Day Four: What We Create Together

“Obviously I haven’t become more clever or wiser since I am still doing a World Run.”  In the fall of 2005 I met Jesper Olsen for the first time as he was running across lower Manhattan.  At the time he was in the final weeks of a round the world run.  After a brief stop in Queens he then flew on to Ireland and than completed his journey when he returned to Greenwich England 20 months after he first began.  Now once again he is in the final stages of another round the world run, but one this time that is trying as best as possible to travel North South and back again.

This incredibly talented 40 year old Danish runner has never sought after fame or the limelight despite his incredible achievements.  Almost from the moment you hear him speak it is easy to realize that something heart felt and deep within motivates and inspires him to undertake these epic journeys.

When he speaks about the moment he completed his first run he feels that it was not the celebration for him that was significant but more so how people from around the world were drawn together.  “I don’t find any individuals as important, but what we create together is infinitely important.  I was not just one lonely runner approaching the finish line.  That scenario does not hold any value.  For this individual to cross the finish line was not important.”

He describes how one of his sponsors had promised that if he was able to finish the event he would run the final leg with him.  Jesper believes that the man did not really think he would do it.  In fact the man kept his pledge, and despite a lack of training managed to run the final 78 km with Jesper.  “That gave me much more joy than my own accomplishment.”

“I hope most of all that people understand what a peaceful place we live in.  If the world is as dangerous, and hostile, and different, as we see in the evening news.  There is no chance of our survival.”  He explains that when you meet people of the world directly as he does along the way, the true nature of the world becomes vividly apparent.  He feels that it has progressed he says even since the first time he circled the globe.

A few days ago he took a break from his journey after first reaching Boston.  The timing was perfect to then be able to take part in the Self Transcendence 6 day race here in Flushing meadow.  Although being here would be in no way beneficial to physically completing his journey  he feels simply that he was due for an inner recharge.  Be for a short while with a family of runners who do not just share his dreams, but also, in their own way view and experience the world, not just with their eyes, but also with their hearts.

He jokes about what place he will be in at the end of 6 days.

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On this bright Sunny Saturday many of the 6 day runners are showing up.  Putting up tents, setting out essentials, and doing whatever last minute preparation they must do before the great journey begins tomorrow.  A day in which weather forecasters are not describing as being as cheery as today.  Rimas Jakelaits, a 57 year old runner from Brooklyn was once a regular at these races but has not turned in an appearance since the 10 day in 2006.  “When I ran the 10 day 6 years ago, on the 2nd day I had a problem with my knee and had to go home.  For one day I didn’t run.  After one day rest I came back and won this race.  I ran only 9 days.”

“After this race I ran very very easy.  Every month about 100 miles. But one year ago I started training a little harder.  I feel good.  Before I was a little fat but now I have a good shape.”  He says though that though he feels recovered he is not up to the conditioning he had in 2001 when he ran 901 miles here and set a world record.  This time he says, “my goal is to break the course record of 541 miles.  It is not difficult to run 90 miles nearly every day.”

 

“When I was young I liked to run fast.  Now I like to run easy, listen to music and to meditate.  To run hard for 6 days is difficult, especially for the mind.”  He is optimistic about his performance but says that if the weather turns cold and wet he may set his goal a little lower and run 80 miles a day instead.  “When the weather gets better I will come back and try more.”

 

He is also very enthused about the strong field of runners in the race.  “If there are very more good runners it is very good for the result.  Everyone tries and catch everyone else.  It is better for me and better for everybody.”

 

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Jayasalini gets a little help preparing her tent for possible bad weather.

 

 

Last summer Pete Stringer turned 70 and the only thing that ever stops him from coming here with his wife Jane is if the Boston Marathon gets in the way.  Apparently this year a 6 day recovery period is just about right.

Yashasvati Plyavinskaya a 46 year old runner from St. Petersburg Russia is running here for the 4th time.  She is part of a large contingent of Russians who regularly turn up at the race and because of linguistic problems I simply do not get a chance to talk with.  At this moment she is about to head back onto the track and she willingly takes a moment so that Andrei Somov can translate my questions.

“It is like a home for me here, being with family.”  I suggest that it just might be a very hard home to live in and she laughs and says, “Sometimes it is a happy place too.”

“I do not run to set records.”

She describes an experience that just happened, one in which she did not receive her luggage for 2 days.  She was happy and amazed in how friends simply came to her rescue and gave her everything she needed until the bags reappeared.

“I feel that here is not only my family but also something very special happens being here.  It is all simply a miracle.”

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“It needs to brew in your heart and your soul and your brain.”  Jesper explains as best he can why he was inspired to go out once again and run around the world.  He says it wasn’t anything like the story of Forest Gump.   The movie character  is cute and simple but nothing at all how Jesper himself felt inwardly drawn to go out and do it.  He describes that the push to go ahead and do something of this magnitude needs sufficient time to develop and be nurtured inside.  “While you understand it with your logic,  your soul needs to understand and your body needs to understand it.  It has to build itself to be ready.”

“The first one was one year and 10 months now I have been running since the first of July 2008.”  It takes him some time to actually calculate just how long he has been running this time.  As he describes the different legs of his journey his face lights up with pleasure as he recalls the highlights.  So many precious moments almost from the very beginning in Norway and then down through Eastern Europe and then on down through Africa.  When asked whether or not he touched down in Antarctica he says that he is a stubborn Scandinavian and that since there are no roads there he would not have been able to properly cross the continent in its entirety like his other legs.   “If I run on the continent I want to experience the whole continent.”

As he made his way up through South America he says, “then there is one of the reasons that I do the world run.  When you approach the Andes mountain, not like you look from an airplane and than you are there.  It took about one month.  Then you slowly begin to see those small glimpses of snow that is way up in the horizon, and during the month they grow and they grow.  Then suddenly you take the first step of running up through the mountains.”

He describes eventually going through a high pass there that was more of a struggle for his support vehicle than for him.  One of the marvels of the human body is how it is able to adapt.  His 3 weeks of climbing had adequately prepared him for the summit of the pass. “Nature is infinitely stronger than the machinery we can construct.”

A more difficult question causes him to rub his chin.  One that would appear simple, but to the always evolving Jesper Olsen he was now not so certain exactly where his World Run 2 will end.  At one time it was going to be St. Johns Newfoundland.  “To be totally honest.  The run develops as you run.  When you have a challenge you sometimes have to make it relative so that you can overcome it.  What if I run longer than I am supposed to?”  In essence he started and finished his first in the same place.  Now if he finishes in Newfoundland he will still be 3000 miles short of this starting point.

“Now I am getting closer to the finish line.  I know officially it is in Newfoundland.  I should reach it in the middle of July this year.”  To reach his starting point before the weather gets bad is almost impossible.  “It is 500km north of the Arctic circle.”

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Why run the 6 day race?

“If you ask me this question in a couple of days after it has been raining I will give you an answer in loud Scandinavian words.  Laughs

“For me it works as a mental break from the World Run.  In ultra running the difficult part is with the mind.  It is the mental part not the physical part.  “You get a lot of energy from other runners, and it is a very small community world wide, and being here is a rare chance to meet my colleagues and I definitely do not want to miss it.”

“A 6 day race has a short term finish.  You put in an effort and you see the result.  In the World Run you put in an effort day after day and month after month and year after year, and you do not see any result.  This is a chance for me to get the feeling again.  You run and you get a result.”

He knows that the field is very competitive.  He has no real goal because he just has not idea what his body will be able to do.  “I am really curious, usually I am able to do about 700, 750km, in a 6 day race.  What is the impact of all those miles (I have done)”

On average he runs about a marathon a day but on occasion has run as far as 100 km.  “But on the many, many, many days, where I am tired and not inspired, then I do whatever the body tells me is possible.”

“It is definitely my hope that by participating it will definitely charge my spirit for this run.  That is what is suffering the most at this point.  After 3 or 4 years of running, after 20,000km of running it is like hitting the wall in the marathon.  From one week to the next, bang, it can be suddenly gone.  That light, that energy, that drive that you really want to run.”

“I think anyone who runs as long as we do here, needs in one way or the other has to have a spiritual side.  As they wouldn’t be able to do as they do.”

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Ananda Lahari finished his 3rd day here with nearly 200 miles.  As someone who has run the 3100 mile race many times he is extremely experienced at multi day races.  The sun however has been a problem today and he is enthusiastic if the weather were to become cooler.  For today Daria gets to play.  Tomorrow her race will start.

“This is all about, it comes from my heart.  My devotion to give something to the runners.  I know how hard they run.  I know they are running for something.  They need some extra help.”

In a far off corner of the race course, Zeferino and his 2 year old son have been standing for several hours holding out a small cardboard box.   From this he has been taking out cups of water and offering the runners as well some Mexican cakes.

It is all done quietly and with such love, that a noisy busy world just might not notice such a sweet and genuinely generous gift, even if happened right in front of their very eyes.  But the runners notice because they too are in their hearts like Zeferino and his small son.

He is a runner himself and has lived in this neighborhood for 10 years and has always been aware of the race when it takes place each year.  Of those who pass by, he says, “I know how they feel.”

 

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What does God do
By Himself, with His own Heart?
He and His Heart
Together create Smiles
That span His own Vision-Sky.

One Comments to “Day Four: What We Create Together”

  1. Laura says:

    Uptal, I love your blogs about self transcendence races. So inspiring. I live vicariously. the 10 day race is a pre-lude to the 3,100. I love that too. Gets me thru the summer.

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