June 27: The Impossible Is Possible

For 18 hours a day the lives of the 12 runners here are intertwined in an intricate blend of poise and pain and of sky high dreams and grinding despair.  For 10 days straight they have never been further from each other than the unyielding dimensions of this unforgiving New York city block.  Yet at other moments despite even the scuffing proximity of another runner’s foot steps filling their ears right beside them, they could not be more alone.

Sometimes feeling so vulnerable and helpless that it is almost as though they are cast adrift in a limitless sea.  One in which they themselves courageously and willingly immersed themselves.   Setting off from one safe comfortable shore 10 long days ago and now their goal still remains so far off that it seems to be way beyond the mightiest cast of their loftiest imagination.

The smiling faces of helpers weave in and out of the fabric of the day in a unscripted choreography of generous service and sublime intentions.  Even the most well meaning and sympathetic presence however will soon eventually slip away as the day grows stifling or the heavy shadows of night tumbles down about them.

The runners here of course may feel for a time that they are alone but still they can never ever be separated from the mountain task poised threateningly and immobile in front of them.  So daunting to reach that at times even their precious allies hope and determination scatter timidly to the sidelines replaced instead by doubt and fatigue as they try to steal their places in their hearts.

Grahak on the phone with Canberra friends

Grahak’s friends back home in Australia have been keenly following his progress here.  The yawning gulf that separates him physically from home is not so great that emails and faxes cannot be dashed off and in his hand almost instantly.  There is a large group that really cares for him just as there are others following all the runners from Bulgaria, Switzerland, and all the other countries represented here.  Dear ones trying to bridge the yawning physical chasm between them.  Reaching out and sending love, hope, and prayers that are greatly appreciated and will always find an inviting reception in the hearts of those running here who need it most.

Grahak was really looking forward to a phone call from Australia this morning.  He had received a text message that one was imminent.  His helper Satyakarma sorted out all the logistics.  He has been running hard the past 10 days and is even on pace to do a personal best and by doing so would set a new Australian record.

 

Alone he stood
Above all storms of life.

He stood alone
To challenge pain and strife.

Alone he stood
To feed a blooming race.

He stood alone
To change earth’s tearful face.

 

Sri Chinmoy, Kennedy: The Universal Heart, Agni Press, 1973.

Someone has thoughtfully sent a jar filled with aphorisms  for the runners

 

Start Day 11

“It’s been good.  I am still looking forward to getting better sleep.  I still wake up in a lot of pain, things like that.”  There is probably no other runner who can so freely discuss their suffering with such a complete sense of calm detachment.  He has been here 3 times before so that particular aspect of the race here he is more than intimately familiar with.  He is however an extremely talented athlete and knows all too well just how to exploit and utilize all his capacity.  Push himself right up to the frightening precipice of his limits and then not take a tumble over the edge.

“In my first year here doing a 70 mile day was incomprehensible.  In my second year I did a few.  In my third year it took me a couple of weeks before I could get one.  But this year I have just managed to get a few of them in a row so that is good.”  His humility does not allow him to mention that in fact over the past 10 days he has run over 70 miles 8 times.  His average miles per day in his last race was just over 69.

He says it would be nice to get 70 this time but philosophically adds, “it may be a cliche but you have to do each day as it comes.  I am not too worried if I don’t get there.  If everything goes smoothly with my breaks with the weather, with problems.  I should be able to get there. Ashprihanal used to say 70 miles a day keeps the Doctor away.”

“I started strongly but I had some problems yesterday.  I was just like really sad, and this is why my helper, Satyakarma is so great.  He helped cheer me up and got me some special drinks.  My mileage has been good and strong.  I figure I just have to stay happier and smile more, and try and get more joy.  Rather than feel I am pushing the whole time.”

He has continued the tradition of performing short jokes in front of the girl singers many mornings.  “It gives me joy too, and makes them laugh a bit, and whoever is with me gets some joy performing.  We also get a bit of joy practicing as we go around.”  At this point he adds, “I am running out of ideas.  I need some jokes sent to me.”

“I really miss As- prihanal.  Just having him on the course is inspiring.  He used to light up the course when he was around, so that is why I miss him.  Everyone does.”

“I don’t really like being the leader.”  He starts day 11 almost 40 miles ahead of Pranjal.   “I would just rather be focusing on my own race.  Doing the best I could do.  I don’t even really know my mileage or how far ahead I am.  Sri Chinmoy says,  just compete with yourself, and I am comfortable with that.”

Rathin was the first Australian to run here,  “when I saw him run here something clicked.  I knew in the back of my mind that it was something that I wanted to do.”

He mentions that so far he has received all kinds of messages from friends and family.  “Just wishing me the best and offering their good will, it helps.  It really does.”

There is a moment when he passes Pranjal and he good-naturedly gives him a playful punch in the arm.  “It is good fun when Pranjal messes around.  There is a mixture out here.  Obviously people are very focused, but you have to have fun and joy amongst all the difficulties.”

 

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“I never see Satyakarma this early in the morning.”  Grahak jokes about his friend and helper being there at the race at just past 6am.  He has come there specially though to facilitate a phone call.  Satyakarma’s response, “come on  I am always meditating at this time of the morning.”  Laughter…..(with your eyes closed lying down.”

“I am doing okay he is very easy to handle.  Basically he does everything and just tells me what to do.  I just do very small things for him.  He is the complete package.  He is a professional. (much more laughter)

“I will have to make you work harder.”……..”No, No, I am worked off my feet.”

“Normally I come here at 9 in the morning.  He has normally done 25 laps by then.  He is in a groove by then.  I get him some special food and drink and just make sure he is going okay.  Breakfast comes around that time.  So I cut up his meals into smaller portions, so he can carry it around.  So then until lunch time I make special cold drinks, especially if it is hot weather.  Then I leave after his break at 2:30.  Get his feet ready and maybe a little massage.  Make sure he has had all his vitamins, minerals, and pills.  So normally I am having a break around 3.  So then I try and go for a run or something, then come back at 6.  Then it is dinner time again so I am organizing his meal.  Make sure there is plenty of fluids.”

“Then there is a small break at 7.  Then it is just preparing his feet, address any issues he has maybe ice him down.  Then make sure he is fine all the way to his finish sometime around quarter past 11.  Then we disappear on our bikes home, and that is the day for me.  Simple, but Grahak has run about 128 laps in that time.  I think I have it pretty easy compared to him.”

“Grahak is amazing.  He is so determined and he is relentless in his pursuit of the goal, and that gives me a lot of joy actually.  Same with the other runners.  When you set out on a journey of 3100 miles.  If you think about it in your mind the distance is a long way.  But these guys are going to cover that distance and the joy you get when that goal is reached, even if you are someone just watching the race.  Helping a small amount is unbelievable.  It is like yes, doing the impossible is possible, and if you just set your mind to it.  Take a small step each day.  That does come true.”

“So the ability of us to believe we can reach seemingly big goals is really inspiring and gives everyone lots of inspiration and encouragement and joy.  These guys are true champion runners in every sense of the term.”

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Satyakarma recites the poem of the day

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Enthusiasm AwakenersClick to Play

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The body feels
To live without sleep is impossible.

The vital feels
To live without ambition is impossible.

The mind feels
To live without information is impossible.

The heart feels
To live without love is impossible.

The soul feels
To live without God-Light is impossible.

Sri Chinmoy, Giving And Becoming, Agni Press, 1974.

3 Comments to “June 27: The Impossible Is Possible”

  1. chanakhya says:

    I am watching you from a distance and sending best wishes to you and all the runners.
    In Sarajevo
    Chanakhya

  2. Suman says:

    I wish all the best to all the runners.
    Love from Nepal
    Suman

  3. Padyatra says:

    I am little behind in reading, but as always you are doing a superb job. Reading this blog brought an idea to me. You spend most of the day creating this blog and we can read it in few minutes, how unfair. And this also brings up an parallel. Runners are struggling 18 hours a day around a hard block and at the end of the day we check the daily results, just to see how many miles each of them made, sometimes without even realizing how much efford was needed to get there.

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