Day 29… This Kind Of Focus (July 15)

“It takes time for everybody to get used to it.  You are here all day every day, and you are not in very comfortable conditions.  In terms of pain and tiredness.   Somehow you get used to it and it is easier.”

Ananda-Lahari is describing that it takes the runners sometimes weeks to get used to the rhythm, flow, and intensity of the race.   As someone who is now spending his 14th straight summer at the race you might think he might find it just a little easier each time, but he doesn’t.  It is an impossible thing to run 3100 miles, and it is impossible to spend 18 hours continuously moving around and around the block, but sometimes of course the quiet miracles do happen here. A miracle of self transcendence now well into its 22nd summer.

photo by Jowan

Not under a glare of light, not before a great audience of expectant viewers, but in the way that real champions do when faced with uncommon adversity.  Set steadfast aim towards the task and use all the strength of mind, heart and body that you have. Then keep plunging ever deeper within, to find even more strength and resolve to carry on to the summit of perfection.

“To me it seems that we can solve many problems when we are strong mentally.  There are some tips that can help you not to suffer here.”  Ananda-Lahari then tells me how he has helped himself considerably during hot weather by simply using coconut oil on his skin.  “I am very sensitive to the sun.  I get burned very easily.”

Towards the end of our talk I ask him if he gets familiar with many of the different people who come around the course at different times of the day and night.  “It is not like I want to cut off the outer world, but I take it as though I am running a marathon, but I would like to take it as if I were running 100 meter sprint.  I would like to have this kind of focus on the race.”

“I am not there yet but I like the idea, and I like to keep getting closer to that idea.  You are really running the race and this is all that you are focusing on.  To be calm, quiet, and relaxed and fully committed to the race.  I like the idea of going in silence.”

The board at the Start of Day 29 *The totals may not be accurate…. Magic number is 1668 *

Very early this morning heavy thundershowers came through

The medical tent partially collapsed

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Day 28… Prayer Works (July 14)

“When they first told me the course was not flat I could not believe it.” Of course there a very select few who have had the opportunity like she has to circle the half mile block around Thomas Edison High school thousands and thousands of times.  Not just intimately understanding differentials in elevation but also every possible aspect of the loop.

Each day a change in direction and each day a hope and a prayer to be able to make the circuit at least 109 times.  As of 27 days of running Surasa has completed the loop 1,623 miles here just this year. That is not including the multiple orbits she has made in this same race over the years.

“I am happy as long as I survive.  When there was extreme heat my only goal was to survive.”

“My preparation for the race I have to say is not so good.”  Surasa says she does not keep track of her training.  “I don’t write it down.  I am running in the morning and I cannot manage more than 50 minutes.  On the weekend I try to run longer, 2hours, 3 hours.”

Photo by Jowan

Surasa says that training has 2 sides.  When you run well you feel good but if you get tired then doubts can start to come about your fitness.  “That’s life. Training is always different than the race.”

“Many times I ran barefoot on grass.  I said to my feet, soon you will be running on sidewalk.  You have to remember this, running on the grass.”

“I have a very nice story that shows that prayer works.  The heat wave took all my energy.  Then I felt that something had changed. I had the best night ever.  I was sleeping through the night for the first time.  A little bit longer than 3 hours.  Then in the morning I felt, wow, such a good sleep.”

Photo by Jowan

“It was the first day after all this heat.  Then I could do the mileage.  I believe I did 114 laps.  Everything was good.  Everything was much better. Later, on this same day.  I got an email from a friend.”  She was visiting a special meditation center for students of Sri Chinmoy in Germany.  She told Surasa, “I was praying for you.  I was sending light into your heart hoping that the light would then come down to your feet.”

Photo by Jowan

“This was so amazing.  It was so nice for me.  It showed me that prayer works.”

Surasa’s name means, your heart is filled with boundless sweetness and affection.  Therefore you are making very fast progress in the spiritual life.

The Board at the Start of Day 28…*Note the totals may not be accurate… the magic number is 1,609*

Camp early

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Day 27… Completely New Journey (July 13)

“I feel very very good.  I am very blessed.  I think it is getting better and better.  I can say I feel very good every day.”

If one were just looking at the scoreboard it would appear that Ushika is doing spectacularly well.  Yesterday  he ran 64 miles the most he has run since the first day of the race.  But his feeling good is more about what is happening within than the number of little plastic digits stuck to a scoreboard with Velcro.

“It was definitely special when I transcended my mark of 15 days for 1,000 miles.  This was the longest I had ever run before coming to this race.  Since then it has been a completely new journey.  I do celebrate each new milestone.  Like the halfway point yesterday.”

When asked what he did he says, “stop, smile, be grateful, take a picture of the board, and have a beer or an ice cream or both.”

Ushika says he would not have changed anything about his preparations for this race.  “My goal was to be more grateful.  Basically I am crying every day.  Not with pain but with gratitude.  So the only thing I would need would be more gratitude.”

“Yesterday Vasu and I were crying together.  Because as a new comer, I have teething problems, with the muscles, with the skin, with everything. Vasu always checks on me.  Most of the time when some problem arises he suggests some exercise and like a miracle.  Within one or two laps it works.  The problem gets considerably better.”

“Yesterday I told him that each and every exercise he had given me had worked.  I was praising the Supreme’s grace that it was working in and through him.  Then we both started to cry.”

“This was a gratitude moment yesterday.  It was when I realized what a family of heroes I have joined here.  That I am able to join them in running for the Supreme, fighting for the right cause, and growing into the light.”

The board at the start of Day 27 *Please note the totals may not be accurate…..the magic number is 1550*


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Day 26… One Big Family (July 12)

Feeding the 3100 mile runners is no easy task and yet Nirjharini has been the head cook now of the race for the past 15 years.  Creating individual dishes specifically for each runner’s needs and appetites is a herculean task.  Now imagine this responsibility spread out over an 18 hour day.  Ensuring that each athlete has enough fuel to run 59.6 miles a day and more, and stay healthy and of course happy.

When you enter the race kitchen there are a number of impressions that greet you immediately.  Aromas of fresh food you are aware of well before you even knock on the door.  Once inside spotless cleanliness, and purity are something you cannot but unavoidably feel and experience.  It is what I imagine a temple of food is like.

Nirjharini and her crew all work with such love and joy it reminds me of how some great restaurants can provide great taste but you go away somehow still lacking.  Her food is always delicious and made with love. The best ingredient in all of life’s dishes.

I ask Nirjharini what she likes about helping in this important way for the race. “I look forward to this race all year.  Being here for me is a very special time.  It is a very sacred time.”  Nirjharini also carries very sweet memories of the early years at the race when Sri Chinmoy, the marathon team founder was still with us.”

Nirjharini says, “it is amazing what the runners do.  It is extremely inspiring.  They are all doing something unimaginable. I am very grateful that I can be part of this race, preparing food.  I really really admire the runners.  They are a big inspiration in my life.”

“The runners give us tips and we are trying to change the food for them,” … Mirka

“It is great.  It is one big family and I really enjoy it.  We can feel the oneness with the runners.  You can start to feel what each one likes or doesn’t like.  I feel like I am home here. It is really great.”….Sadajyoti

“I think it is a really really special race.  It is such a beautiful feeling to be here.  You can feel the Supreme’s energy very strongly.” Kamaneeya works as a counter most days as well as working in the kitchen.  The inner experience she describes, “it is so so strong it is really beautiful.”

I did not leave after my visit to the kitchen hungry in any way.

*Not pictured are Tanuja and Virochana*

The Board at the start of Day 26 *Note the totals may not be accurate…… The magic number is 1,490*

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Dy 25… Real Fulfillment (July 11)

Harita has been on the road with the Peace Run now since early spring.  She and the team have carried the Peace torch across the country and she has enjoyed serving a project that impacts thousands and thousands of people as it makes it way, not just across the US but also around the world.  Her break away from this epic journey has come to an end and she will soon fly off to Chicago today to once again rejoin the North American team.

Today before she left I asked her what her experience has been like helping and observing the 3100 mile race from the sidelines.

“When you run the race you realize that you wouldn’t be able to last more than a single day by yourself.  There are so many aspects of support, oneness, and encouragement and love that go into this race.”  Harita says this giving comes from many many people who serve the race in many many ways as well.

She says that over the last couple of weeks she has enjoyed and appreciated being able to observe the race.  “It is unfathomable how much goes into this race behind the scenes.”  Harita is impressed with people such as Vajra ,who do so much service to the race with the utmost humility and selflessness.

She says that people who are drawn to the race to serve do so for the opportunity to be a part of it.  “I had the sense when I was running the race that I was just a small part of it.  The runners are just one part of it.  The race creates this powerful reality here.”

“As a runner the most powerful thing that I could receive was encouragement.  In that encouragement you feel, oneness and you feel strength.  Everybody who takes part in it.  They feel that they are part of it.  They are also getting that strength and that encouragement and enthusiasm.  Thus becoming part of something greater than themselves.”

“We all know that are lives are unfulfilled if we are just thinking about ourselves.  Real fulfillment in life comes from being part of something bigger than ourselves. We realize that we all have something to offer to the world.  You don’t have to offer something amazing.  You can offer something really small, but if you offer it with all of your heart.  That is the most fulfilling feeling.”

The board at the start of Day 25 *Please note the totals may not be updated…..the magic number is 1,430


Vajra starts the generator

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Day 24… Opened Many Doors (July 10)

There are many people over the years who have made significant contributions to the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team races.  Who have worked behind the scenes to make sure that all the runners are served in the best possible way and are able to have a positive experience. The team simply would not be able to function without the selfless service of many.  Vajra is just one of those such people.  His dedication and commitment to the multi day races is extraordinary.

Here at the 3100 mile race he has been one of the early set up people since the very first race.  Up before dawn and patroling the course and collecting trash in very large garbage bags.  He is always smiling, always gracious, and willing to do just about anything that needs to be done.  In particular over the last 3 plus weeks he has massaged Kobi every morning.

What’s more he has talked to Kobi at length and made suggestions and given him tips and advice, crucial to a runner who is now plunging into a whole new world of endurance running.

As we are talking this morning I can’t help but notice he is carrying a mechanical counter in his hand.  Vajra tells me that for the past few weeks he has been chanting a mantra and uses it to keep track. He never pauses idle in his inner quest for God.

“In those early days I realized that there was something about this path that answered what I wanted to do most.  Love, with all my heart, soul, and physical God.  I found I was able to do that on this path.” Vajra says that the love evolved into something even deeper and more fulfilling.  “I want to be able to do this throughout my spiritual life.”

Vajra describes how often we are required to do things that outwardly we may not at the time appreciate.  It is only later that we realize the positive affect these actions will yield surprising results.  “You will end up finding something that helps you in every way.”

He says being part of the races has, “opened up many doorways.   It has made me realize that for every challenge that has been presented to me.  I have overcome them and in turn become a better person.  It’s a big thing in this life.”

“Not only to be a better person but also to become what your creator wanted you to be.”

“I wake up in the morning with this tremendous inner urge to start the day.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  It makes you feel like your life has significance, and you are doing what you are here to do.  What the creator has asked you to do.  You can’t beat that.”

The Board at the start of Day 24 *please note totals may have not been update…….magic number is 1,370.8*

Alternate side parking

Empty tables

It is going to be hot

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Day 23… As Simple As Possible (July 9)

There is a kind of silence and tranquility about William’s running.  Occasionally there might be a hard set to his jaw but his steps are always light and his pace almost precise and clock work efficient.   A veteran of many many ultra races he is a consummate endurance athlete.  No bravado, no hype, just get on the track and go for as long as you can.  After 22 days that of course is a significant total.

His mileage to date is 1288 miles.  A good number by any standard but still a little off the pace which is 1,311.  When you see him run, particularly late in evening when the track becomes his almost serene personal loop, there is little doubt he will gradually gather up all the missing miles and then some.

“We were hit with a heat wave earlier on and though I do heat training before I come out here.  It obviously doesn’t equate being hot for 18 hours a day.  I had to work my way through that.”  William also had a day of stomach upset that also set him back.

“I cope with everything and I am very philosophical.  My philosophy is to run as far as I can every day.  Despite the circumstances, whether it be physical or weather issues, or health.  Whatever I get I am happy with.  That is my philosophy so I might as well relax.  I am more relaxed than I was 4 years ago.”

“With experience you learn to look at the bigger picture.  The vast majority of time it is just about the next lap, this day, and nothing more.  That is the way I do it.”

“I have various athletic goals.  To finish in a certain position and obviously I would like to complete the distance within the time limit.  But to be honest I wouldn’t be devastated if I didn’t.  As long as I have done my best to achieve the greatest possible distance every day.”

“I try to make everything as simple as possible.  I used to have complex plans and mantras.  I still do use mantras occasionally.  Mostly I just boil it all down and focus on my breathing.  If my mind is drifting or I think I have a problem I always bring it back by focusing on my breathing.   That is the most important thing I am doing.”

“Most of the day I am just thinking about my breathing.”

William says it gives him peace and he appreciates the simplicity of it.  “It is always there.  I am not forcing any changes.  The breath is doing its own thing.  I just go along with it.”

“It is essential for me to have a crew supporting me.  4 years ago I tried to go without for the first 2 weeks, so I do know what it is like being unsupported.” He says that too much time is wasted if he doesn’t have the support of helpers.

“I do love the evenings. I love it after 8 or 9pm especially.  To me that is when I come alive, when it goes quiet here.  The crowds have all gone it is just me and the race.  To me that is my golden time, the evening.”

The condition of Yolanda’s feet was such that she went to a foot specialist to seek further treatment.  On her facebook page she released the following statement.  When the opportunity takes place I will ask for a further update.

The New York concrete got the best of my feet! I must stay off my feet for two weeks Thanks Dr Haskins & Dr. Karen Silver!!!

The Board at the start of Day 23 *Note the totals may not be accurate* The magic number is 1,311 miles

The early time

The morning chat

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Day 22… My Dream (July 8)

There are many many moments during this long hard race that I will have a conversation that I find to be unbelievable.  I am perplexed that an exhausted runner, who is in pain says something so beautiful and so positive my mind has a difficult time of taking it all in.

At the same time, with even just a speck of my heart’s oneness with them, I know that what they are saying is true.  It is coming from a clear bright place deep within them.  They have just spoken a powerful and pure inspiration.

One that does not just touch me alone for it is an expression that is meant for the greater world as well.  A truth that spreads out and in some indefinable way and enters into the consciousness of  the outer world.  Conveying a clear message of promise and hope.  One that demonstrates to all of us, that we can all be better people and continue to perfect the world around us.

Today Kaneenika inspired me in just this way.  In pain, exhausted, and about 45 miles behind the pace, she is not just smiling she is beaming with happiness.

“I feel quite strong.  It is just that my feet are not strong enough to perform what I would like to perform.  Actually my pain is subsiding. That is good news.”

Kaneenika says that despite some physical issues she feels happy.   “I am definitely determined.  It is there all the time.”

“What I am observing is that my miles are not what they should be to finish the race.  But just the same I feel that the more the race is happening.  The more I want to continue.”

“Before the race Dipali was doing interviews.  She asked each runner what dream they had for this race.  I said my dream was to stay happy and to please my Guru.  I think that is a huge task.  So I have to stick to it.”

Kaneenika says that at times she may come up a little short of this goal.  Particularly when, “I am in so much pain and not doing the miles.  There are moments when I feel desperate.  But that is the moment when I ask for help from within…..from above.”

“I think every time I do this help comes.  It comes in different forms.  It is either somebody giving me a tip on how to do something.  Or I just find it inside me.”

The Board at the start of Day 22 *(Please note totals may not have been updated)  Magic number is 1,251 miles

Quiet Sunday morning

Yolanda takes her daily picture of the board

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Day 21…Step By Step (July 7)

“Not easy in the morning but everything good, very good.”  There are many days when I wish I could emulate Vasu’s unblinking optimism and devotion.  Here now running for the past 20 days I have never heard one bad word or even a hint of a negative expression.

He starts the day having already run 1404 miles.  A distance that would have taken him all the way from his home in St Petersburg to Southern France.  Mornings though take a while for him to get going as he would like.

“The day is good, everything very good.  Something inside has to wake up and then push me a little bit.  Step by step I need to increase my speed.”

“In my case I try to pray and meditate in the morning and it gives me some energy to increase my speed.  In the morning it is not so easy.  But after the Enthusiasm Awakeners come and they sing.  It helps me a lot.  Steadily I increase my speed.  I do meditation that also helps me.”

Vasu says that his routine also includes reciting the daily prayer that is delivered to the course each day.  After which he listens to recordings of Sri Chinmoy’s music.  “When I listen to music my mind relaxes and I do not lose energy. I can run then step by step better and better.” He also visualizes his spiritual teacher singing within his heart.

“During the day I also try and speak with other runners.  We inspire each other to continue.”  This routine he continues he says almost all day.

When asked if every day is good.  Every day is a good day.  “God makes for us each day and we should be grateful to him for that day.”

The board at the start of Day 21 …. the magic number is 1192   (Note the totals may not be up to date)

Aharan setting out yogurt

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Day 20… Go For It (July 6)

“Yesterday I had a flickering battery which finally went dead.”  I saw Smarana mid morning yesterday and he was not looking good.  He decided that the best thing he could do under the circumstances was to simply go home and take a real break from the course.  5 hours off and he says, “it was nice actually.”

“I did it to get my body back into balance.  It was very hot and humid the last few days.  I just didn’t feel right.  I didn’t want to take any chances.”   Smarana describes a scenario of when not doing the right thing events can quickly escalate and your situation can spiral out of control.  “It is better to take care of it in the first place.  Become strong again and then go out again.”

Smarana describes that when he came back to the course he had a new perspective on all the other runners determination and drive.  “Everyone has issues but it was still very inspiring.”

He says that because he was walking he could clearly see how the other runners use the force that he can see here and they, “Just go for it.”

“Everybody has their lows and their highs, but you also have to keep this tension to keep yourself going.  It was very inspiring for me.”

“If you get too tense then you just break at some point.  You have to have this push and be able to relax at the same time.  You have to find a balance.”

Smarana says that though it is not unique to this race, but because of the race’s extreme length you can have a better perspective of it.  “Since this race is so long.  You have to keep it up for a long time.  When you come out here in the morning you have 18 hours.  You have to keep a tension not to let go.”

He feels that he personally takes this kind of motivation into his normal life even after the race.  It makes him feel more dynamic and striving.  Small problems are negligible then.”

The board at the start of Day 20.  The magic number now stands at 1,132 miles for those on track to complete the race

The camp early

Light showers move in quickly but only briefly this morning

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