July 30… It Takes All of Me

Have you arrived at God’s castle?

“I am very close.”

*Translation by Lyalya*

Yuri has to be one of the most mystical and cheerful athletes I have ever met.  The last time we talked he declared that his destination was not a physical one, but something inner instead.  He called it God’s castle.

It was almost as though the race course and the mileage he accumulated each day was simply the avenue he was traveling upon in order to arrive there.

“It takes all of me.  My soul is striding towards it.  My heart is preparing its shrine for this meeting.  My mind is silence itself.  My vital is surrender itself.  My body is just experiencing huge happiness in anticipation of reaching the finish line.”

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“I am striving towards this meeting with all my strength.  I am doing all that I can.  Every minute and every second and it will happen.”

“It is like a current and you are caught in its flow and you feel as though you are being pulled along.”

I ask Yuri if this experience requires any of his own personal effort.

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“It is both.  God is calling me and stretching his arms out towards me.  In turn I am stretching my hands out towards him and striving to reach him.  So it is both ways.”

With just 370 more miles to go and if he continues to run 68 mile days Yuri can be finished the race in 5 and a half days.  I am curious if he will be happy or sad when it is all over.

“The happiness just doesn’t vanish by itself.  It always stays in your heart.  It is like a bank in which you can invest.  Make withdrawals when you most need to.”

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Yuri says that when the daily prayers are translated into Russian for him every day they are like intimate and loving companions that he runs with for the rest of the entire day.

“These poems are like flowers in the garden.  You plant a flower and the garden becomes more and more beautiful.  There is one prayer that still comes to me most frequently.”

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God loves
my streaming
tears.
I love
God’s beaming
Smiles.

Sri Chinmoy, My blessingful and pride-flooded dedication to the indomitable runners of the 3100-mile Self-Transcendence Race, 2007, Agni Press, 2007

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July 29… I Love The Race

“A very good morning,” Stutisheel says as he greets me.

The rain is falling heavy enough to bounce off his umbrella.  The streets throng with the noisy jostling of thick morning traffic.  Stutisheel is now a 1,000 miles away from the goal and he has only 12 days left in which to do it.

He is walking on a cool wet morning and yet he still smiles.

It is a smile born from a deep and personal understanding of what the 3100 has done to him over the years and also what he has learned an become because of it.  Something he has earned from enduring much and giving his all to this race now over 12 long summers.

“This is a break now in the weather, and the next 5 days will be easier for what we need to do.”

“The major thing is your energy.  If you have energy than you can easily cope with all kinds of weather conditions.  It seems I am totally okay.  I am still not able to run.  I am still recovering from a major break down a few days ago.”

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“But somehow I feel pretty solid inside.  So I am happy.”

“I still tremendously love the race no matter what happens to me.”

“When you are able to run you have a very good flow of energy.  It is a different kind of experience.  But you need to stay solid and happy with whatever is happening.”

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“A few days ago when I was really down.  I had my worst break down since I have been in the race.  I was sent a very cute joke, that supported me like anything.”

Joke: “Sometimes I feel really tired and I want to stop my life.  It is then, that my guardian Angel touches my shoulder and says, this is not your stop.  Just live on.”

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I ask Stutisheel what he likes about the Enthusiasm Awkeners.  “They do what is written in their name.  They awaken enthusiasm and they have a good flow of energy.  They have a good attitude towards life.  It is raining and I am walking, but I can still say with all sincerity.  Life is beautiful.”

flower-stutisheel2

“My child, My child, do not plan; do not plan!

I have already planned everything for you.

Just play with me and play for Me. I shall not fail you.

I shall not only take you to your destined goal

but also give you

My Heart of infinite Love and My Eye of infinite Compassion.”

Sri Chinmoy, Fifty-four morning prayer-cries and morning meditation-smiles, Agni Press, 1988

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July 28… You Do Your Best

Quite often I will do a lap in the morning with Ananda-Lahari for no other reason than he is just an incredibly pleasant person to be with.  His  effervescent sunny optimism and dedication to this mind boggling race are a constant reminder to me and probably you as well.

That we should not complain so often or be as critical of our own predicaments, no matter how bad they might appear to be.  Particularly when we compare our ordeals and burdens with that of the runners and what they each have to endure here every day.

Ananda-Lahari being the lowest person on the board, we as armchair observers can sometimes be tempted to fall absentmindedly into a dismissive habit of considering his presence in the race as unspectacular or not as important as that of the others .

That his 1995 miles, when compared to Yuri’s 2596, is a difference of more than 600 miles.  That this means somehow that he isn’t achieving as much.  But we sell him short when we do this.  When we use  some artificial and meaningless yardstick that we dare to hold up and measure him with.

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1995 miles he has run would take him from his home in Kosice Slovakia to the middle of Uzbekistan *Apologies to the Caspian Sea*

This attitude on our parts is of course completely wrong.  And if you spend any time with him at all.  Do a lap or listen on the blog you will immediately see the depth and brightness of who he is and what he is really achieving each and every day.

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Today is incredibly humid and when I ask if this affects him he says, “No, you are here and have to do your miles in any kind of weather.  You have to do your best.”

“It can influence you that you are slower or faster but it doesn’t really change anything.”

The last time we talked he had mentioned how he was trying to not be distracted by things going on around him.  I ask him a little more about this and he confesses that certain things do draw his attention.  He points at the little flower garden at the edge of the camp.  “I always look at them.  When they made the garden it changed something here.  It is really nice.”

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“I also look at the places that I remember that Sri Chinmoy was here when he visited the course.  Giving his concerts or doing his exercise.”  Ananda-Lahari says that his encounters with his spiritual teacher over the many years of running here include practically ever spot on the course.  He sweeps his hand in front of him in a large circle.  He says either he was driving his own car or being driven.

By now we come up to the little brick alcove where the Enthusiasm Awakeners sing each morning.  “This is the spot where he used to give concerts.  It was amazing.”

Original photo by Abakash

Original photo by Abakash

“I visualize it and it gives me joy. It uplifts me.  Sri Chinmoy was a very very special person, and very very inspiring to me.”

When I ask him about the daily appearances of the Enthusiasm Awakeners.  “I love it.  For me it is very uplifting.  I like Sri Chinmoy’s music and they sing the songs of Sri Chinmoy.  They are the Enthusiasm Awakeners and they do it with real enthusiasm.”

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“I believe it is mutual.  It uplifts the runners and I guess it uplifts them as well.  It adds to the race something special.”

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Who is my hero?
No, not a good God-talker.
Who is my hero?
No, not a good God-dreamer.
Who is my hero?
No, not a good God-lover.
Who is my hero?
No, not a good God-server.
Who is my hero?
My hero, indeed, a God-bleeding-heart
And a God-blossoming-life.

Sri Chinmoy, Enthusiasm, part 9

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July 27… We Can Do More (Enthusiasm Awakeners Anniversary)

It all takes place in less than an hour.  The singing, clapping, and offering of treats to the runners.

Who most likely have slept little, are aching and weary beyond belief, and are staring into the mouth of a mileage chasm that seems at times impossible to fill or even satisfy.

The girls all in matching colored t shirts arrive with a spirit and energy that is precisely the balm and remedy for waking up to 18 hours of running. Not on a soft forest trail mind you, but on the hardest unforgiving surface that a city can slap down, solely for pedestrians to make their way across the neighborhood

The weather at this time of year in New York is also generally hot, humid, and miserable.  The course of the 3100 simply put is a place where you are exposed to some of the worst aspects of nature.  An unyielding loop where the physical world is all one long hard battle.

But then quite to the contrary.  In an imponderable irony.  It is also where as well the divine brightness of the inner life beams more profoundly clear than any other place perhaps on earth.

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The great tick tock of time now says that this is day 39.  The runners have been struggling and soaring and everything in between for well over a month.

For Yuri who is in the lead and still has 570 more miles more to go in order to reach 3100.  He could be here for 10 days more.  For those not as swift or as fortunate there could be a maximum of 14 more days out on the course.

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So the vibrant joyous presence of the girls singing group  every morning at the course has an effect that brightens the sober reality they face.

A cheerful reminder of just why they have struggled so long and hard.  But of course as well to inspire and enable them all to see the source of their own inspiration.

That what they do here and what they accomplish is not about time and distance.  Instead it is about extending themselves towards a goal that is unsaleable, unknowable, and yet but must be reached by all of us someday.

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Parvati tells me that the little brick alcove where her group sings each morning that Sri Chinmoy over 2 years of the race must have come there at least 100 times.

“He would first drive around the course encouraging the runners then he would stop at this very spot, and teach us a brand new song.”

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan

“We had the privilege of waiting here and watching in anticipation for Sri Chinmoy’s little red car to come along.  Then he would teach us a new song.  Then the next day it would happen again.”

“In 2007 it happened 65 times.  It was pretty amazing.”

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I suggest to Parvati that the spot still seems to have a special energy to it.  She says, “I think it is the runners that keep the message that Sri Chinmoy wanted us as his disciples to carry.  They, more than anybody else I have ever seen carry that.”

“So it is a real privilege just to be here and see them and witness what true aspiration is.  They also give us a reminder, that Sri Chinmoy tried to bring to us every single day.  That we can do more.  That we shouldn’t say no so often.”

“So being here at this time of year reminds me of that.  I shouldn’t say that I can’t.”

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Indomitable strength blossoms
In the heart
Of enthusiasm.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 41, Agni Press, 2004

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July 26… Stay Positive

Kaneenika has been running for 89 days now on the course.  She has collected 5304 miles but has yet to reach her goal.

This of course makes little sense unless  you are familiar with her history here at the race from last year.  She gave of course a valiant effort over 52 days but came up in the final hour still 86 miles short of the distance.  An injury she received in a fall late in the race kept her back from being able to maintain her pace.

Last night she completed her 37th day this year and ended the day with 2290 miles.

For those of us who have watched her blistering pace over the first month were relieved when she made it to 2000 miles.  She looked unstoppable.  As though nothing could go wrong, and then quite unexpectedly for all of us and in particular for Kaneenika, it did.

For the last week she has been battling sciatic pain and though she has not stopped, she has slowed.  For all of her supporters there has been an inaudible yet collective gasp.  All mouthing silently the words, O please not again.

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Since we are now in the late stages of the race the numbers for those of us watching from the bleachers are easily calculable.  The one number that is easily added up to is the number 54.  If she can run that number of miles every day she will complete the race.  Last night she ran 51 miles.

“I guess there were some indications but I guess I didn’t catch them.  Then it came all of a sudden after my break on Tuesday.”(last week)

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When the problem first arose she says, “I started treating it right away.  Which was helping because it could have been much worse.”

“I didn’t know that it was sciatica from the beginning.  It started as lower back pain.  Which my helper was trying to massage.” The very next night Kaneenika says that she received 2 different treatments.

“There were worries of course but I was trying to stay positive.  I was concentrating on trying to treat it.”

She says that there have been other problems that she has dealt with since she began the race.  This sciatic problem has just been perhaps the toughest.  If there is something to learn from this, who can say.  She says that all these tests ultimately make you stronger.

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“To have more faith.”

“When something like this happens it becomes a kind of focal point.  You forget all the other problems that you have.  It changes everything. Also it changes your perspective and how you look at things.”

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Kaneenika says that before it happened she had been realizing that there were still more than 2 weeks to go.

For a time she says she began to feel the nagging tugs of doubt.  This event with sciatic pain only intensified her worries.  “Maybe I won’t have enough time to finish the race.”

“Now I am just trying to stay positive.  To stay in a good consciousness, and just to surrender.”

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God loves my mind’s
Positive thoughts,
Positive ideas,
Positive ideals
More than I can ever express.

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July 25… We Are Learning Here

“Every day is a good day.”

I have unfortunately fallen into a bad habit.  Without much exception, as far as I can tell.  Nearly every day I ask each runner I interview whether or not it is a good day.

My reasons are simple of course.  Because my own answer to that question is never as consistent or as generous as those of all the runners here.  Who, on this the 37th day of the race have run so hard and for so long, that I personally cannot imagine how even any day here can still remain good.

Baladev now is here for the 8th time.  Yesterday he ran 54 miles for the 3rd day in a row.  He also completed 2012 miles as of midnight last night.

Does he have the time left to still reach 3100 miles in the 16 days remaining to him?

2012 miles the distance between Ottawa and deep into British Columbia

2012 miles the distance between Ottawa and deep into British Columbia

Probably not.  But what he will do is savor and worship and enjoy as many of the moments and miles as he has left to him.

I describe for Baladev a hornets nest of adverse conditions that so often inflict their pain and torment relentlessly on the runners.  He smiles as if the question is absurd.  “Of course.  I can die here and I will still be happy.”

“You can feel lots of pain and you can still be happy.”

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“I think we are learning here how to be happy.  We are learning who we are and what we have.”

“In normal life it doesn’t matter so much whether we are happy.  There is no pressure.  Of course when we have inspiration we can do anything.  But we don’t have inspiration every day.”

“Here, if you want to run or to even move you have to find inspiration from somewhere.”  Baladev then offered his appreciation for all those in the race who are still running well.”

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“I don’t feel that I am a good runner.  But I am trying.”  Then he raises his hand and points up the block.  He says what he so often has said before.  “I am trying to get to the next corner.  That is it.”

Baladeva also believes that someday a runner just might achieve God realization while running here.  “I am positive that this idea will one day happen.  This is the most significant event.  The most amazing place, where you can make the fastest progress.”

“Guru did not create the race for competition.  Many people think it is just a race and a competition.  But it is not about results.”

“It is about something deeper.  It is about spiritual progress.  What we are doing here every year until to we reach the goal.  Not just finish the race.  We need to finish the inner race.  This is why we are here.”

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We have so much to learn,
Not only from the higher worlds,
But from the world
Where we are living.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 44, Agni Press, 2005

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July 24… Trying To Enjoy

If one needs any reminding that the results on the board are not the only thing that is important here at the 3100.  Than taking a closer look at Ashprihanal helps to illustrate just a little more clearly that numbers are just one small aspect of the true race.

A year ago now Ashprihanal was 4 days away from a world record.  He had run on average 75 miles a day and on this day had 2757 miles.  This morning he started day 36 with 2315 miles (785 miles to go). There is no question of course that Ashprihanal will complete the distance.  But now that looks to be as much as 13 more days away.

As someone who has already run the race 13 times you can’t help but see in him that the race still has powerful lessons and experiences to offer.  Ones that are not really visible to us who watch him lightly skipping and flying up the street.

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“The numbers are definitely getting better and better.”

“I always like it when you get to the last week and you can say, ah, this is the last Saturday.  But there is still time for that.”

“Last year was only for the world record and nothing else.  So I shut down everything else.”

“Last year was the time for that and this year I couldn’t do it.”  Ashprihanal accepts this wholeheartedly, that he is not going to be breaking records every year and that simply being part of it and doing his very best is his only option.

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I ask him if he would call his experience this year fun.  “It is a little bit of everything.  Sometimes it is fun and sometimes it is not.”

“I am definitely trying to have fun.  I am trying to enjoy.  But it is not easy.”

“It is still nice.  I am running pretty good.”  One big improvement is that he has lost a persistent cough that had lasted a long time.

“I am happy.”

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God enjoys watching me
When I enjoy my pilgrimage
To my oneness-heart-home.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 9, Agni Press, 1998

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July 23… Deep Into My Heart

Volodymyr was a powerful presence for 19 days and then in a flash his race was over.  Or at least his outer one was.  In those few precious days at the 3100 mile race he was able to complete 919 miles.  Most certainly the last few hundred of them were particularly hard fought.  He walked with a kind of personal agony, that you could not see.

Yet each day and each lap he still found a way to smile.

*translation by Lyalya*

I hadn’t seen Volodymyr in 2 weeks and in the time since, he has rested and recovered, or at least enough to be able once again visit the battleground.  The place in which he endured so much and also accomplished something deep and significant as well.

“When I started to have problems, very strong pain.  I was looking for ways to get out of it.  Soon I understood that there was only one way out, and that was to go deep into my heart.”

919 miles the distance from Vinnitsa to the French Border

919 miles the distance from Vinnitsa to the French Border

“When I started to go more and more deep into my own heart, as the pain increased, I was able to go even deeper.  I actually felt happier.  So despite the pain I was feeling happier.”

“This inner state.  This happiness I felt inside is eternal.  The pain was only temporary.”

“When I was able to gain access to this inner happiness it allowed me to be able to fall asleep at night.  I could see Guru.  I could feel Guru.  The pain was pushed into the background. It remains there.”

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“Working on this pain that I had here.  I am already preparing myself for next year.  I will see what Guru wants me to do.  The 10 day race in the Spring or this race again.”

“I really strongly believe that the state of my heart, the state of my vital, the state of my mind is good now.  Then of course my body will be able to follow their example.  I am a strong believer in that.”

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My Supreme, my Supreme, my Supreme!
I shall never give up,
I shall never give up!
I must continue,
I must continue!
I know my Goal is ahead,
And I am destined to reach my Goal.
My Supreme, my Supreme, my Supreme!

Sri Chinmoy, My Morning Soul-Body Prayers, part 6, Agni Press, 1999

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July 22… We Are One Family

For those interested in simplifying their lives, at least temporarily.  Running for 18 hours a days for 52 days may exemplify a stripped down, superbly focused lifestyle that is hard to beat.

Yes it is brutally hard and unrelenting.  But once you are immersed in this world wholeheartedly the rest of the clutter and superficial enticements that constantly nag us tend to disappear.  Or at least in theory that is the case.

50 year old Vasu Duzhiy who is running the race for the 5th time however is in another league altogether when it comes to his steadfast devotion to the race.

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Each of the runners over the years have come here have brought remarkable skills and qualities. But in all honesty I have never met anyone whose life has been so stripped of external distractions and problems quite like Vasu.

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1000 miles the Distance from St Petersburg to Vienna

As he starts day 34 he has 1000 miles left to go and 19 days in which to do it.

Because he has run so well up till now he only has to run 52 miles a day in order to make it.  But for more than a week his blister has been hobbling him physically.  True to his sweet nature however he remains unrelentingly cheerful.

Moments after we start our little run together he has just memorized the Daily Poem.  One which Sri Chinmoy composed on this day in 2007.  He recites it for me in both English and Russian.

At the moment he is running well but says he had a bad morning (which means he could only walk slowly).  “To be happy helps me so much.  This is our medicine.”

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I ask though, when it is hurting so much how can he still be happy.  “I think Guru does it.  I try to be in his consciousness.  I try to pray.  I try to sing.  I try to meditate.  I also speak with other runners.  This also helps because everybody has some problems.  If we speak or joke it helps.”

“I think it is good.  We are one family.”

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When asked if he is looking forward to the end.  He smiles and says, “I hope that I can finish.  Do it for Guru’s victory.”

“Everyday I get many letters and it helps me so much.”  Vasu says that one person is sending him a poem about smiling every day.  “It is so nice.”

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He feels that since he first started running the race 5 years ago more people are now interested in the 3100.

And a comment that could only come from Vasu.  “I am grateful for my blister because many disciples have shown their kind hearts and inspired me to run.  We are a big family.”

flower vasu good-1360554

I must never lose
contact with my
Lord’s Compassion-Eye
and His Forgiveness-
Heart. Never.

Guru Sri Chinmoy
July 22nd, 2007

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July 21… We Depend On Grace

“I had a really good day yesterday.”

Atmavir did have a good day yesterday, and of course it didn’t hurt that it was also his 38th birthday.

You can see it on the scoreboard and you can see it clearly in his smile and his relaxed and happy attitude today.

The mileage by the way, which is a lot easier to check, was 66 miles for yesterday.   This gives him a 32 day total of 2151 miles.  Which means the remaining distance left in front of him is 1049 miles.  Which is just about the distance from Zlin to the other side of Moscow.

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What is another good indicator of his mood is that when he ran by me late in the morning he heard me talking with someone about problems.  He called out, “there are no problems.  Only opportunities.”

“I had a really good time yesterday.  I was able to maintain a good consciousness all day.”

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Not too many days ago Atmavir was simply having a tough time.  For 2 days in a row he was getting mileage in the 40’s and could barely run.  “It happened on Saturday and Sunday.  Usually those days are the best on the weekend.”

“It is like a party time.  There are many games going on and there are no kids going to school.”

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“Saturday I stopped running.  I had an empty battery.  I didn’t feel as though I was pushing too hard but I just didn’t have a lot of energy.  So I took it easy.  I went home for a few hours.  I really had to recover.  It turned out to be my best day here so far.”

“I slept for an hour.  Then I felt that I should meditate.”  Atmavir says the meditation was such a powerful experience that he felt as though he was being showered by light and was so moved by it that he cried.

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When he came back to the race he felt as though it was now a completely new start for him.  “A new life.  Everything was new.”  Atmavir says he was surprised that Sopan independently also felt like he too was having a new start at the same time. “A new journey.”

“It was an experience that both of us had on the same day.”

When asked if there is a particular song that he likes, he says he really likes, ‘All your Grace.”

“I like its inner message because we really depend upon grace here.”

Atmavir says that are times when he is running when he is particularly aware that grace is the power behind it.

“There is a flow.”

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All Your Grace, all Your Grace,

All Your Grace, all Your Grace,

My Lord Beloved Supreme!

All Your Grace, all your Grace,

My soul and I are able to join

In your birthless and deathless Race.

-Sri Chinmoy 3100 Mile Race Songs

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