June 21: Transformation For Me

“I was the youngest to attempt and complete the race in 2005.”  That year when Sopan first came here to run the 3100 mile race he was only 24 years old.  I ask him what he remembers about himself at that time, so many years and miles ago. He laughs at just the thought of this absurd question.  “No really.  After my first race I changed so much.  I cannot remember.  My first race was such a huge transformation for me.”

So I ask, over these past 8 years what then has he become.  His simple answer, “I hope better.”

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The news that someone has become a better person simply isn’t that interesting to traditional media.  Do some terrible act and a throng of journalists will be at your door in an instant.  There are times when I watch people reading newspapers where I work and you can see them getting visibly more miserable as they consume one ugly story after the next.

We seem to be almost continually bombarded by bad news from around the world, accompanied as well by shocking pictures of these same events.  Sometimes you can get the impression by reading the news that nothing beautiful or inspiring is happening anywhere in this world of ours.  Which is really not true of course.  The soulful beautiful things are simply hard to find and perhaps just a little more difficult to tell as well.

Quite a few people over the last week have commented that they have been inspired by the 3100 mile race.  From remarks printed and otherwise communicated it is clear that there are many people around the world who do see and feel that something soulful and significant is happening right now on a hard cement block in Queens.

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Savadhara recently said, “Utpal, please, say every runner that in faraway Ukraine and Russia their friends are following them every step. We pray for them and we are very grateful.”

Francesco wrote, “Today I had a day so hard that all the time I imagined if I could be a runner in the 3100 mile race that runs between peace and harmony,
suffering outside, but with so much joy on the inner level.”

Laura from Texas says, “Every year since 2006 I have been peeking in on this race and love seeing the regulars come back and new ones succeed.”

These comments and many more that I have received over the last week have helped me to see as well  just how this 3100 mile race does not just exist on this fragment of a New York street. That the course does not just endlessly circle one short half mile strip of concrete.

In many ways it also exists in the thoughts and feelings of all those who can identify with the great journey that is continually taking place here and over the course of the long hot summer ahead.  That at its finest moments, the race can connect and inspire the hearts of all those who are reaching forward towards their own self transcendence.

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Do not avoid
But transform
The things that need
Transformation.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 77, Agni Press, 1984

Baladev before the start.

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Counters getting ready.

pre-counters

A gift of flowers.

pre-flowers

It is the longest day of the year and the sun will not shine so brightly this early again

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Sarah performing a little damage control on her feet.

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Surasa wanting to keep a clear perspective on things.

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Start

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There is something that Ashprihanal made clear yesterday, when he ran 71 miles, more than anyone else is that he has his racing legs once again.

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His distance yesterday was 4 more than Atmavir and 7 more than Vasu.  Sri Chinmoy once said that for Ashprihanl running was like drinking water.

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It is way too early to see how things will eventually unfold.

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Sopan has run 113 laps every day for the past 4 days.

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“So far so good.”  When a runner here runs that consistently it is certainly an indication that they are doing well by the numbers.  More importantly however is what you see in their faces in the sound of their footsteps.  Sopan has looked solid and clear from the very start last Sunday.  As we run you can hear the steady rhythmical shuffle as his shoes lightly scuffs against the sidewalk.

In his race here last year he had to pull out because of a groin injury after completing 1000 miles.  In the time since then he he says he has had to work on fixing some injuries he had.  “I am still not sure if it is fixed yet.  We will see in a couple of weeks.” He describes that his body has gone through some structural changes.  Changes that created an imbalance.  “Things get out of place, than muscles suffer, and get injured.  So far quite complicated.”

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He feels that running this race has made him a more positive person.  “Of course there are always challenges.”

“Running this race also makes you more simple.  You don’t think too much about things.”  It is important to read a little more into this sentence than what may be apparent.  For Sopan, as for many of the other runners here, finding stillness in their minds is crucial for their success.  To not dwell on their problems large and small and instead try and feel more oneness with their hearts.  To be, as he says, “happier.”

I suggest of course that, could he not find stillness and happiness back in Bulgaria.  He laughs at this comment, “This is not how it works.  How it works, to quote Sri Chinmoy, you are only happy when you constantly transcend yourself, inwardly and outwardly.  I also feel the same way.”

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We then discuss a very difficult topic.  In his race last year he made it to 1000 miles and then pulled out due to a groin injury.  I wonder if it is difficult for him then to come back here after that disappointment.  “I had a lot of second thoughts at first.  It took me months to really make up my mind.  It is a big commitment.  Forget about the money but you commit so much of your energy.  You think about it.  Mentally you prepare yourself.”

He says that he pondered his return for many months, and then he realized, “that you can always not come back.  You can always do that.  That is the easiest.  This is like no problem.  But you can not always do it.  Feel the motivation and also feel that you can put yourself through all this stress and challenge.”

              Photo by Abakash 2005

Photo by Abakash 2005

I suggest that he seems to be enjoying himself since the very start.  “That is an interesting thing.  You know when you struggle you don’t feel very often that you enjoy it so much.  You just struggle to make it through.  But I have been enjoying it a little bit lately.”  He laughs at this, and adds, “but I am expecting the big challenges yet to come.”

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For now Atmavir has the lead.

atmavir

Baladev

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Sarvagata changing his shoes.

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Then continues to find the just right focus and step.

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Nihdruvi tells me this morning how much her friends back in Vienna are enjoying the race.

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Starting this morning Surasa is just behind Ashprihanal in mileage.

surasa

Someone has printed some inspiring words on the course with chalk.

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Vasu has clearly already taken the advice.  He very happily showing me his head band this morning.

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Vasu passing the little garden near the campflower11

Vasu looking strong

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There are linden trees around the course.

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“It is pretty good.  I tape it each morning.  Up and down but it is bearable.”  Sarah of course came into the race with an injury and I ask her how she is doing after completing 300 miles on it.  “The first day was really really bad, but after that it has started to adapt to the running a bit.  I thought at first, O my God, what have I done entering this race?  So I am very grateful that it is bearable.”

sarah2

(Laughs) “I am just now getting realize what is involved with this race.  For me a 10 day race is a perfect distance.  This for me feels like it must be the hardest race in the world.  (laughs more) It is just really tough.”  Describing further she says that she is currently having to run every night until midnight in order to get the minimum mileage.  This means by the time she can get to sleep it is already 1:30 and then before you know it the time is 4:45 and it is time to get back up again.

The lack of sleep is a challenge she hadn’t taken into account.  (laughs) “You mean I am going to have to do this for 2 months.  I think the hardest thing for me is getting to the track each day.”

She feels also that having a helper would have been a better solution to some of the difficulties she is having organizing herself, something she would definitely consider if she runs again.  “This time I will just have the experience, and try and keep as cheerful as possible.

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Typical life in camp

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Yuri is in 3rd place this morning

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Yuri casting a big shadow.

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Pipasa arrives with a penguin puppet

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On this day in 2006 Sri Chinmoy first started his daily routine of offering a prayer for each day of the race.  Once it was written it was then photocopied and brought to the race and handed to each of the runners.  Kakali undertakes bringing copies of these prayers every morning to the race.. Sri Chinmoy continued to write prayers each day the race was held right through to the end of the race the following year 2007.  Today she reads the very first poem that Sri Chinmoy wrote.

poem

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kakali

Enthusiasm Awakeners

parvati

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Transformation

There is no difference between human transformation and divine Perfection.

Sri Chinmoy, Colour Kingdom, Agni Press, 1974

flower5

8 Comments to “June 21: Transformation For Me”

  1. Bigalita says:

    Thank you runners and reporters for keeping me on my toes and greatly inspired.
    Hi Sara, looking forward to seeing you at the 10 Day Race next year again. In the meantime, wishing you all the strength and speed and joy for this beautiful self-transcendence journey that you have so bravely undertaken. Divine victory is yours, that’s for sure. Much gratitude!

  2. Francesco says:

    Every day you write a great page of inspiration.
    Your blog every day made my day!

  3. Baridhi says:

    Great interview with Sopan! Thanks, Utpal. 🙂

  4. Baridhi says:

    Hey guys, do you know that Pranjal is doing short reports every evening? This year in English: http://www.youtube.com/user/PranjalSK?feature=watch
    I am watching them every day. They are very cool.

  5. Doris says:

    I cannot believe, that Sarah has no helper! If anybody has the time and money, please, do not hesitate but get to NY and help Sarah!!! I did check flights, but they are really too expensive. I am tolerably injured myself, but if there is anybody who has the money but not the time to go to Queens, NY, and help in this incredible race, let me know…or please send someone. It must be possible!

  6. Laura says:

    haha, here I am still. Today, I jog walked 31 laps around Brummerhop park in imitation of the runners. It was 103F humidex when I quit.

    Everyone is really doing well. I am especially interested to see Sarah hanging in there. I have pain too so I love seeing how she is adjusting. Surasa is doing fantastic. Good job girl.

  7. Doris says:

    Hi Utpal, it’s as you said: People around the world are not only watching, but receiving a lot of encouragement and inspiration for their own lives from the runners.

    Thank you for another year of reporting.

    P.S. I am not quite a botanist, and I am very far from correcting you. But the tree you photographed is one of my favourites: a platane tree. Lime or Linden trees have very fragrant flowers that would charm the runners along their way.

  8. Padyatra says:

    Hi Utpal, this blog of yours is killing me! Is so good that I keep coming back to read more and that is really time consuming. Then important things like watching TV while eating an ice cream have to go aside :-). Well, I guess I prefer reading, so keep on doing a good job.

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