July 25: That’s Possible

Early this morning Pradeep showed me something wonderful.  We had run a few laps together and I was just about to go when he invited me over to his table and he pulled this amazing picture out of his bag.  He was really happy and proud to show it to me and I could see why.  For it showed the front of the Health Food store in Den Haag in which he is the manager.  In his absence his employees, instead of goofing off, have dedicated the entire front window of the shop to him and his exploits here at the 3100 mile race.

Front in center of the window is posted his daily mileage which all his friends are anxiously watching as well as I am sure the customers who know him so well too.  I can just imagine the person whose job it is to go to the results page and print it out every day.  Now with just 11 days of running left just about everyone can start wiggling all 10 fingers and come up with the exact math of what he needs to do.

 

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July 24: It Is Just Real

They are the quiet heroes.  They are but 10 and yet though so small in number, these runners are a veritable army rising up to challenge impossibility.  If you look for champions who wear capes and wave magic wands they will not impress you at all.  For their foes are not diabolical wizards but things that can subdue us all, like weather and weariness.

When our most crushing enemy is a simple lack of faith in ourselves they demonstrate each day, by simply lacing up their shoes that all ignorance can be defeated. You just have to try.

Just a day ago they entered a battle like most had never seen.  Nature launched a twin salvo of suffering.  With one hand it threw at them heat and with the other it showered them with humidity.  A deadly combination that ground much of the city and country into submission and yet they continued to respond as best they could.

Slowed, and certainly humbled, they nonetheless ambled on through it all.  Each making at least 40 miles when much of the rest of humanity was scampering to  shelter at beaches and cozy air conditioned homes.

Not surprising, at least not to those who have watched the great escapade unfold this summer, is that the ones who surrendered to it least of all were Pranjal and Surasa.

Somehow Pranjal, with his big Slovak engine inside, churned and rumbled his way all the way to 57 miles (104 laps) on Friday.  The gentle Austrian lady Surasa also completed 104 laps.  She who is skipping lightly over any of our usual notions about surrendering to the limitations of age.  Each day she continues to prove that has to be composed of some much more tougher stuff inside.  There are times when it appears as though she just makes it all looks so easy and almost effortless.   As though we all could be quiet heroes.

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July 23: Race Postponed 24 hours

Due to the severe nature of the current weather forecast for the New York region the race has been postponed for 24 hours. The Self Transcendence race will resume once again on Sunday morning.

The race directors made this decision in the best interest of all the runners who will now take a well deserved break and try and recoup from Friday’s severe conditions.  The health and safety of the runners is their first and foremost objective.

A decision has also been made to extend the running schedule by 2 additional days.  This means that when running resumes the total available running time for the runners will be 54 days now and not 52.

Please check out this space tomorrow when the race resumes.  I appreciate any and all interest in this race and hope you can find some inspiration in my daily stories.

As always the runners can be contacted by sending Emails to:

ny@srichonmoyraces.org

July 22: Happiness Has To Come

Do you remember how your mother used to wake you up on schooldays.  My Mom had just that special kind of tone to her voice that I assume most mothers just naturally use with their children.  It was a blend of affection, tireless support, and just the right hint of the much tougher parenting material.  Every morning here for the past 40 days Rupantar has had a similar kind of tone to roust exhausted runners out of chairs and gradually get them shuffling towards the starting line.  Today he was using some of the tough love talk that I have rarely heard him use before.

Conditions, not just in New York, but across the entire east coast have now dramatically shifted from intolerable to dangerous.  When people from other places suggest that it can’t be that bad because they regularly experience temperatures  which are just as hot. People here resort to an age old mantra, ‘It is not the heat it is the humidity.” Rupantar was going around to all the runners and asking them to be extra careful.

He said to Atmaivr, “Start drinking now.  Don’t be afraid that you are not going to finish the race.  If you have to, slow down.  You know what you have to do.  You are going to finish the race.  Today you just want to survive.  If you want to take a long break it is okay.”

“It is hotter than the hottest.  This is as hot as it gets.  Some of the runners are new, and they haven’t experienced it.  If they are not careful I will pull them out of the race.  It is as simple as that.”

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July 21: Every Day A New Day

Sometime 2 days ago Ashprihanl’s check engine light had to flicker on.  He was pushing himself to a new record that day, having completed 24 straight days of 70 miles or more per day.  With just a little more than 300 miles to go he could literally see the finish line in front of him.  At his current pace it was now just a few days off.  The footsteps of the young Ukranians had gradually drifted back to what had to be a comfortable distance behind him.  He had to feel that on this his 11th year here he would not just have another victory but also a new personal best.

The human body is not as precise as the engineering of even an inexpensive car.  We don’t come with owner’s manuals, service schedules, or on board lights and dials of any kind.  Somewhere though, deep within Ashprihanal’s brain, some little neuron had to be sparking a danger signal.  It was trying to tell him to check his fluid intake or slow down, or perhaps simply a combination of the 2.

The conditions now on the course are atrocious.  It has been and continues to be so hot that you can barely take in enough fluid to complete even just one short lap.  Everyone is sweating continually but you cannot cool because the moisture simply does not evaporate in the stifling humidity. By late yesterday afternoon Ashprihanal’s body simply could not go on.  He had pushed beyond the point of recovering by sitting in the shade and drinking many cups of water.

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July 20: I Always Learned Something

“The main quality I felt this morning was gratitude.”  Just before dawn, and with just a few precious minutes to spare, Atmavir slipped alone into the quiet hallowed  garden which is the Aspiration Ground.  It is the local place close by that was once the main gathering place, in which the students of Sri Chinmoy used to meet on a regular basis with their late spiritual teacher.  It is a sacred place still, in which his presence continues to be intimately felt and experienced by all those who continue to value his teachings.

For the past 5 summers Atmavir has offered up himself wholeheartedly to his personal battle ground, the 3100 mile race.  Here conflict of all kinds takes place but which is mostly unobservable by those who watch from the side, for it takes place mostly in minds and in muscles.

From one vantage point, it is hard  to imagine that there is stillness or silence or peace of any kind on the path they run on, which is so incredibly hard and as well now so hot.  The churning parade of sliced open shoes never slows or stops.  Both mentally and physically it can be metaphorically viewed as a tumultuous raging sea, in which your life boat is simply somehow trying to find passage to that safe and secure shore called the finish line.

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July 19: This Is So Precious

Most of us like to think of ourselves as being self sufficient.  That no matter what the task in front of us might be, we will never feel any need to turn to others for support or help of any kind.  It really depends of course upon, just how wide the independence streak is, painted up and down your backbone.

By hook or by crook we try somehow on our own, to find a way to get the job done.  In the 3100 mile race the demands are just so great it is also  nearly impossible to find someone who is willing and able to help for all the hours of running that exist over the course of a long hot summer.  Add to that, finding both the elusive chemistry of compatibility, an ever attentive disposition, and more importantly a sense of selflessness that allows you to slip invisibly into the life and needs of the runner.

In a car race it is impossible for them to take place at all, no matter the distance without a pit crew.  In the grand scheme of things of course the Self Transcendence race could not even begin to exist without a very large and enthusiastic umbrella group that helps the unique machinery of the race to seemingly revolve almost invisibly.  On an inner level all who are here and taking part are acutely aware  of the inner support and energy that wells up constantly from within.  If you think you can do this one on your own you will most likely be unpleasantly surprised.

Both Stutisheel and Surasa have experienced support for much of the day.  The little things that snatch steps and seconds away are eliminated when you never have to stray even for a moment from the course.  Dimitry is a part time helper for first time runners Sarvagata and Igor.  He had no experience at this and yet he arrives cheerfully and willingly every morning.  Slips away for part of the day to take care of other chores, and then returns to look after these 2 magnificent rookies from the Ukraine until the very end of their day.

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July 18: We Are Here To Run

It is only in a photograph that you can really stop and adequately capture the speeding world around us.  Time never stops, nor life, nor the race nor really anything that is part and parcel of creation.  Just as one footstep continually follows another, thoughts tumble one past another.  All experiences, so powerful and real for an instant are then continually being replaced by hopefully higher ones.  But int that instant the photo was taken you can at least attempt to reveal and comprehend a precious moment of a life in constant movement.

As someone who takes hundreds of pictures each day I am continually surprised at the little personal glimpses of life I can see taking place in the faces of those who are running here.  There are some who are almost always constantly serene.  They somehow cast the appearance of a living breathing tranquility.  One that has to be obviously in stark opposition, to the heroic encounter with suffering that they are surely being forced to willingly bear.

Ashprihanal’s face is a nonstop playground of expressions just as his arms and legs seem to twirl and spin in their own unique unscripted and unrepeatable choreography.  In one instant you might believe you see unbearable agony and in the next he will exhibit such radiant bliss you might not see anything similar unless you gazed up at paintings of holy figures in a place of worship.

He is of course both human and divine and seemingly unstoppable now as he forges his way onwards towards a personal best in the 3100.  The finish line now appears ever so clearly in front of him.  Just 500 miles away and it looks simply as though Sunday will be the day.  Time will not stop but his race on this his 11th year here surely will.  Many photographs will freeze the instant of celebration, and then he will simply run past and continue on with life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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July 17: Along The Way

The runners have all now completed 5 full weeks of running.  That is 35 straight 18 hour days.  If you or I,  or in fact most of the world set to work for that same period of time we certainly would most likely want to see some obvious benefit.  A reward, that we could hoist aloft or even some fancy folded paper that could be stuffed into a bank account.  At the end of the road for these 10 athletes there is no tangible reward whatsoever.  Perhaps some bragging rights if you were that kind of person but certainly none of them are that.  What all of them in fact do receive is applause and songs and as much congratulations as can be mustered by a hastily assembled group of enthusiastic friends and well wishers.

What most of the runners will tell you, is that it is in fact the journey along the way, that is the important thing and not the goal itself.  That gleefully striding into the boisterous bright cacophony of the finish line is not what the 3100 mile race is about at all.  It is the day to day moments that shape and form a new way, of not just looking at yourself, but also at the world around you.  Most of course will obviously become the most trim and fit of their lives but in absolute transcendence the transformation of the physical is just a tiny first step to much deeper and grander experiences.

Igor had been cruising along the first 2 weeks of the race running in the high 60 mile range.  On day 15 something changed and he suddenly became a 70 plus miles a day runner.  From then, until just 2 days ago, he appeared indomitable.  Then on the day of the full moon, he had problems, and slipped back to 64 miles.  Yesterday he seemed to regain his form and reached his usual standard of 131 laps(71 miles.) He says that it was a problem with his liver and that Kaushal reached into his bag of potions and found just the right fix.  Also he has been advised to adjust his diet. “I like pasta a lot but after that I had serious problems.”

He has now run much much further than he has ever run before.  He says, “I have learned that the body can adjust and adapt to such enormous loads.  That you can even feel normal after running for such a long time.”

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July 16: Just Another Day

It is a much different place when the Sun slips away.  The heavy chore the runners bear, never an easy one, certainly never finds much additional lightness in their steps, with the inevitable arrival of the dark night.

For some it offers a cool reprieve from the heat of day and an anonymity when the shadows draw so close you can almost disappear.  Invisible, but not for long, at least  until you hear of course the hopeful call of the counters, who always cry out, “I got you.”

It is always becomes a softer gentler place when the darkness comes. The runners weave through meager pools of light cast down by dim street lights.  And yet tonight there is a grand and special brightness glowing cool and magnificent low in the sky.  At this time of night the full moon has just pushed up over the roof of Jamaica high school.  It is poised and proud and it is the reason I have returned.  To hopefully catch its fat pale face and the even brighter glow of the runners who keep on and on, no mater whether or not there be sun or moon or any sky above them at all.  They only need the path, straight and unyielding in front of them.  The journey not over until the final step is taken.

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