August 6: Straight To My Heart

“Thank you everybody for being here.  This race wasn’t easy at all for me.  I had some really difficult times.  The Doctors didn’t know what to do with me and they were deciding at one time if I could even continue the race or not.  But then Aparajita appears and he started to sing Sri Chinmoy’s songs to me.  And they went straight into my heart.  And from there a feeling of devotion, joy, and happiness started to come from within me, and it flooded my entire being completely.  It was then that I understood that everything in my life was going to be really good.”

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Now here I am happy and joyful.  Standing right in front of you.  Thank you Sri Chinmoy, thank you Supreme.”

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51 days and a few hours ago,  Yuri Trostenyuk started off on a long difficult quest to reach this little spot of concrete upon which he now stands.  The fact that it is exactly the same spot he started from long ago is one of life’s great cosmic ironies.  That you endure and suffer through so much to end up right back where you started from.

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Yet for Yuri and also for Nidhruvi, who will arrive here in just a few hours more, there is no sense of futility or meaninglessness.  It is true that nothing outwardly has changed around them at all.  But all who do this race do not come here for what they see but only for what they will become.  For their true goal exists only in heartfelt depths of their own beings.  This is why they have taken their lives on the 3100 mile, great and impossible journey.

It is an epic trek, one that has changed and transformed them in ways they have yet to completely to be aware of and understand.  Their self transcendence will gradually reveal itself, to both of these first time runners, just as it has for all who have been here also this and year and all those who have made this race the center of their lives for the past 17 summers.

For these chosen few, have not only taken part in what has to be the most difficult sport of all time, but as well been simultaneously part of a divine inner pilgrimage. One in which there is never failure.  The accurate measurements of time and distance are not ultimately at all what this race is all about.  The suffering, the pain, the fatigue, the mental conflicts, and all the other  foibles and failures of humanity are all here but are also irrelevant.  Self Transcendence is to reveal only who and what we are within.  To bring us back the unmeasurable distance to our own glowing divinity within.

 

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“In his first finish I would have to say that this man smiled more times and waved more hands of joy than any runner in the history of this race.  He is a quiet and unassuming man.  He is a plumber with 2 kids and a wife back in Vinnitsa Ukraine.  But this was his dream to be here.”  Sahishnu

Dedication to Stutisheel

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My Lord Supreme wants me
     To run
Straight towards Him.

August 5: Something Good

“I also don’t know what happened.  I had no wings.  I was not flying.  It was running, really running.” On her last full day on the course yesterday Surasa ran an incredible 120 laps.  An amount she has not done since way back on the 2nd day of the race.  “I realized it when I heard 92 laps and I was looking at the clock and I thought, O My God.  I am one hour ahead.  It was so easy.  It didn’t kill me.  The only thing I did differently was I didn’t take so long of breaks.  I took shorter breaks.  2 breaks of 25 minutes.”

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On her most recent big day, when she ran 117 laps, she took 2 long breaks.  Yesterday when she ran 120, “I thought, I am not tired.  So I can make shorter ones.  This is such a difference.  Most of the time I realized I took too long of breaks.”

When asked if for some reason the race distance was extended, could she just keep going? “The feeling yesterday was yes.  I could keep on going on.”  She has a problem with blisters she says, but otherwise her energy and her body could easily continue.  “I am looking forward to just to sit down, and observe the race.  It has been such a long time since I sat down.”  For the past 50 days she has never also been able to eat at a table, or all of the dozens of little conveniences and habits that we have all taken for granted over the past 50 days.  Something her, and all the other runner’s hyper mobile lives simply cannot allow.

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In just a few hours from now she will finish her final 20 miles.  A distance that for most runners is still a pretty serious task.  Yet when you look at her smooth rhythmic style she makes the this extreme sport somehow look effortless.  As if she were somehow specially designed from the inside out just to do this.  True she got into multi day running almost by accident and yet in her lengthy career she has managed to accomplish a record of achievements that is just a little bit beyond extraordinary.

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This humble soft spoken lady from Vienna has world records in distances from 1000km up to 1300 miles.  What also should be noted as well about this is perhaps even more amazing.  She  has never once been beaten in any multi day race she has run.  A fact that she would not likely tell you, but you don’t have to search too hard to uncover her long list of achievements.  Then to add to all this incredible catalog of facts, is that she is also 55 years old.  In a few hours she will not only set her own personal best here she will also be the oldest runner to ever finish the race.

In our world where athletes dance across the playing field when ever they score, Surasa is a reminder to us all that greatness does not have to be demonstrated by fist pumps and loud screams in front of the goal.  Quietly doing your best and focusing on the true goal within is also something to celebrate and admire.  To understand why she does this so so difficult thing she says, “Sri Chinmoy inspires me most to do it.  I see it as an opportunity to finally do something good.  This is satisfying, and makes you happy when you know you are doing the right thing.”

Speaking about her friend Nidhruvi who will cross the line tomorrow.  “It is so great that we are both finishing.”

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Sri-Chinmoy_running

At every moment
God is expecting something good,
And not great,
From you.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 35, Agni Press, 2004

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August 4: Great Finnish

On Saturday morning when Ashprihanal arrived at the race he stepped up on the edge of the curb and stretched his calves, just as he has done every day here.  He was directly in front of the numbers board as he did this.  I could see that he was looking at the mileage he still had left to do.  Speaking to no one in particular, he said, “the old Ashprihanal could do that”.

What it showed was that he had 65 miles or 119 more laps to go.  A number he had not met in more than 3 weeks. In my mind, the person I was looking at was just a slightly diminished version, of one of the greatest multi day runners of all time, Ashprihanal.  One who was incredibly talented, certainly still capable of majestic flying around the course, and probably the guy who would not finish until sometime the next day.  I was wrong.

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Being by nature a little cautious I called the race late in the afternoon to see how he was doing.  It was then that I learned the shocking news that Ashprihanal was flying once again as he has always done here before.  That on this his 12th incredible race he was going to pull off one of those little miracles that seem to rise up out of nowhere.  One of those moments that show you that impossibility can be put aside when you find the strength from within to make it possible.

The caliber of this miracle is not quite like what happened to Lasse Viren at the 1972 Olympic games when he fell while running in the 10,000 meter race.  For what happened there is perhaps one of the greatest moments in all of sports.  The Finnish runner Viren got up off the track and then sprinted as fast as he could.  He not only caught up with the pack, but he also won the race.   Setting a world record in the process.

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“I have been having a problem with back, my hip, and my knee.  And I have not been able to do 60 miles on only a few days.  That is not my normal self.  Because normally 60 is very easy for me.  My standard is more like 70.  Today the problem is totally gone.  So today I could do 70.  I am definitely going to finish, no problem.  I would have been moving if my body had worked.”  I ask him then why is his body now working.  “Just Guru’s grace.  That is what happened.”

“I didn’t go to any Doctors or anything like that.  A lot of joy yesterday.  2 great finishers.   Today was very nice running with Suprabha.”  Someone he has shared the course with many times with over the years.  He says that Vasu who won the race the day before was very impressive.  “He was always in a good consciousness, always listening to Sri Chinmoy’s music, always inspired by asking stories about Sri Chinmoy.  Just a great guy.”  He says he told Vasu several stories from his own life.

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Ashprihanal has been carrying a small bell now for almost a lap.  Sometime earlier in the evening Surasa had completed 3000 miles and he had wanted to honor her.  He rings it now over on the other side of the course.  She says, “O so nice.”  She also says that when she came by the counters she had no idea that she had reached that great number.

A few jokes are made about the old Ashprihanal vs. the new Ashprihanal.  He says, “let’s say the healthy one.  I definitely think I am going to run again.  That is my plan, but maybe I take a year off.  This race has been mentally good for me.  I have been happy.”

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2 years ago after the race I was physically and mentally exhausted.  I really needed a year off.  This year I am not.  I am even physically okay.  Yesterday I would have said that physically I am not okay.  I am very happy that whatever the problem was it went away.  Everything is good now.”

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Your business is to begin. God’s business is to finish.

Sri Chinmoy, Flame-Goal, Agni Press, 1973

Photo by Unmesh

Photo by Unmesh

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August 3: Our Tasks

“Somewhere in the middle of the race I felt as though I had fulfilled my task here.  I am not coming back next year, but maybe in the future.  I am very grateful because I love you all here.”  35 year Atmavir Spacil said this last night after completing the Self Transcendence race for the 7th year in a row.  His has been a long and incredible journey that very few have ever accomplished before.  Taken back to back his total mileage on the course adds up to 21,700 miles.  An accumulated distance that would nearly allow him to circle the globe.

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His battles with the elements over all those summers and all the other of the countless difficulties has shown just how courageous and determined Atmavir really is.  Just to enter this incomprehensible event is astonishing, to finish 7 times is miraculous.

As he approaches the finish line his face reveals all the joy and gratitude he has for being so fortunate to be able to accomplish this really unbelievable feat.  But those few minutes of brief glory here now on this warm still night are such an infinitesimal fragment of the whole great journey.

What goes on in his body, mind, and heart over the many months is the real story.  Finding strength when your body says it has no more to give.   Not listening to the relentless torment of pain, heat, and fatigue.  Managing to find calm and peace when by times the world around you seems to be nothing but turbulent chaos.  He has said many times that nobody but the runners themselves really understand this remarkable transcendence adventure.  It is an elusive reality that I have chased for a long time and know he is right.  I will never capture it all or even more than a small part of it.

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No picture, no sound bite, no string of words can encapsulate something so immense and impossible as this thing that they do, and what he has done now for each of the past 7 summers.  At best we see a watery mirage floating enticingly in the sky above the vast hot desert.  We see it and imagine quenching our thirst with its elixir but we can’t.  The 12 runners are the ones who are traversing across this boundless landscape towards the impossible.  It is they alone who are arriving at a destination we ourselves can only dream of.

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After his finish he is asked by a reporter from a network station a few questions about this great thing that he has accomplished here.  He is grateful to share what he can, but there isn’t much he can say in a few words.  Something that has taken him 7 years to accomplish.  He says that if there is anything he hopes could come out of his experience is that others be inspired to transcend their own lives.  He suggests simply, if you can just get people to run that would be a great thing.

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“Finishing in 2nd place in the 3100 mile race for 2013, in a time of 47 days, 16 hours, 24 minutes.  Which is an average of 65.015 or 104.6 km a day.  This is his 7th finish in a row.  From the marathon team and all the helpers congratulations Atmavir on a job well done

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My responsibility is
The preparation of my heart.
God’s Responsibility is
The Satisfaction of His Heart in my life.
Can we not fulfil our respective tasks?

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 50, Agni Press, 1982

Photo by Bhashwar

Photo by Bhashwar

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August 2: Our Victory

“I would like to offer my gratitude to Sri Chinmoy and to everybody.  Everybody who organizes the race.  Who serves the race.  I would like to also offer gratitude to all those who not just do something here physically,  but also those who even think about it and want to become better people.”

Vasu in about 4 hours time will complete his long journey.  It will be his second finish in the event, but to see him on the course this year was like seeing an almost completely different person.  He was not just stronger and faster he was also simply delightful to watch and occasionally run with.

His attitude was always positive, cheerful, and incredibly humble.  Never for a moment was it about him, but rather everything to Vasu was always about how to please his Guru, Sri Chinmoy.  Who he felt was solely responsible for everything that he did and also the kind of person he also wants eventually to become.  Someone for whom Transcendence is not just 3100 mile race but for an entire lifetime.

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I cannot tell just how many have been following his extraordinary achievement here this year.  Certainly on websites across the Ukraine, Russia, and parts of the former Soviet Union there are many who are identifying with his incredible achievement of winning the race this year.

I notice that the time difference between here and his home in St Petersburg is 8 hours.  Yet at his finish later this morning his friends there will gather and actually be able to watch his finish in real time on skype.  Many others in the Ukraine and in other parts of Oneness Dream Boat shore will be anxious to also see and learn what wonders have happened here this day.  None will be disappointed.

To show some perspective of his distance run here.  Leaving St Petersburg Vasu would have run to just past the Mongolian border to Ulaangom.

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The event by its sheer scope and nature compels the runner’s inner self to emerge and blossom. It may be possible to finish it on pure brute force and determination but I don’t think so.  Something else has to happen.  A divine miracle has to take place where the outer being has to listen and become in sync with the inner self, or at least make some pact or even grudging compromise   When it all works in harmony than a beautiful soulful experience is expressed here at the race,  again and again mile after mile.  Vasu was just one of those cherished beings who always seemed in harmony with his heart’s cry and his outer smile.

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“I tried to do my best last year and I tried to do my best this year.  Last year I needed more patience and this year I had more happiness.  It helped me so much.  Last year and this year both very good for me. ”

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I ask him about his helper Nicolay.  “He was the big difference between last year and this year.  He helped me so much.  He did many things for me from the morning until the evening.”  Nicolay would even go home with Vasu and give him a massage every night and then would leave and go on to his own place. “I am very grateful to Nicolay for his help.  I do not think that this is my victory but our victory.  This is our victory and Guru’s victory.”

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It was God’s Plan
Right from the beginning of time
To give our soulful faith
A splendid victory.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 33, Agni Press, 1982

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August 1: Faster Than The Fastest

“I was inspired to run faster.”  Yesterday Vasu did something here at the race, that when you see it on the result sheets, you have to wonder just how it was possible.  To watch Vasu in real time you really couldn’t tell.  For all outer appearances he appeared to be doing exactly what he has done now since the beginning.  But in fact he did something astonishing that only the clipboards can show.  He ran 133 laps yesterday or 72 plus miles.   A number that is only surpassed by his first day on the course 45 days earlier.

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Obviously his appreciation of the finish line is no longer just imaginary.  Not just an ethereal concept floating in some distant realm of his imagination.  Instead it is very real and very close.  He started the day yesterday with just 170 more miles to go.  He is going to finish on Friday.  Yet somehow after already running 3000 miles he found a new gear, a new strength, or most definitely simply more inspiration.

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I try and ask him about this using some traditional metaphors.  If you have ever competed in any race than you have no doubt heard the expressions, “leave nothing in the tank,” leave it all on the track.” Expressions that suggest that we as athletes can make a conscious decision to commit more of ourselves to the last few miles or meters of a race.

But no matter how I try and explain them to Vasu he doesn’t understand.  Then it becomes my turn to comprehend.  He doesn’t grasp these words, these hypothetical concepts, because within his vision and within his experience he has already surrendered himself entirely.  It is not for him to decide anything.  He is so immersed within the great flow of the race that he need do nothing more than what he has been doing since the beginning.  By doing his best every day and every moment he will simply arrive, at just the right time, at the finish line.

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He says, “Your goal and Guru come to you.  You just have to be happy and be grateful, for everything.”

“I don’t feel as though I am pushing harder.  I am just trying to be happy.”

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The ticking of the life-clock
Encourages and inspires
     The brave souls
To run faster than the fastest
Towards their destined Goal.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 18, Agni Press, 2000

Photo by Bhashwar

Photo by Bhashwar

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