It’s About Perfection

He is someone who not only has a keen understanding of the significance of the 3100 mile race but has also performed a very practical and vital role there as well for many years.  Pradhan is someone keenly suited to finding solutions to the obstacles confronting the runners on many levels, not just the physical.   In simple and practical ways his chiropractic treatments helps enable many of the athletes running there to perform at their maximum capacity, day in and day out.  He is a chiropractor of extraordinary talent and though he no longer maintains a professional practice he still has been able to serve at nearly all of the multi day races that Sri Chinmoy Marathon team has organized in New York.  This is no small feat as he is a resident of Chicago and yet has found time during his busy schedule to visit New York and willingly serve those who are trying to test the very limits of their physical capacity and endurance.

As exceptional as he is as a giver of chiropractic adjustments, Pradhan is also keenly aware of the world beyond the physical.  He knows first hand that these exceptional runners sometimes also need encouragement and inspiration on the mental, emotional and spiritual level as well.  Physical problems sometimes may be the least of the many obstacles the runners encounter when facing such a momentous task as running 3100 miles.  He has great and lengthy experience in dealing not only with the athletes who attempt the impossible but also understanding the great challenges of the spiritual life in general.  I had an opportunity during the race to interview him and ask him for some of his thoughts on what these incredible athletic events are all about.

Talk transcribed by Bhadra

Photos by Arpan, Prabhakar, Jowan

Utpal: Why do you think Sri Chinmoy created this world of multi-day races?

Pradhan: I think it was an actual extension of – you know –of his spiritual philosophy. It was something that evolved.   He used it as a metaphor for what we’re trying to do inwardly. On our path, there are people who run regularly all the time. And it is understood that the runner accomplishes his goal by placing one foot in front of the other.

And the multi-day races evolved.  In the early days, it was just a mile, two miles. I remember in the early days – it was like, the guys ran 3 miles – can you believe it? –it was unbelievable. We’d often have Games Days, or Olympic-style races – these guys would often run outside the field, they’d run out on the street. They’d go three miles, or five miles – then, applying the principles of self-transcendence, eventually it came to be a multi-day race. And the multi-day races, especially the 3100, lend themselves to an inner demand, where you have to go within in order to accomplish the task. So I think that’s why the multi-day races are such an important part of the Sri Chinmoy Centre.

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I Was Just The Willingness

There are now but 5 champions left upon the great stage of the 3100 mile race.  6 others have already completed the grand mission that was set out for them here to do.  Now they, like us, are but spectators to this magnificent impossibility adventure, swiftly drawing down to a close on this the final day.

Today these runners will perform their final acts.   They will take all the steps and turns that they can and that they must do in order to achieve their absolute best.   Something that they have not neglected over other days but now upon this the very last, each and every moment here is so sweet and and yet so fleeting.  It will lead them, either to a glorious finish line, or they will simply tread on until the unyielding hands of time simply forbid that they step forward any further.

All here will perform what they can and what they must before the curtain falls at midnight and sweeps to a close this the 14th running of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.

Today Dharbhasana will defy both his skeptics and his own self doubt.  He will prove that as powerful as pain and injury are the heart is infinitely stronger.  The sweet inspiration that whispered softly to him to come and challenge impossibility will now roar in delight that he has found victory by simply letting victory itself carry him there.

Surasa last night reached a goal on an unyielding day that reluctantly gave her 2700 miles.  For many days she knew already that the grander vision would not be realized.  At least not here and now.  She will run on today simply because their is time left and she came here but to run.  As long and as hard as she possibly could.

Both Baladev and Ananda-Lahari have seen their journey end here before they could reach the ultimate finish line.  Today grace has not favored them with this honor for reasons we will never know.  But they have been blessed in other ways that are secret and sacred only to them.  Divinity does not neglect those like them who ran so hard for so long.  We may not see how they were blessed.  We are only able to be aware of their indomitable courage to go on and on.  That if we ever forget what it is, “to never give up,” than we only have to look at the sacrifice and courage that they continually offered up here for 52 days.

Purna-Samarpan has found his satisfaction in a different goal.  He starts the final day  with just 25 miles more to go in order to reach 2700 miles.  It is not the goal that he first set out to reach but it is what has been offered to him.   In about 6 hours later he will accept it with grace and with gratitude.   picture by Alakananda

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Every Step Brings Me Closer

Ever since humanity was able to recognize  a divine existence within themselves they have been trying to seek it out, and bring it forth from within.  It is never easy to establish a constant inner oneness with this divinity, as so much of our outer nature tries to deny and negate even the very existence of this part of us that lies within.  The very nature of our bodies and minds is to only to accept physical lethargy and try and ride the mental merry go round that really leads us nowhere.

Sometimes most powerfully, the inner in us breaks through and shows us the way for our entire being to be transformed and made one.  In practically all religions the call to pilgrimage is part and parcel of this transformation process.  The journey will take you to a sacred spot in which a spark of consciousness can be lit and we will feel our connection to our soul’s reality on all planes.

Pushkar one day during the race had a powerful experience in which he no longer saw himself running around and around a block but instead on a sacred pilgrimage in with he was always moving forward.  “Something entered into me.  It was much easier to accept. Every step I do brings me closer.  On that day I did my best.  I could not do more.”  Today that journey will come to a close, at least for this year.

“I am able to complete this unimaginable distance only because of God’s boundless compassion, affection, and concern.”  He is wearing a special shirt that he has only worn once before.  The only other time he wore it was when he finished the race last year.  The previous year when he did not complete the race he did not wear it.  On the back it says, “Joy Guru…27)

He will be slower by more than a day from last year but he is not disappointed by this at all.  He does not believe that the heat bothered him as much as some of the others but suspects that it may have indirectly affected his digestive problems.  As a whole he has learned a lot from being here the 2 previous summers and feels more disciplined and independent.

He spoke recently about how happy he was to be able to continue to run after Asprihanal finished 2 days ago.  He felt that his own finish would likely be a mixture of sadness and joy.  “A smiling eye will definitely come forward.”  He confesses that already this morning the crying eye was present when he was filled with overwhelming gratitude that he was able to be here and complete the journey.

“I would love to go for ever and ever but this is just a part of it.  Another part says, “let us reach the finish line and take a little rest,” and he laughs.  I suggest that if he wants to run for ever and ever he just needs to come back every year and run.  “If the outer circumstances allow it, I will definitely be here.  It is the most beautiful thing  I can do on earth.  What ever you do is the right thing here.  If you come you move, move, move.  Everything you do is in God’s own way done.”

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It Is Our Destiny

“It is like a piece of cake.” Atmavir starts his last day on the course with just 24 miles left to run.  He tells me that he learned the piece of cake expression from the great Austrian runner Smarana.  But there is precious little about this year’s race that is either sweet, tasty, or delicious for Atmavir.  It seems to have been a hard fought battle for him almost from start to finish.

“It is very good weather today and I will enjoy it until the end.  But it is not like it was on other days.  Outwardly the result was not very good.  I will be 4 days behind my last years result.  Inwardly I feel quite good. I feel I made some little steps towards my goal.  From that point I am really happy and satisfied.”

He tells me that he was expecting that the race was going to be difficult for him even before he arrived.  “And it happened.” He says he knew that conditions at the 6 and 10 day race were extremely challenging earlier in the year and somehow felt that the challenges would simply appear in another form here.  In this case a summer of relentless heat and humidity.

“I was wondering why I was suffering so much this year, while some people were really quite smooth.  On those really hot days.  My feeling is that every body has a different role in this race, and we have to accept these roles.”  He explains that it is also in the task of cheerfully accepting the different results, no matter whether it is success or failure, that is perhaps one of the key accomplishments for those who run here.  That you must work extremely hard to do your best and than as well be grateful for whatever the outcome might be.

“Definitely I am quite happy that it will be over.  It was my toughest year here.  It was my hardest race ever.  On the other hand the inner progress that we are doing here.  If you are putting yourself through more pressure maybe something deeper will appear.”

“Also I really like the poems this year, written by Sri Chinmoy.(2007)  Those were special for the race.  I realize those poems were really like diamonds for us.  Those poems are really powerful.  Those poems are kind of the secret of the race for me.  Like, why we are here.  It is our destiny.  It is our goal.”


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A heart of faith

is a life of tremendous happiness.

Poem of the Day

written by Sri Chinmoy

August 1st, 2007

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I Would Love to Run for Eternity

Little by little

I must change my life only

in God’s own Way.

Poem of the Day

Written by Sri Chinmoy

July 31st,2007

With but a few exceptions, none of the runners here is running so quickly that most people, even in pretty average condition, could not keep up with them for the length of at least one city block.  There are times of the day when they might pick it up, but for the most part every body here runs pretty slow.  When dealing with time nothing moves quickly.  Though as the final days slip away into oblivion our perception of time can be skewed.  The striking enormity of the distance they are running and the super human effort to accomplish it however never changes.

What is miraculous is how much that can be accomplished and transformed in ourselves simply by being diligent and persevering.  Harnessing ourselves to a, never give up attitude, and trying to eliminate the distractions in our lives that serve no genuine purpose.   Instead, imagine how better we would feel and be if we just started focusing on the tasks that will give us inner satisfaction and fulfillment.

Over the summer I have heard lots of stories from others who have found inspiration from what the 11 runners have done here this summer.  For some it is simply reevaluating their priorities.  Get more exercise, eat less and better, and maybe just trying to reexamine their goals, both outwardly and within. Finding out what taking little steps can do to improve our own lives.

“Yeah, step by step.” Purna-Samarpan. “Don’t overstretch.” Pushkar.  I had asked Pushkar and Purna-Samarpan to recite the above poem and before you know it they offered some commentary on it.  “Yeah, one step at a time, and also accept whatever is given to you.  Be patient.”

When I mention that there are very few days left, Purna-Samarpan jokes.  “Yeah, we paid for 52 days so we are staying until the end.” He adds more seriously that while Pushkar will finish likely in 2 days,  he himself has almost 200 more miles to go in order to reach 2700.  “It sounds little in comparison to what we have run already but still, it won’t come easy.  It is coming to an end and it is a good feeling.”

Pushkar jokes, that now they will need to become really spiritual in the last few days.  “No joking and kidding any more,” and laughs hilariously.  “I have a crying eye and a smiling eye.  Crying eye, is that it will be over, and no more running.  No more divine progress running.  Smiling eye, is that you have reached the finish line and you can get a little rest.  You are so happy delighted.”

Purna-Samarpan describes that for him as soon as the race is over, that life afterward takes some adjustment getting used to it again.  “In the beginning it is a little bit plain, also a little bit dull or something.  It changes obviously.  It is not so easy to readjust.  It takes some time to get back into your rhythm.”

“Here you run because you run.”

“Tonight we will finish 7 weeks of running.”

Pushkar, “just after Asprihanal finished, I got a very happy feeling, that I am still not finished.  That I can still continue running.  I got such joy that I can continue to run. I got the feeling, that I would love to run for eternity.  Up to the moon and back, whatever.  This was quite special.  Running for eternity, eternity, and eternity.

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I Am Just Running

I don’t know.  I just did it.  I don’t think about it.  I am just running.” Pranjal starts day 48 with just 18 miles more to run.   When he crosses the line in just a few hours he will once again better his timing on the course.  It is his 6th straight year here and if he maintains his pace he will break his personal record from last year by more than a day.

This is very much his world here.  Over the past 48 days no one has ever arrived on the course before him and he has generally been the last one to leave at night.  He seems to try and take advantage of every possible available moment in which it is permissible to run.  If the 3100 was always difficult in past years the race this summer has been a nightmare of heat and humidity.  For a big man like himself there had to be long stretches of absolute and utter torture in order to somehow average 65 plus miles a day.  The reason he succeeds so well is simple.  “I don’t like easy things.”

“I like when you have to really fight for something.  You get more happiness from that.  When people try to have life as easy as possible, I don’t think it is right.  You will not get the right experiences from that.  You will get more experiences from the obstacle that you must go over.”

We talk about how his spiritual teacher always set new and higher goals for himself right up until his final days.  Pranjal models himself very much on the importance of trying to better yourself in every possible way.  “This race is the best for that.  This is the main point of the race.  It is not what you do, You have to do your best.  It does not matter on the outer result.  When you try your best this is the real goal.”

He feels that all his capacity, endurance, and energy comes from within.  “The problem is that people are thinking too much about it.  This energy is always inside.  Your mind always gives you some boundaries.”  Once one does this he believes than the possibilities around us become unlimited.  There is nothing that we then cannot accomplish.  “What is holding us back is our mind.  When you go beyond the mind you can find that there is much more.”

It has been 3 years now since Sri Chinmoy was last able to come.  Like all who continue to run here he is adamant about the feeling that all have expressed that his presence is still very much alive here.  “This is his race.  His spirit is always here.  This course is very special, like sacred.  You can really feel his energy here.  I think this is what draws people here.  They can really experience his consciousness here.  I always felt here that his energy was more stronger here.”

He describes this experience as being totally an inner reality.  He describes that on the surface the course can appear to be utter bedlam.  With kids playing basketball, the traffic, construction on the field, and all the myriad of distractions and eruptions that take place in and around the area all day long.  It cannot be seen only felt.  “This energy is somewhere inside.”


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Self-Transcendence’s Distant Shore

He stands on the starting line this morning with but 30 more miles to go.  He is silent and serene and his eyes gaze downwards.  He is meditating, he is praying, he is offering up thanks or he may be doing a thousand other things or maybe nothing at all.  On the outer plane however, the loud volume of his actions over 46 days are open to all for inspection.  His miles carefully annotated and can be scrutinized by all who choose to do so.

But how to understand and appreciate the heart and spirit that carried him through out the long hot summer.  Can any of us who have watched the full measure of his heroic deed here really grasp and comprehend any of it at all.

At even our finest moments of pristine clarity and of vision, we can barely glimpse only a fraction of the enormity of the burdens he has borne here.  And not just this year but in all the 10 summers he has set off for the impossibly distant finish line.  All we can really see for sure are the numbers, and the times pressed by pencil into neat columns on clip boards.

For the past 46 days he has run 3069 miles.  He has traveled so far and yet he has gone no where.  At least our eyes tell us this, but in our hearts know this is not true.  For the power that really moves him also moves us and the world around us as well.  For 3100 miles he listened to, and became one with, the power within.  Hopefully when our call comes, no matter the deed, we too will be able to answer.

He was given an invitation to take a great and monumental inner journey.  He willingly and gratefully accepted, and now he heroically stands on Self-Transcendence’s distant shore.

Galya starts the day with just 61 more miles to go.  This will be the 2nd time he has reached the finish line.  His time this year will be something like 2 days faster than last year and by any and all computation standards his betterment of his previous time is unequivocally a demonstration of Self-Transcendence.

But the transformation of this 39 year old Ukrainian is much more than just better timing.  He started the race as Vladimir, and somehow by the wondrous mysteries of life, he is now known by the spiritual name of Galya.  He has a lifetime ahead of himself now to appreciate and identify with this new inner identity.  Use it to unlock and reveal much more of the world within him.  To fully become the divine being that his heart wants him to be.

At the same time in just a few hours more he will be able to rest and sit still at last.  No longer be driven by the relentless pace of his constantly churning legs that never knew true rest for the past 46 days.  To at last enjoy and abide in the place within that he has struggled so hard to arrive at.  He will be the 2nd champion to arrive at last on Self-Transcendence’s Distant shore.

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Be A Part Of The Race

It is his last full day on the course.  At his present rate, most likely sometime on Thursday afternoon Asprihanal will stride across the line and be declared the winner of this years 3100 mile race.  He starts the day with just 95 miles more to go.  A number, that for most of us, who are even fairly good runners would seem pretty intimidated, if not terrified by.  Yet for Asprihanal it will be a mere victory lap.

He will not break any records.  Measured up against all the other times he has run the race it just might even be his slowest race.  He did however miss a full day of running due to illness.  The true measure of his greatness however cannot ever be calculated by we who merely stand and gaze out from the sidelines.   It is also almost impossible to even count up all the miles he has run all together in competition.  The only thing which is certain, is that after he runs across the line here tomorrow he will have completed this race for the 10th time.  Meaning that he has run 31,000 miles around this little block in Queens.

This slight gentle Finnish man is not one for facts and figures.  He would not likely ever spout off his statistics or accomplishments even if he remembered them all.  He is not a self promoter or one who needs fame or attention.  Though certainly he has performed beyond the measure of most mortals in this world of ours, and could rightfully be declared a real and rightful hero.    He simply has run so far and so often because he must.  Not to please the media, not to please the record keepers, but to please the heart within him that has called him forth to come and run here again and again.

As he goes about his first few laps today he checks the sheet so see how his friends have done the previous day.  He takes his time and reads each column and rejoices when the numbers are big and sounds a little sad when the numbers are small.  They are his family.  They will cluster by the line when he crosses and rejoice in his victory.  In turn as each of them come home he will be there for them as well.

We don’t know for sure if he will return again and run here once more.  10 summers here in Queens is a lot of time and a lot of miles.  In fact, if you added it all up together he may have spent more than a year of his life here running around and around this block.  In about a week he will go back home to Finland where he will not have to ever worry about the heat and humidity.  But I suspect there is a deep and soulful portion of  himself that will always look upon this little hard endless path as his home as well.

In microscopic repetitive detail he has seen every molecular aspect and dimension of this block.  But like the grand journey of life itself there is always the next corner to turn, and the next new discovery to be revealed.  The ultimate goal of self-transcendence is never reached by those who sleep and wishfully think of doing.   Perfection is only for those who do and those who allow themselves to become.

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What Ever Capacity You Have

There is no easy way to describe what function it is exactly that Parvati and her Enthusiasm Awakeners perform every day at the 3100 mile race.  That this group of women collectively pull themselves out of beds at an ungodly hour to stand in front of an empty school and sing every day is a given.  That they are always color coordinated and every day seem to have a lengthy repertoire of uplifting songs is understood.  That they are always smiling and cheerful and…..yes, enthusiastic, is predictable.  Let us not omit that weather conditions never ever play a spoiling role in their performances.  This years heat and last year’s rain never cooked or dampened their appearances.  That every day they bring special treats for the runners and cheer them on with more verve and soulfulness than any cheer leading squad any where in the country is just plain remarkable.

To call them a force of nature would be getting close to what they are but this description doesn’t even bring into play the sweet soulful simplicity of what they collectively are and what they do for the race itself.  To ever not see and hear them on this block every morning at 6:30 as they have done for years would be to feel a great gaping hole in the very fabric of the race itself.  It is not as though the runners could no longer be able to run, but without the Enthusiasm Awakeners the heart of the race would be in some way diminished of a great source of joy and of life.

By 7:30 they are all pretty much gone.  Dispersed in every direction back into the world of jobs and responsibility.  Places in which soulfulness and singing simple songs of devotion don’t really count for much.  To the runners, for the hour they are here, they are a great surge of energy that can propel and sustain them, perhaps in some instances, through out the long day itself.

Many other people will come to the race throughout the day.  Performing all manner of useful and practical functions.  The Enthusiasm Awakeners have no practical function at all.  Without this extraordinary group of women singers however the race would feel somehow empty, devoid of something incredibly significant yet one in which the full extent of their service is not so easily comprehended.

It is because they come and sing and inspire, and be inspired, and feed the great churning divine engine of the race that many of the miracles happen at all.  It is in and through their voices, which are filled with joy and hope and inner promise that maybe the world beyond this block is blessed, just a little bit as well, with this miracle.

As a group they had been performing many of  Sri Chinmoy’s English songs for years.  They also had been singing at the race every morning on a regular basis. Every day while they were there, Sri Chinmoy used to drive up in his little red car early in the morning and teach them a new song.

On this day in 2007 however they received their name.  Today, in a splash of color and gifts they are celebrating their anniversary.  Parvati tells me how they had been asked on this day, 3 years ago, to come up at a function, later in the day, and learn a new song.  It was the Enthusiasm Awakeners song.  They sang it over and over and gradually the girls got the drift.  This would be the name of the group from then on.  She says, “and then T shirts appeared.  And then it all came together that maybe this was our group’s name.  So after many years of being a group this became our official name.”

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We Win Ourselves

He is a most unlikely looking runner on this damp Sunday afternoon.  A light rain has just begun to fall and it is creating dark spots on his crisp blue shirt.  He does not run fast or far in his shiny dark shoes, but he is clearly eager to be part of this wondrous event.  He could have stood quietly on the sidewalk and waved, and shook hands, but Mr. Shamsul Haq, the ex Consul General of Bangladesh felt the spirit pull him and he just had to run.

“I have known about this event for the past 2 years,” he says.  He had been part of the ceremony at the end of the race last year and once before he had been part of the ceremonies for one of the shorter races.  Of these events he says, “we win ourselves.  By running this race you discover your power.  A very inspiring event.”

“This is a very extraordinary event, and I have come here to reconnect with such a great leader. (Sri Chinmoy) A great son of the soil of Bangladesh.  I have come as a diplomat.  I believe that Sri Chinmoy is a great source of soft power.  His teachings, his meditation, his self-transcendence race, his music, his sayings, his speeches, everything are so inspiring.  They can really inspire the young minds of Bangladesh.

He is soon about to return once again to his country.  He hopes to introduce, “Sri Chinmoy’s inspiring music to the Bangladeshi people and also his meditation, to the school system in Bangladesh.  I will advise the policy makers, to think, and implement that idea.  I am a follower of Sri Chinmoy as well.”

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