July 27: Perfection Runner

“It is a funny thing.  A couple of races ago I was observing all the different qualities that the runners represent.  If we combine all those qualities we get a perfect runner, with all the divine qualities that we need in the spiritual life.”  As Sarvagata tells me this it is still the very early hours of an almost perfect day.  There is a fresh breeze drifting coolly across the course from the West.  The sun is rising up full and bright and promising, that at least for today, it will not burn and abuse the 12 runners who have lived under its hot gaze for so many days.

silouhette-sarvagata

Sarvagata has spent the last 2 long summers here and is now into his 42nd day of running here on this his 3rd time.  Yesterday on the course just might have been the worst day he has had all summer here.  One that also might measure as a new low also when compared to all his previous years as well doing the 3100.  He finished the day with just 87 laps and saw the tall Slovak Pranjal shuffle past him and take over his 4th place position. Something that neither probably scarcely noticed or also cared much about either.

Also when you look back at his personal statistics, compared to his results here last year he is more than 200 miles behind where he was then.  Yet as we talk, his face bathed in the soft golden light of dawn, it is clear that he is happy with what he has and also where he is.  Sarvagata at this moment would not wish any of the above to be different than exactly the way it is.  He is at peace and content with all that life has given to him.

sarvagata8

It is just so easy to forget what is really happening here.  You see them, you listen too them, they tell you from their hearts just exactly what is happening to them here.  Everyone in their own way expresses their unique vision of the race.  When all of this is combined it describes a world that is completely different than the one most of humanity is stumbling around in.  For Sarvagata a bad day and a good day have equal value.  Because no matter how many miles he makes what he really wants is to simply grow stronger within.   His real destination is to simply get closer to his inner source.  He is running, he is praying, he is asking God to lead him only there.

feet3

He describes the qualities of the others, “speed, consistency, soulfulness, wisdom, everything that we need in our spiritual life, all the runners represent.  This is so incredible.  All of them together complete the perfect painting.  We can’t take any of them away without breaking the whole picture.”

“I was begging to the Supreme that I would like to have all those qualities in myself.  It is probably not possible to have all those qualities without having experiencing them.  So this race I noticed that I experienced all those qualities.  I noticed that I was even copying their style of running of the different runners.  It was incredible.”

Photo by Prashphutita 1993

Photo by Prashphutita 1993

If you want to be a perfection-runner,
Then start at the aspiration-start
And run along the progress-road
To the realisation-finish.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 118, Agni Press, 1988

Read the rest of this entry »

July 26: Every Day

I know that what is happening here is inspiring many people around the world.  Besides those living in the neighborhood there are a few lucky ones who are within commuting range of Queens and can make their regular treks out to the race throughout the long hot summer.  These fortunate ones live in the far off reaches of Connecticut or New Jersey and on the distant edges of Long Island. But many many more live just too far off to ever come and experience it in person.

atmavir-board

The only way then to connect to the immensity of the race is to somehow weave together all the little fragments of information, bits of data, and frozen images into something that becomes real.  Not just an abstract meaningless event taking place in NY, not just an incoherent whisper in your imagination, but something fruitful and meaningful  and very real instead inside your heart.

Of course it is easier to understand it all if you come and experience it for yourself.  But for most people it is simply not possible.  What happens instead for many is that somehow an inner connection is made with the race’s most powerful and sacred message of self transcendence.  It is an act that does not require a plane ride, a car full of gas, or a good pair of running shoes. It requires only an open mind and a receptive heart, and that most incomprehensible and yet necessary thing, a yearning for perfection.  Once you have those things than the rest will all take care of itself.

feet

Every day the race receives mail from its friends and admirers.  Sahishnu treks out to the race every morning and every evening with many letters from those who want to encourage a friend of theirs who is running.  Occasionally as well they also want to share in some way how they too have made some some deep inner connection with the race. Tell how it has inspired them as well.

Sahishnu showed me a letter from Victor in Tokyo, which is just about as far away from here as it is possible to be.  Yet Victor is a runner who is trying to become a better runner.  He wanted to let the runners here know that at the end of June he actually ran up Mount Fuji.  It was an act, which was for him and the thousands who have done so, usually at a slower pace, a pilgrimage.  One that has been continuously going on now for over a 1,000 years.

japan4

He says, “The 31000 Mile Race is also clearly much more than just a very, very long race.  The sacredness and spirituality of what you are all doing was an inspiration while I was running up Mt Fuji, it’s an inspiration during my normal every day runs, and it’s a real inspiration, not just in running but in every day life, too.”

“So I offer my gratitude to you for the inspiration your effort gives us, and everyone from Tokyo wishes you the best.”

japan3

My Lord,
You want me to run every day.
Do You ever run?
“My child,
I run not only every day,
But also at every moment.
Do you know why?
I run constantly
From one end of My Creation
To the other end.
If I do not run ceaselessly,
My Creation will become inactive,
Inert and uselessly idle.
At every moment I run
To awaken and energise
My entire Creation.”

Sri Chinmoy, My Race-Prayers, Agni Press, 2006

Photo by Bhashwar 1980

Photo by Bhashwar 1980

Read the rest of this entry »

July 25: What If They Never Stopped

It was probably a crazy idea for me even just to imagine in the first place.  That somehow that it might be possible for the race to simply always continue on and that the runners never stop running on the course.  It was still safe when I allowed the image to harmlessly percolate around and about within my own imagination.  But to then go and write it out publicly like this though is another matter.   Because if we accept that some things have to be  impossible, than this would surely be one of them. Wouldn’t it?

silouhette-ananda-lahari

I apologize should any of you be disturbed or shocked by this idea.  I would not blame anyone for dismissing it immediately, for it has to fly in the face of the human body’s physiology, most scientific research on just how much physical, mental, and emotional stress the human organism can cope with.  Then in the next breath you dismiss the organizational capacity of this small volunteer run organization that it can somehow maintain manpower and resources to continue in this way forever.  And then if you have somehow managed to clamber up this peak of  formidable logistics we still  haven’t even mentioned the New York weather.

Despite the complete absurdity of it, I know that I am not alone in harboring this phantom vision of the eternal.  That somehow it really could happen.  That it would one day manifest itself right here on this little New York block.  It has come up in private conversation with the runners over the years and danced across our thoughts like a sunbeam skipping tantalizingly just beyond our reach.  I would not dare survey most of the 12 here now, as to what they thought, at least not yet.

Perhaps the real source of this fantasy right now is that it may have simply arisen because of the grinding fatigue that comes with enduring the almost biblical past 40 days.  There have been too many short sleepless nights and too many long restless days and this could be all some fabrication that has pulled itself out of my imagination.

flower6

Yet there is something about it that continues to haunt me.  Simply put if we believe that what these 12 runners are doing here now, and have been doing here for 17 years is beyond the borders of impossibility what is to stop us from extending the limits even further.  Literally push our conceived boundaries to the brink where limitations and impossibility disappears forever. Sri Chinmoys life and manifestation was always about transcendence in every aspect of our own lives.

Pranjal tells me this morning about his daily running streak which he has maintained now for 5 years.  When asked why, “For me it is much easier.    When you know you have to run it is much easier to run.  There is no excuse, even when you are tired, or sick, or anything.  You know that you have to run.”  So then I ask Pranjal what he thought of simply running here and never stopping.

flower16
“When I was running the first time here I was even praying that the race be extended.  To make it a 4800 mile race.  I did it this race in 60 days on my first attempt.  Still I was thinking to go on.  One more month.”  He said that he mentioned this to another run who said he must be crazy.  They themselves were counting the hours until it finished.

Am I suggesting that one day soon the 3100 mile banner be switched at night and replaced with one that reads FOREVER, ‘No.’ But if we are ever to accept transcendence in even small ways in our own lives, than we have to continue to look at the impossible things and barriers that we have built up around us in a much different way.

Guru-150-st

Mind, never stop surrendering!
Heart, never stop climbing!
Life, never stop transcending!
Soul, never stop dreaming!

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 76, Agni Press, 1984

Read the rest of this entry »

July 24: Give Yourself

“What I am trying to do is to try and support them.  Everybody comes here because they want transcendence, to reach a spiritual goal.  I put a little piece of myself to help them reach that goal.”  Mario is one of the unsung heroes of the race.  He comes most nights here to give massages to the runners, and far from just offering up a small portion of himself he has in fact contributed to the race an invaluable service and much much more.

mario2

“I have good skills.  I am a registered nurse.  I was a professional cyclist and I learned how to massage professional cyclists.  So I use my skills to massage professional athletes.  So now I am giving my service to the Sri Chinmoy group.”

I have seen Mario here and at the races in Flushing Meadow many times.  He is simply one of those people who is extraordinarily good at what he does, is blessed with what appears to be inexhaustible energy, and then quite simply selflessly offers what he has and is unreservedly.  His skills have been much appreciated by all those he has treated, but in particular during the very dangerous spell of hot weather, his medical knowledge altered what could have been significantly much more traumatic outcomes.

mario4

Curious as to why he is again here during the day when he usually comes only at night he replies that he happens to have the week off.  Instead of going on a well deserved vacation he instead opted to come here more often instead.  He has also brought his 2 kids who have also come here with their Dad a lot. Far from being bored or restless they immediately start to play with a soccer ball on the field nearby as if it was the most natural thing in the world to spend your vacation in a place in which 12 runners just keep going around and around.

There are many others who offer their services to the race.  Both in small ways and also in other contributions that stretch way out beyond boundless.  What the 12 runners are giving of themselves here each day cannot be measured.  Maybe then it is not so surprising that others see and feel, ‘if this is what they are giving, cannot I not give of myself as well?’  These decisions and commitments are certainly never carefully orchestrated bargains because the rewards of what you can possibly gain here are never tangible nor can they be analyzed.

Mario

“Everybody is working in the same way.  We are all on the same road.  So they are helping me also to get higher on my spiritual level and I am helping them.  Because they are doing something for me also.”

Because you are good,
You give yourself
Smilingly.
Because you want to be perfect,
You give yourself
Unconditionally.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 106, Agni Press, 1986

Photo by Shradha 47 mile race 1980

Photo by Shradha
47 mile race 1980

Read the rest of this entry »

July 23: Why Not

“Why not.” This is Ananda-Lahari’s answer to my long circuitous question.  It is simple, it is clear, and yet to me and probably to most of us it is still unfathomable.  I have always been puzzled by this 37 year old runner from Slovakia.  He has completed the full distance here 5 times before and yet for the past 2 years he hasn’t been succeeded in completing the distance.

Ananda-Lahari

What I don’t truly understand is why there is never a shadow of doubt or disappointment that ever drapes itself down across his features.  I know that if it were me I would feel the pant and paws off a great sense of failure dog hounding my every step.  But Ananda-Lahari’s steps are neither dogged by doubt, fear, remorse, or fill in the dark blanks, of any negative feelings at all.  So when asked how come he always appears to be so happy and content all the time his answer is of course, “Why not.”

ananda-lahari

“I am not frustrated.  I am just doing what I can.” He then quotes to me from the Bhagavad-Gita.

Your right to work only, but never to the fruit there of.
Let not the fruit of your action be your object,
nor let your attachment be to inaction,

ananda-lahari-wide

“I am doing my best.  I am here from morning to night.  It is not as though I am lying around in the van and waiting for midnight to come and go home. Still I move as fast as I can.  You should learn to be happy under any circumstances.”

“I don’t know what I can do to be able to run. I am walking as fast as possible.  That’s it.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Not what happens to you
But how you accept it
Is of paramount importance.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 21, Agni Press, 2001

Sports-Day

Read the rest of this entry »

July 22: Elevate To Your Highest Height

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan

It seems almost like a distant time now.  Yet flipping back through the calender it was just 7 years ago to the race in 2006 that perhaps the 3100 experienced its most historical moment.

By any stretch of the imagination it was a magnificent year for the race and in particular for 50 year old Madhupran Schwerk, who made it all happen.

He is a German runner who came here and set a record that no one has even come close to since then.  It was a remarkable 41 days and 8 hours.

It was no fluke either.  This was after all the 4th time he had run the race and in 2002 he had set the previous record, which was already a mind boggling 42 days 13 hours.  But 5 years had passed since then, and for some observers it would almost seem impossible, for a now 50 year old man to really and truly transcend himself.

Madhupran However was and is a consummate runner in every way.  He learned a lot from this hard patch of ground here in Queens and it also made him just a little bit stronger each time he came and ran.

Helmut

Yet If there is one additional key to his success that year, some potent antidote to all the adversity that comes with orbiting 5649 times around this little cosmos, would be the constant presence of his helper, Helmut Schieke.  A most unique individual who just may be the greatest multi day helper in the world. Thus you have a perfect pairing, that ultimately led to this incredible record.  In the video of the race Madhupran says, “We are a good team.  Everybody can see it.”

Click To Play:

 Madhupran wins 3100 Mile Race 2006

But to become a great runner is one thing and to become a great helper is another.  Helmut came to this job in a predictable way as he was a top runner once himself and back in 1990 ran a formidable 260 km in a 24 hour race.  His race experience was a terrific boon but for a helper to become great they need a lot more.  Allan Young, who is also one of the best helpers in the world said of Helmut, “I saw him and it was almost as though he was reading his mind.”

martin-and-allan copy

In this edition of the race the presence of helpers is one of the obvious keys to why some runners are doing exceptionally well. The standout performances of those who have helpers, and it is clearly making a difference, has to be with both Surasa and Nidhruvi.  Both have almost constant help on and off the course and the interaction between runner and helpers at times seems seamless.

Silvy, is just one member of a very strong team supporting Nidhruvi.  Until she came here, she had no experience either as a distance runner or being a helper.  But for her, the job of helping Nidhruvi thrusts her into that very special world of anticipating in advance what she needs to do, what she should fix before it becomes a problem, and also simply supporting her runner as selflessly as possible.

PhilThe one extra ingredient, that perhaps a helper needs most is an endless supply of encouragement.  Something that cannot be measured and yet you know it when you see it.

Yesterday in the Britiish Open, American golfer, Phil Mickleson won the tournament in the final round by coming back from 5 strokes behind the leader.  Some say it was the best round of golf he has ever played.

His caddy, Jim MacKay has carried 43 year old Micleson’s bag for 21 years now.  Phil said of his caddy, “He is the only guy on the golf course that wants me to play well.  He’s the only guy trying work his tail off for me.”

Emil-Zatopek-_Sri_-Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy meets with 4 time Olympic champion Emil Zatopek

When Zatopek was doomed to disappointment, his wife encouraged him, inspired him and elevated him to his highest height. Then again, when his wife needed encouragement and inspiration, he helped her not only cheerfully, willingly and unreservedly but also successfully.

Sri Chinmoy, Emil Zatopek: Earth’s Tearing Cry And Heaven’s Beaming Smile, Agni Press, 1980

Read the rest of this entry »

July 21: What Concerns Me

“I am taking it as an expression of the Supreme’s concern and love.”  For the better part of the past 7 days Yuri has forced himself to slow down, to drink more often, and take more breaks.  To behave in short, in a manner that he has never before had to do in any previous event.  But then he has never run the 3100 mile race before or experienced all the steamy torture and torment of a New York summer either. That he is not in any way resentful or disappointed in this extraordinary situation is a mark of the true courage and strength that he has within him.

His outer strength he impressively demonstrated for 4 straight weeks.  Making daily mileage totals for a first timer that were not just good but excellent.  But when the 5th week arrived it literally changed the map for everyone here, and for 49 year old Yuri Trostenyuk from Vinnitsa Ukraine he has had to make adjustments in his life here like he has never had done before.

yuri-wide

All the runners have struggled over the past week here.  It has been 7 extremely challenging days in which the unbearable weather has apparently tried to dismantle and shatter the hopes of all the runners.  The power of nature is a force to be reckoned with particularly when it decides to unleash its might against the puny plans and wishes of mankind.

For Yuri at least he can be satisfied that he has banked a lot of miles before his troubles started.  He has now in front of himself just a little less than 1000 miles more to go, and 17 days in which to do it.  Normally a very doable thing.  It is almost just a simple mathematical equation that is easily solvable, that is if his body heals and he can average 58 miles in the time remaining.

yuri

When asked if he is concerned about what lies ahead, “I am not concerned about difficulties.  What I want to do is make the Supreme happy in his own way.”…………….”But I would really like to finish the distance this time.”

WHAT CONCERNS ME

Failure does not concern me.
What concerns me is God-satisfaction
In God’s own Way
In my aspiration-life.

Sri Chinmoy, Transcendence-Perfection, Agni Press, 1975

Photo By Bhashwar

Photo By Bhashwar

Read the rest of this entry »

July 20: Train Your Life For Perfection

Sometimes sport stories have a way of inspiring us like nothing else can.  An athlete or a team when faced with incredible odds and formidable adversity simply rises up to the challenge and performs something just this side of miraculous.  We are instantly inspired and amazed by what we have witnessed and the world around us seems not quite so ordinary.  That special things can and do happen and just maybe we might be able to do something great as well.

Johnny-with-his-momOne of my favorite runners is a man named Johnny  Miles who comes from a small town in Nova Scotia Canada.  He was a naturally talented runner and his father decided to train him so that he could enter the Boston Marathon.  He taught himself how to coach by simply reading about other marathoners, who there weren’t that many of in the 1920’2.

Somehow Johnny’s dad got the idea that he should run 100 miles a week to prepare.  In the summers this was easy, running on country roads in and around where he lived.  But the marathon is in the Spring time and winters linger cold and late in that part of the world.  On his last long training run it had snowed, he once told me, and the roads were impassable.  He said his father told him that he should run on the railway tracks instead because they were always plowed.

When he arrives in Boston in 1926 he is just 21 years old.  He has no real idea of how to run this thing he has trained so hard for.  His Dad says that what he should do is simply follow the favorite in the race named Clarence DeMar who had won the race the 3 previous years.  Quite to his surprise however was the appearance of Albin Stenroos from Finland who was also world famous.  The local press were ecstatic.  Before them they thought was an epic battle between the 2 greatest marathon runners of the day.

Except of course nobody knew this kid from Nova Scotia who simply followed the great ones until they fell apart.  To his surprise he was alone in front of the pack, not really knowing what was going to happen next.  If in fact the other 2 would somehow come back and challenge him again.  Eventually a car came by with some marathon officials who yelled out to him. “You’ve got it, kid, You’ve got it.” Johnny Miles then went on to win the race and set a course record of 2:25.

Johnny-Miles

Nobody probably noticed the moment when it exactly happened.  The clipboards of the counters are always kept up to date but there is always a gap between what they say and the numbers which the big board are showing.  But sometime yesterday Ashprihanal was passed by Atmavir.   The day was also brutally hot for everyone here.  It was once again a day when people were trying just to keep moving.  Not worrying about how many laps they would make but just how to finish the one in front of them.

wide-ashprihanal2

What is happening to him now is eerily similar to 2 years ago when his great soaring flight to the finish line was shockingly interrupted.  On day 39 he was overwhelmed by this devilish New York weather.  After this he then had to battle for another 8 days just to make it to the finish line.  An heroic and supreme effort by anybody’s reckoning.

What he faces now though is much more formidable. For what stretches out in front of him is the imposing reality of 870 more miles.  Yesterday he walked all day and today he is doing much the same.  In the days ahead the weather is supposed to improve and perhaps his wings will come out an he will fly once more.

But this race is always much more about what we don’t see then what we do.  For each runner here yesterday the conditions were simply so shocking it was hard really grasp how anyone could go on.  Yet Ashprihanal found in his legs and his heart 74 laps.  Doing so with a courage and strength that we have grown accustomed to now over the years.

flower3

The only thing certain now is with each new lap he walks and each new day at the race, he is entering a new and unfamiliar world within himself.  One that is challenging him in a way that Ashprihanal, the flying Finn, has never had to face before.  Yet the destination has still not changed despite all this.  It has always been and will continue to be his own perfection.

Sri-Chinmoy-with-Arthur-Lydiard

Sri Chinmoy with Arthur Lydiard (NZ running coach)
Photo by Bhashwar

Train your mind

For transformation.

Train your heart

For contemplation.

Train your life

For perfection.

Sri Chinmoy, Two God-Amusement-Rivals: My Heart-Song-Beauty And My Life-Dance-Fragrance, Part 13, Agni Press, 1996

Read the rest of this entry »

July 19: All Souls Struggle

“If you rely on the mind and the physical you will start getting weak.  You have to go to the higher conscious level.”  Swamiji ran 14 laps this morning with the runners and is now soon about to carry on with the rest of his day.  His advice is correct in every way.  For all spiritual seekers the goal is to always find the highest path when confronted by both joy and adversity.

swami6

But on a practical level no one here is God realized, at least not yet.  Each runner has given their all for the past 33 days and nearly everyone has passed or soon will pass running 2000 miles.  Each hour this morning as the dawn breaks and the immense brilliance of the sun spills across the city, it gets hotter and hotter.

The relentless weight of the humidity presses down on everyone.  It has been like this every day now for a week, and any kind of relief in the weather is still days away.  A splash of water, a bag of ice, all the little remedies work for an instant.  A flash of relief and then the struggle continues. One in which there is simply no ultimate end in sight for at least 18 more days.

wide-swami

“I do the Guru mantra.  The Guru is so powerful because he manifests himself from consciousness. He meets you halfway.  Because his body is really a manifestation of consciousness.  So if you are able to connect to his body.  Than that automatically puts you into a higher consciousness.”

Guru-82

Photo by Bhashwar 1982

All souls
Struggle and struggle and struggle
Inside the body-cage,
But eventually they bring victory
To their Lord Supreme.

Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 57, Agni Press,

Read the rest of this entry »

July 18: In My Heart Already

“It is a very serious number.” This number which is so serious for Yuri Trostenyuk is 2000 miles.  In practical terms he has probably been aiming towards this number now for the past 16 days when at that time he made his first 1000.  Hopefully if all goes well in just an additional 16 days more he will also be able to rack up another 1000 miles.  Then all that will remain left in front of him will be that last little bump of 100 miles.

In so many ways his life long dreams are now finding form within the actual reality of his life.  Coming in ways that he perhaps had not exactly imagined yet at the same time, with all his preparation and hard effort they have certainly not materialized out of thin air either.

When he ran up this sidewalk moments earlier his eyes were bright with gratitude.  He had hoped to actually have completed those 4 laps the previous night.  But the conditions yesterday were horrific and unfortunately will continue on this way for several days to come.  When asked about what it was like here for him, “Yesterday was a very serious day.”

Unless you are the most experienced of ultra runners these distances simply cannot be comprehended.   Certainly for even an average marathon runner there is no way of putting his accomplishment into perspective.

yuri-and-20002

Out of curiosity I wondered, if Yuri had set off from his home in Vinnitsa 32 days ago, instead of running around the block here, just how far would he have been able to travel.

I am not sure if he speaks too many foreign languages but he would have needed quite a few before he completed the full 2000 miles west of his home in the Ukraine.   Because if he ran in that direction  he would have just about made it to Madrid.  A journey by car, that Google maps says should take about 34 hours.  That is if you were to use a mode of travel the most of us are more familiar with when we want to travel  such long distances.

vinnitsa-to-madrid

As for that finish line which is getting just a little closer each hot day now, “It lives in my heart already.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Guru-1982

Photo by Bhashwar 1982

Anything that I want to find
Is already there
In the depths of my heart.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 39, Agni Press, 2004

Read the rest of this entry »