athletes are doing. There is an inner experience here that I comfortably identify with and relate to on a spiritual level. On the very mundane and practical reality, I just don’t understand some of the simple mechanics of it all. A perfect example of this is simply how one can find perfect detachment with the results and be able to find an absolute acceptance within themselves, at not completing all 3100 miles.
How that it is really possible to just be here and run and not to be constantly tantalized and tormented by the numbers. To somehow surrender completely to the inner experience, in which you really are detached from the demands and constraints of the outer world. Instead you are somehow able to tune your being to the beck and call of your own subtle inner voice.
Atmavir is for me is a running enigma. A vastly talented athlete he is here for the 5th year. In each of the last 2 years he has led the race going through the first 8 days and then it seems something just evaporates with both his speed and power. He looks, for lack of better words, like a high performance race car coasting around the track. I asked him this morning what he thinks most people think when they look at him. “They are probably wondering why I am not running,” he says.
“Today I can run easily. Because it is dry and the temperature is low at the moment. But it’s a game. For me it is no surprise. I have had so many walking days and it is similar to last year. But I don’t want to complain. I have to accept it.” Simply put Atmavir has come to understand that whenever the weather is hot and particularly humid his body cannot adapt to the conditions.
Yesterday, much to the relief of not just Atmavir, but also a few other runners Kausal, a very experienced Doctor has arrived to help. He told Atmavir that his body was out of balance. A practioner of Auyervedic medicine he told him his pita was very high. He says that on one of the most recent hot days he felt as though his body was burning. “The next 2 days I was only able to walk. Because the fire was still inside.” Because he wasn’t able to disperse this accumulated heat he just couldn’t function very well.
He tells me now, “I have ice everywhere. I have ice in my bed, I have ice in my pillow, around my body. I am wearing ice every day.” He also received an injection. “We will see how it works. I am very happy that I am running at the moment. I know that for me to go over 60 miles is not a big deal. When I am slow and only able to walk it is hard for me to go over 40 miles. When I am strong I can quite easily do 70 miles. (which he did for the first week) “That is a gap of 30 miles and that is a lot.”
He realizes though that he has to accept and learn something from each experience here. He says that in particular Ananda Lahari and Pradeep have been able to encourage and inspire him when times have been most difficult for him. “I am very grateful because in this race I am suffering not just psychologically but especially physically. It is not that I am walking but also I have very painful legs.”
We are coming up to Ananda Lahari who is one who always seems to be in touch with happiness no matter what happens. Atmavir says, “We are one family here. We are really united here. We are really like brothers and sisters. I call him a running saint.” Part 2 to follow
Ashprihanal heads into day 34 with just over 700 miles more to go. He is more than 200 miles ahead of his difficult race pace of last year but the whispers are beginning to grow just a little louder that he might, on this his 11th 3100 mile race, set a new personal best as well.
There really is no way to adequately describe how well this young man is doing. His performance would be unparalleled for a first timer if there were not in fact another first timer just 12 miles in front of him in second place. He has been patient and posed throughout.
These are the feet of someone who has spent the last month running at this point, 2300 miles.
I have a little joke with Purna Samarpan this morning. I notice that he has on on one tall blue sock and one short white one. I suggest that maybe he had a problem with his laundry. “Yeah the same thing happened with my shirt, it shrank. (laughter) For the moment it is hard to make jokes. He had one of his worst days yesterday in the race and he still has 1300 miles to go before the cutoff. The good news at least is that he is still 110 miles ahead of his previous best.
Kaushal saw him yesterday I ask him what is happening. “What can I say. For the last couple of days my body has been kind of swollen. Something with the lymph system, caused by the heat and humidity. Also one of my veins has come up. It was big before but it was never painful. A new experience.”
“Of course if you put up your legs and rest it at night, it doesn’t cause a problem. But running for a month. 16 to 17 hours a day, even if you lift up the legs during the breaks. We will see. I am icing it right now and it isn’t painful any more.”
Of Kaushal, “he came at the perfect right time. He said immediately that it was the circulation. I feel that for Atmavir, Ananda Lahari, and me that it is not so much about the running. It is for me about fighting the outer circumstances, the heat. It is a little bit frustrating because you can’t really do anything about it. You can’t really train for that, running in the heat.”
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“It was after the 7th day. I was still ahead of Ashprihanal. I was leading but I was not really checking the board. When I run, I run. When I have strength in my legs I do not think about the weather. I do not care about the board.”
“In the 7th day in the evening. I had a really high fever. I just thought it is coming again. It is exactly the same situation as last year. My body was really rejecting and collapsing. I was so upset and very sad. The thought came to me, I will not come next year, because I am really suffering. This doesn’t make sense to me because I came here to run. On those walking days I really suffer.”
It was precisely at that moment that Vinaya’s white car, (often driver of Sri Chinmoy) appeared. “I felt Sri Chinmoy very present in the car. He was laughing, and said. Did you say something? I really felt as though Sri Chinmoy was very present.”
“Then on day 30. It was the second walking day for me. It was early morning. I was clearly feeling that I was loosing energy, and that I would be walking all day. “ It was once again at his lowest moment that again the white car appeared driving by the camp.
“So I said to myself. I am really trying to do my best. The thing is that I have to stay cheerful, whatever comes. To put it nicely, not to be mad, disappointed, or unhappy. Because this doesn’t help anybody. So I try to feel oneness with others. Trying to be supportive even I am having a hard time.”
“I am also very grateful to Ananda Lahari, Pradeep, and also to others because they are also very inspiring to me.”
In the bigger picture I ask what a difficult experience like he is having ultimately does for him. “What I feel is that maybe I am making faster progress inwardly, when I am walking and suffering.”
Pradhan advised him a few days ago with advice he very much appreciated. He told him that if you want to get through the tough experience than you need to overcome it. “It was very simple advice.”
We then talk about the rainbow event that took place 2 days earlier. With the change in the weather and a light rain falling he suddenly found he could run again. It had been a miserable day of walking and for a few laps he felt he was running so fast that everyone else seemed to be stopped as he sped by them. “I was running faster than anybody here. I was so happy, like in heaven. Then the beautiful, most beautiful rainbow appeared. It was really like God’s touch. You just have to be more open and receptive. That is all that you need.”
He said that he is also not caught up in trying to remember Sri Chinmoy’s physical presence at the race any more. “We seek him inside, within. We all of us always find him on the track and everywhere.”
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Recited by Nikhad
Click to Play
My evening descends,
And I ask it
How I can stay in a cheerful frame of mind.
My evening tells me that what I need
Is a God-devotion-life
And a God-surrender-heart.
Sri Chinmoy, My Evening Descends, Agni Press, 1996.