6 & 10 Day Race… Day 11

Over the course of our rich long lives, 6 or 10 days is not very much time.  Throughout our lifetimes we all will see and be part of so much more.  Experiences will come to us, both what we planned and sought after, and others, that arrive before us, daunting, mysterious, joyous, and sometimes profound.

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Each making its own unique impression.  Each touching and changing us in ways we cannot measure.  Yet no matter what blessing or what dark day comes upon us we eventually know that it is all for a larger purpose.  To aid in our reach and in our steps to towards a distant goal that we never cease to strive for.

Even in lives cut short these few brief days are infinitesimal.  Yet we mortals, when we can, try and live our life rich with promise and fulfillment.  Gradually accepting adversity and failure as companions who will never leave us.  Yet despite their challenge, know that in the end they give us more to strive for than any sweet victory can.

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Tonight our champions sleep a rest well deserved.  The cries, the pains, the lingering anguish that grips and pinches their bodies now will all too soon fade away.  The cherished memories of each and all of these hard fought days will linger longer and then they too will dim.  Trophies won, and medals worn will loose their gleam. Life will go on just as it does for all.

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New challenges will march into the paths of each who came to this sacred ground to run for these 6 and 10 cool bright windy days in Queens.  New opportunities to forge new strengths, reveal more clarity of purpose, and find more richness revealed within.

Of course for all the runners who gave so much of themselves upon the course, there are still so many races yet to be run, so much more to be revealed.  All of it just part of the long sweet journey of self transcendence.

No matter what the outer accomplishment was for each, over these 6 and 10 fleeting days something within has indelibly laid its mark upon all who ran here.  Upon all who helped and hoped for it to succeed, and for all who made the dream that happened here their own.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 10

Sometime late last night Shamita was just so sick that she simply could not continue.  She had been battling a cold and fever for 6 days and the state of her declining health was getting more serious.  What else could she do?

With 36 hours still left on the clock it was not something this 49 year old Austrian runner took lightly.  She has never before had to abandon the track during a race, and last year she came back to the sport after a long long gap of 20 years.

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When she showed up in Flushing Meadow last year she had trained and she was fit.  There seemed no reason not to be able to take up multi day  races like there had been no gap.  She ran 593 miles, a really good number.  So this year it looked like she could do better.  At the same time, all she really wanted was to give and do her best.

Yesterday she had finished her 8th day here  on the track with 502 miles.  With a full 48 hours left she was easily on track of surpassing her mileage from last year.  Then it all came crashing down…. well not exactly.

“When I went home last night I had the highest fever you can have.  Almost 40 degrees.  I thought okay, that is it.  I have to quit, I tried my best.  But in the morning I had a nice sleep, very quiet.  No airplanes like here now.”

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In the morning she meditated and she heard a voice within her say, “there is still one more day.  What are you doing here. So go.”

“I was very happy to come back.  I just want to stay in the race.  This is the most important thing.  We all do our best.”

She describes how we never can predict what and when we all will have experiences.  “You never know what happens.”  For her getting sick is the last thing she ever expected, having not had a real sick day she says in more than 10 years.

Now, she like all the other runners, have just 24 hours more.  More than enough time to run many miles more and have experiences that can change your world.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 9

“It is kind of interesting.  I did some strong days, and I was thinking about all this high mileage, that I felt somehow I had to do.  And I was getting uninspired.  Then I got some good advice from Dipali….just relax.”

“Be in the right place and be grateful and the miles will come.”

“There is nothing worse than killing yourself mentally, with all the thoughts of what you have to do.”

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Nirbhasa Magee is running the 10 day race for his 2nd time and clearly he has come back better trained and better prepared.  His performance this year has been nothing short of superb.

At his current rate he will pass the 1000 km goal he achieved last year sometime during the late stretches of day 9, which started just moments earlier.

“You never know what your body is going to take.  Definitely my body is a little more tired.”

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“I wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for all the help from all the runners.   Outwardly you might think that they are my competitors, because they are quite close in terms of mileage.”    He mentions the names of all those who have helped and adds, “you kind of feel that you are standing on the shoulders of giants.  It is great to be the beneficiary of all that wealth and talent.”

When you hear such sincere and humble words as Nirbhasa’s, and listen as well to all the others who have come to this race and have given so much of themselves, it is not hard to look upon this New York city park here as a kind of perfect little world.

A place where everyone helps and cares for others.  A place of ultimate challenge most definitely, but it is through this work and effort that each one here reveals and expands upon the better parts of who they are.  With luck as well bring some illumination to the shadowed bits that do not want to change.

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And if we are truly lucky, when the bell rings and the last lap has been run, the great world just beyond the fence and trees becomes just a little more perfect as well.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 8

For 3 days his face has born the unwavering expression of a man focused on doing but one singular and extremely difficult task.  Never distracted, never bothered, never surrendering to the pains and fatigue that must be grinding away within the deep dark recesses of his very core.

The kind of strains and pains that would make most of us crumble and crash.  Yet something much more powerful than these human torments continues to push, prod, and pull this 45 year old Irish runner Eoin Keith through it all.  Some might call it his power of concentration, which is most definitely burning bright and clear in the eyes you see right here.

But there is something much more revealed in what we see in his eyes and in his performance here.  For what is happening on this one mile loop in Queens NY is that a Irish man is reaching into the very depths of who he is to accomplish something he has never done before.

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On and on through 3 long dark nights when the cold and wind, and last night the rain came too to torment and bother Eoin, as well as all the others who are challenging themselves by running here. Through it all there has been no break, no real rest, and no complaints as such.

For any waver in his focus, any surrender to pain, doubt or fatigue and all would be lost.  It is a goal that he has prepared long and hard for and as of noon toady he is still only half way there.

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At 12 today he stepped forward into a new realm, an even more challenging chapter of his 15 year long running career.  For at that precise moment he began running in a competition for longer than he has ever done before. In fact twice as long.  A journey that will only be completed after 6 days.

His record for 3 days, his longest race to date was 300 miles.  In the past  72 hours he has just about matched that total with a rather remarkable 296 miles.

Without much pause and certainly no fanfare at the half way mark, Eoin just kept going.  There was no choice in the matter. His goal commands that he go on.  Each step taking him higher and farther than he has ever gone before.  A place that is known to the champion within us all as self transcendence.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 7

It may be just a coincidence or it may be part of a great plan.  But whatever it is that brings Luis to the Self Transcendence race each spring, it means as well that he is always here on April 25th, which just happens to be his birthday.

Luis had one of those milestone birthdays last year, he turned 65.  Friends came around and wished him well and the camp gave him a cake and sang Happy Birthday.  After all the fuss he just slipped quietly back out onto the track and continued to do what he loves most of all, and that is run.

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There is a part deep within us all that enjoys simplicity.  To have a life uncluttered with stuff, endless distractions, and hopeless desires.  Luis’s life is far from perfect, and he will tell you so, but there aren’t very many people whose world has been distilled down to such a clear and uncomplicated agenda.  Go out and run every day, and come every year to the Self Transcendence races and do your best.

He is running the 6 day this year, which is a rather recent compromise.   It is a decision….let’s best be polite…. brought on by his maturing physical situation.  He would much rather do the 10 day but a few years ago it just got to be too much.  So switching gears he now runs the 6. As of noon today he has 113 miles for 48 hours, which puts him just about in the middle of the pack.

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There are times in all our athletic careers when we are at our best.  Of course some runners out here are really in their primes as distance runners right now.  There are though still a few who remember an earlier version of Luis.  When he was a lot more than just a good runner, but a great one.

This picture taken 30 years in ago in 1985 shows a Luis, that a generation of runners here now never knew.  Also they just may not believe that this man who now shuffles endlessly around the course in a grey sweat shirt once used to fly along the track. His personal best is 138 miles in 24 hours.

The man handing him his birthday cake in 1985 was also making some adjustments to his running goals at this time.  Ted Corbitt, who many consider the father of distance running in America even ran this race himself, when he was 80 years old.

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All the runners in both of the races here have gone through a lot since they started.  There are no doubt a few who are really suffering but no matter how bad it gets they just won’t give up.  They see a finish line that for all of them is now getting closer all the time.

But let us not kid ourselves, there are still 4 days more of running.  And if you are Luis Rios, once he crosses the finish line he will pack up and go home to Brooklyn.  The next day he will head out the door and just keep going.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 6

Hello everyone, my name is Lo, Wei Ming. It is my pleasure to come to New York to participate in this race. I’ve heard that there is no other runner from Asia except me. I hope my participation will bring more Asian runners in the future. I also hope to get inspiration for my life through the race.

Although it’s only been 4 days, I feel that this experience is very worthwhile and I expect to enjoy the race more over the next few days. During the running, I have seen runners from all over the world showing their persistence, and perseverance. A lot of runners have set examples for us to follow.

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During the event, I always experience moving feelings which are hard to describe. I am sorry my English is not good.  Although a race is a race, it’s not just about “competing” or the pursuit of “perfection”. You have to be there to discover it yourself. Being a runner, I feel proud to participate in a race, achieve my own goals, and feel life’s inspiration.

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I’ve participated in marathons in Greece, Hungry, and other places. This is my fourth time competing internationally and it is my first time running in the United States. This park was built in 1964, the same year I was born.

I feel it’s my destiny and I am going to make this another starting point in my life. I am thankful for the organization’s invitation, in addition to the assistance and support I have received from many of my friends. I could not have made it without all your help. Thank you for interviewing me.

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Yesterday I spoke for a little more than 5 minutes with Lo Wei Ming, a terrific 50 year old runner from Taiwan.  He speaks no English and yet it was clear he had something important to say.  At one point there were tears in his eyes. Today that conversation was translated for me by a team from the Culture Center of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York.

As of noon today he has completed 5 days of running and has 310 miles.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 5

At noon time, on this cool blustery day in Flushing Meadow the runners of the 6 day race, joined those already on the course for the Self Transcendence 10 day race.  Sifting through the bios it should be noted that the 80 runners out here, even for the geographically challenged, represent more than 20 countries.

No matter who you are at some point your language skills will definitely be tested.  Yet if there one thing here that is also unequivocally accepted is that there is only one universal language of any true importance.  It is how each runner communicates with their feet.  Just how far you go is all that anyone really cares about here.  That you attempt to give your very best everyone understands.  It is so achingly simply to recognize and yet so incredibly difficult to achieve.

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We all are capable of flashes of perfection.  Those precious moments when the connection between what we are capable of and what we actually accomplish are in perfect sync.

But for the past 4 days runners have attempted to eek out every available step and mile within their capacity.  Push themselves in ways that they have most definitely prepared the best they could for,  but often there is a shocking disconnect between the practice world and reality.  That only in competition do you become aware of the wide chasm that separates them both.

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If there is a consolation in this experience is that for many here the mileage and the outer performance are secondary to a more subtle goal.  One not measured or calibrated to any universal standards of perfection.

It is simply one’s own personal self transcendence.  A journey that stretches out in front of us all.  A race that we started long ago and one who’s finish line never ceases to call out to us all, and asks us always to go beyond the place that holds us now.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 4

This Self Transcendence race provides a lot of experiences to lots of people.  To the runners first and foremost it offers a one of a kind opportunity to really test and expand upon who and what they are.  When an athlete comes to this race it is impossible not to be challenged in every part of your being. It is simply too long and too hard not to feel its effects.

It may be possible in the early stages to offer up some resistance to its transformative nature but ultimately after a couple of days or a couple of hundred miles you cannot help but become part of a world that has been uniquely created only to make your view and experience of the world transformed.

Most of the time we can so easily observe our lives as static and attached to thoughts, notions, and situations that are comfortable to us.  But even to non spiritual individuals this concept can be at the best of times boring and at other times simply not right.  We cannot help but realize that  life has to expand and grow by its very nature.

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As you watch the faces of the runners now and compare them to even a few days ago you can notice changes.  Yes there is tiredness and ripples of pain, but beneath the dull sheen of their exteriors a positive brightness is building within each and every one.

Almost 30 years ago now the Sri Chinmoy marathon team helped count laps for a 6 day race sponsored by the New York Road Runners club.  It was the first steps into the multi day world that the team took and from then on never looked back upon. Creating more and more challenging events not just in New York but also around the world.

Sri Chinmoy with Nathan Whiting

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But many others who are drawn to this race also are positively affected as well.  You don’t just have to be a helper who comes every day, you can also be a supporter from far far away.

I have already heard from many who are great fans of all the races the Sri Chinmoy marathon team sponsors.  Their identification with what is happening here is always moving and profound.  The support you offer the runners is always a wealth of inspiration that will come back and touch your own life as well.

Earlier today a young girl walking in the park with her Mom came by and was enthused by what she saw.

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6 & 10 Day Race… Day 3

No one would ever say that watching a multi day race is the most exciting thing to do, particularly on a bright Spring day in New York city.  The one mile loop of the Self Transcendence race meanders around an odd corner of Flushing Meadow park.

With just 53 runners stretched out along the course, the action at times for spectators could generously be described as ……slow.  For most park goers on such days they might not even notice that a race is going on.  Preferring instead to catch up on their reading.

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The most important spectators are of course the runners themselves.  As the days pass they become increasingly more aware of just how each one of this small group is doing.  Taking inspiration when someone is running strong and alternately, feel the harsh reflection of the pain that others are at times also enduring.

Early this afternoon I just happened to watch as Ashprihanal Aalto crossed the finish line.  What caught my eye as he passed was a particular glint of satisfaction as he looked towards the board.  For those who know anything at all about this gifted world class athlete they might have wondered why he even looked at all.  After all he still has 8 more days to run.

For a man who has run the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race 12 times, how could anything go up on the board that he has not seen countless times before?

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What mesmerized Ashprihanal was the number 200 beside his name.  A quantity of miles he was able to achieve in just a little more than 48 hours.  Something this 43 year old Finnish distance runner has never achieved before in all his years of competition.

So if he looks over to the board and grins just a little.  We shouldn’t be surprised, for this is his expression of absolute satisfaction and transcendence .  No doubt, for a while at least, when each of the other runners pass they will also enjoy seeing that great round number hanging beside the name of the man in first place.

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But then their eyes will no doubt shift to their own names.  Gather some inspiration from what they too also have achieved over 2 long days.  Enjoy the briefest of pauses before stepping off into the seemingly eternal, another 8 days more.  Ultimately each runner here is their own competition and the their own spectator for the race of their lives.

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6 & 10 Day Race …Day 2

Anyone who has ever run a marathon has probably experienced those nagging moments when your mind is bombarded by countless pointless thoughts.  Culminating in one of the most foolish, ‘Will I make it to the finish line?’

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Scanning mileage markers, checking on your impatient time piece, and seriously questioning your own ability to push through the nattering fatigue and ponderous doubts.  That experience, in one variation or another, most runners have endured.

Then, not much later, when the race is done, they question themselves.  Did they really need to go through that at all.  Then, wonder of wonders, did they not have more to give.

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The simple logic of a 10 day race should dictate that there is never any real demand or pressure to go on, because the real goal is to simply endure 10 days on the track.  The total mileage gained is up to each runner.  Yet we mortals are designed to push and test our boundaries always.  Aware often of what strength we think we have and then surprised when really challenged that there is so much more to us then tired legs and doubting minds.

That transcendence is an indisputable and irresistible part of who we really are.  Our true happiness is only gained when we reach and strive for what we cannot see within us.   Which is ultimately and inevitably what we also must become.

Ashprihanal Aalto ran 110 miles in the first 24 hours

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