Day 48…Victory Supreme (August 4)

Last night Vasu was into his final laps before completing the Self-Transcendence 3100 race for the 6th time.  He was into the very depths of his 47th day here.  His shirt was covered in sweat and he needed to make 67 miles before midnight.

As he passes by me along the dark sidewalk a student of Sri Chinmoy shouts out, “Jai Guru.”  Vasu without hesitation responds, “Jai Guru.”

He did not say this loudly but instead with quiet soulful conviction.  It was like music to my ears, just as I suppose his constant dedication to this race his spiritual teacher created has been sustaining him at every moment.  Not just for 47 days but even over the past 6 years he has run this race and beyond.

In his speech of congratulations Sahishnu said, “Ladies and gentlemen this was Vasu’s second victory and his 6th straight finish at 3100 miles.  He finished in 46 days, 17 hours, and 38 minutes.  Which is an average of 66.35 miles a day (106.7 km)”

“This was his 2nd best finish.  He is still 5th ranked all time.  Out of 145 performances now this is the 33rd best performance.”  Sahishnu then goes on to tell the story of Vasu’s serious back injury 8 months earlier.  So severe that he could barely stand little alone train.

“Miracles do happen, and this man proved that will power and grace from above can really work together.  His athletic talent is undeniable.  He is one of only 5 men in history to have averaged 70 miles a day.”

The next day he comes back to start the race one last time and run 13 laps in order to complete 5,000km. I join him on his last lap and the rain is falling heavily about us.

photo by Jowan

“I love this race.  I don’t know why I love it.  I just love it and do it.  I am happy here and I am able to do self transcendence. I hope that I can inspire some people to be better citizens of the world.  They inspire me and I inspire them.”

“I do this for my beautiful Guru and for Victory Supreme.”

photo by Jowan

To become better citizens
Of the world,
We must scatter happiness
Here, there and all-where.

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Day 47…I Am Really Happy (August 3)

Yesterday Ananda-Lahari ran 84 miles.  A number that represents about double what he has been doing most days.  Today he is moving less quickly but the ever present smile brightens his face and as I join him I feel my own smile brightening as well.

Today he says, “is a very good day.  Yesterday I ran very fast and today I am falling apart but there is eagerness and hope.  The focus is there.  So I am happy.”

I mention to him that his surprising performance yesterday lifted the energy levels of practically all the other runners as he flew around the block.  “I think it is all God’s work.  I just play what I feel.”

“It is not as though I do it to inspire people.  If it happens that others get inspired great.”

He says that most often when we are negative that, “it is a matter of choice.  We have to want.  That is the main thing.  We have to want to get out of, let’s say, a state of depression, or sadness, or something else.”

“Many times we subconsciously enjoy it.  To be there.  To be angry, or be sad.  We don’t realize it.  The first thing is that we need to want.  I know only one way.  I am really happy that I practice meditation, under the guidance of Sri Chinmoy.  He is teaching me how to throw away negative qualities.”

As we pass through the camp area Rupantar yells out, “he is inspiring the world.”

“In ancient times people were going to monasteries and caves in order to be alone to be able to pray and meditate. To be focused on God.”

“In today’s world I have learned that that was the way of the past.  Now we have to bring it to society.  We don’t want to cut off the outside world.”

“I practice mediation at home, but then I try and bring the results forward into my daily life.  This happens when we are in focus and feel joy.”  He says that meditation and exercise can go hand in hand.  Even if you are tired. Exercising for him is the best form of meditation.

“It is really nice.  You can be falling a part.  You can have a bad day and then you can still have a really nice day.  It is like bringing it into our daily activities.”

The time to be really happy
Is now,
Here at the very place
Where you are.

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Day 46…Nice To Transcend (August 2)

Nirbhasa’s improvement over his previous performance here in 2015 is simply awesome.  It is something that the numbers are extremely good at showing us.  Something that our eyes and senses cannot so keenly detect over the slow pace and rhythm of the many long long days on the course.

What is clear is that Nirbhasa is now 142 miles ahead his previous achievement.  Quite possibly he could finish the race by Saturday night and have the luxury of watching the final 3 days of the race from the sidelines.

He says there is no easy answer for his improvement.  “First of all you’ve done the race once.  So your body is just used to it.  Your body has some memory, so it knows how to do it.”

“When I did the race the first time I did very well for the first 10 days. Then afterwards my mileage really slipped. I think part of that was because my body had no comprehension of dealing with those kind of distances.”  Nirbhasa suggests that he does not know if there were a better way to prepare first timers for the race.  “It just turned out the way that it did.”

He says that being ahead of his 2015 results is very helpful.  “It is nice to transcend yourself.  It is also nice to know that you can finish a couple of days early.”  We are passing by the Enthusiasm Awakeners as we are talking.  “I can spend a couple of days as a spectator rather than a runner.  So that is really nice.”

I ask Nirbhasa whether Kaneenika passing him the other day has had any affect on his running.  He laughs, “it has definitely added a little spice to life.”

“One of the things, especially going into the last 10 days of the race, and a lot of other runners will tell you.  That it can be quite tough mentally.  Because part of you can see the finish line ahead.  I have prayed quite intensely to actually not have those mental issues.  No matter what.”

“I have to say that so far those prayers are working.  That also includes Kaneenika.  She is a force of nature.”  Nirbhasa adds that he has not backed off in any way.  “I am not leaving anything on the table.  It is not like I am taking it easy.  What you see from me every day is my absolute best that I can put out.”

“So I have to say that I am quite detached about what place I am in.  You are out here 18 hours a day, for so many days.  Now there is only 4 days left to go.  It is too long a time to be unhappy over something like 2nd or 3rd place.”

“I would much rather focus on concrete goals.  Like trying to finish on Saturday night. That is to me a really positive goal that requires effort.  Your happiness shouldn’t depend on what somebody else is doing.”

“There is definitely a part of me that is looking forward to some nice rest.  But at the same time this race has something that I have never experienced.  What it does for your inner aspiration.  Your inner connection to your soul.  There really is nothing quite like it that I have experienced.”

“I can only really hope that one of my goals is for after the race.  To make sure that I can really try and keep what I have gained from the race. That I can transition back into day to day living.  But at the same time really keep a lot of the inner experiences and inner qualities that I have gained from this race.”

Because we are eternal pilgrims,
Always we have to go forward —
Expanding and transcending.

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Day 45…To Better Ourselves (August 1)

This morning Kaneenika got a sweet surprise.  While she was passing Parvati and the Enthusiasm Awakeners, Parvati stepped out to hand her a picture.  It was taken, at best guess 11 years ago, when Sri Chinmoy used to come to the race each morning and teach the girls a new song.

In the photo Kaneenika is across the street watching, arms comfortably folded, and wearing a Sri Chinmoy Marathon team shirt.  Her days of watching of course are long over.  This is her 3rd summer here and as she starts the day here she is 310 miles away from doing something historic.  Setting a new world record for women at the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.

This morning as we are talking and the subject of this great ordeal nearly being over comes up.  She feels that, “There is a time to start and a time to finish.”

“You have to do things a day at a time, actually even a lap at a time.  But there are things that are surprising me.  I have had experiences in the previous races when you feel like you can’t go on.  This is it.  How can I possibly make another step and then something happens and you are running again.”

“It is definitely all about the miracles and grace out here.”

“During this past Christmas I watched a movie about this teenage boy and he wakes up and it is Christmas morning.  Everything goes wrong for him.  (Christmas Every Day) The next day he wakes up and again it is Christmas morning.  So he has to go through all the things he did wrong again.”

“He improves some things and then he makes some other mistakes.  Not just him but his whole family.  This goes on again and again.  So he has to go through this until he gets things right.  I was thinking, one day as I was running.   I remember this movie, and it was quite inspiring for me.  There is something similar here.”

“We wake up in the morning and we come here.  We have plenty of time to better ourselves.  To change something that will hopefully will last at least sometime after the race.  In an ideal world it should last for our whole life.”

Last year Kaneenika had a powerful experience one day when she felt a great wave of peace wash over her.  “I think more and more that it is still inside me now.  When I want it I can just reach for it.”  We have just passed the area where the experience took place.  She tells me how much she still loves passing by there.

“I know Sri Chinmoy spent so much time there.  Exercising in the early years and when the race was on he would come and spend time to encourage the runners.”

“So whenever I run there I still feel a wave of peace.  But now I feel as though I carry it with me.  I can just, whenever I have problems reach for it an use it if I need to.”

To better oneself
Means to be
A good citizen of the world.

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Day 44…There Will Come A Time (July 31)

In just his 2nd attempt at the 3100 mile race in 2013 Vasu finished first.  Now, 4 years later in this his 6th race, he will once again be champion.  But for someone who has accomplished such an incredible task, you could not possibly ask for a more humble, modest, and self giving winner.

On Thursday night when he comes up the sidewalk one last time there will be no grand prize, no headlines around the world, but instead a gathering of his loved ones.  Those who know and appreciate his greatness.  It will be an accomplishment that so very very few could accomplish and one in which there could be no better a deserving winner.

When I ask him if he can hear the finish line yet, he says, “I hope.  There will come a time.”

“Every time something happens when you get to the finish line.  Some flow comes.  It is so nice.”

When asked what he has received this year. “I think I have learned many things in this race.  Especially I am very happy with my helpers.  I was given 3 helpers this year.  Especially Sasha, he is so young, and humble.  I am just happy.  Usually you have to take time to learn how to work with your helpers.  But this year everything has been good.  I am very grateful.”

It will be his 2nd fastest time.  “We try and do self transcendence.  Sometimes it is not easy physically.  We also try and do it inwardly.  We try and be more within ourselves.  To pray more and be in a good consciousness.  This helps us.”

Vasu also consciously tries to make the course more divine and pure.  Something he does physically many times a day by picking up garbage and litter. He feels that by doing this that the consciousness and vibration of Sri Chinmoy can be made stronger along the course.

He laughs when I ask if he misses the race when he is not here.  “Yes of course.  I always dream of each new race to come.”

There has been concern about falling down on the course.  Something that happened to Yolanda yesterday.  Vasu tells me a couple of stories about just such a thing.  “Usually at night before we finish the race we are a little bit tired.  Sometimes we fall down.  In my first race in 2012 Grahak also ran that race.”

“One night Grahak passed me just before the corner.  When I turned the corner myself I saw him lying down on the ground on his back.

“My mind was a little slow and I didn’t understand what had happened.  But I saw his shoes in one place and one in another, and as well a big stone.  So then I understood that he had just fallen down.”

“I picked up is shoes and then helped him to stand up.  He just put his feet in his shoes.  On his shoulder was blood.  He paid no attention.  He just put on his shoes and started to run.

“After a few laps I met him and told him, you are my hero.  You just put on your shoes and ran.  He then went on to set his fastest time.”

“2 years later Jayaslini was running here.  Once I was running behind her and she just fell down in front of me.  So I tried to help her stand up.  Then I told her the story about Grahak and she was so happy.  She did not cry, she just began to run.  Her Mother, who was there helping her, but Jayasalini did not tell her anything about the fall.”

Vasu tells me that he has fallen a few times himself.  “Usually I catch my self by falling onto my hands.  My knee doesn’t even touch the ground.  But one time I fell down and this time my knee just bumped against the ground.  So I just lay down on the sidewalk.  But it was not hard.  It felt as though I was in the lap of the Supreme.  It was very soft, very nice.”

“So as I was lying there on the ground I gave gratitude to the Supreme for this race.  I then stood up and everything was very good.”

There shall come a time
When all feet will proudly tread
The oneness-peace-road.

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Day 43…Moving Forward (July 30)

Yesterday was a very good day for Yolanda.  She managed to make 119 laps (65 miles), and though she had hoped to add one more lap to the total, the unforgiving clock at the finish line did not allow it.

As she enters the 43rd day of the race she has amassed an impressive total, 2483 miles.  Which by using the simple math of the days left to her means she has 10 days to cover the next 617 miles.  An average of 61.7 miles will do it.  But there now can no longer be a bad day.  For Yolanda there is no longer such a thing as taking it easy.

“I just want to say, I want to get this done.  Last night I pulled off 65 miles, and today I hope to do the same.  I just want to get this race over with.  If I hadn’t had those 3 hiccups (Days 28, 29, 33).  Those setback, I would be almost finished.”

“But that is in the past.  I am okay.  I have lost a lot of weight, but it is okay.  I am moving forward.  I am going to get this done.”

When asked about her supporters following her on Facebook, “I am really proud of everyone who has taken the 52 day challenge.  But we are there.  There is only 10 days left.  We have got this.”

I am curious of how she has been able to overcome all the hardship that she has so far endured.  “I have this inner strength that I didn’t know I had.  It pops out every once in a while just when I need it.  Last night, the last 2 miles.  I was trying to do 120 laps.  This strength and speed just came from nowhere.”

Renae her coach has been helping Yolanda tremendously ever since she arrived a few days ago.  “Her encouragement and her support and her truly believing in me has really helped me tremendously.  If it wasn’t for her being here, the 62 miles a day that I need to do would be a pure struggle.  She is an amazing woman, a great coach, and I am happy to have her here with me.  Her support is just what I need right now.”

Yolanda believes right now that the makeup of what is driving her right now is based 70% on her mental strength and just 30% on her physical strength.

“It is hard.  This concrete is no joke.  My left foot is pretty much damaged, my right foot is okay. There is nothing you can do about it.  Just suck it up and pray on it and keep moving forward.”

“We only have 10 days left and I am going to give this my all and get this baby done.”

On her good days she says the challenge of the race makes her shine.  “My smile comes natural.  It makes me happy.  I love walking and walking 60 miles a day is amazing.  It is something that I like to do.  I keep smiling and digging deep and keep praying.   Praying is what works.”

A life of perfection
Never stops.
It only moves forward,
Upward and inward.

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Day 42… All Gratitude To Be Here (July 29)

Imprinted on the running shorts that she is wearing today are the words, Happy Run.  They are a perfect match for the smile that she has so often carried with her these past 41 days.

In a race that did not develop quite as she had hoped but in many ways as she intuitively expected, she has now run 2128 miles.  Nidhruvi’s joy and infectiously positive attitude will most definitely help her with the not so easy next 11 more days of running here at the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.

I ask her if over the course of the race she can value the hard days as much as the better ones.  “I guess so.  It is not just the days it is even the moments.  You have moments when you are totally happy and then it can switch so fast, and sometimes you don’t even know why.”

“Sometimes you start crying and you have no idea why.  So it is really really interesting.”

“For me there is so much gratitude that I have to be here and to serve my Guru and to serve the world.  So it doesn’t matter how hard it is.  It is just such a privilege.  Therefore I am totally grateful.”

She laughs when I ask her if she will be sad when day 52 at last comes.  “I am not.  I am looking forward to it so much.”

Nidhruvi says that she has not had any major experiences.  “It is maybe all the little experiences put together that you see how many miracles you experience every day.  Especially in the beginning.  Now I am kind of in my flow.  There are now so many problems that I now know how to solve.  If they occur.  If they are physical problems or even mental problems.  You just always have to stay focused.”

“All those little miracles in which there was a problem coming up.  You sometimes find immediately a solution if you stay calm and have faith.  And just don’t give up.  That is just so miraculous for me.  Then immediately the answer to your problems comes.”

Sri Chinmoy, particularly when he was still with us could inspire his students to do much more than they could even thought possible.  I ask Nidhruvi if she had any experiences like that.

In 2000 she first attempted the 1,300 mile race, “which is really extremely difficult.  After 4 or 5 days I had to quit the race.  I was so badly injured, that I had to stop.”

“After the race I saw Sri Chinmoy.  I was standing in front of him and I was just crying like a little girl.  Then he smiled at me so sweetly.  Then he said, don’t cry.  You know life’s experiences.  Then he smiled even more and said…..Next Year.”

She came back to the same race the following year and says, “it was so difficult.  I had to run every day 68, 69, and even 70 miles.  So quite often I remembered what Sri Chinmoy had said the year before, next year.  So I hoped, even with all my difficulties that I could finish the race.”

“But it was so hard that on the last day I did not know how to move any more.”  She had her last mid day break and 2 friends who were concerned about her asked if they should tell Sri Chinmoy about her problems.  “I said, yes, please.”

When she came out of her break the 2 same girls were there to greet her.  They said, “You know what Sri Chinmoy said.  He wants you to win!  I said, O my God.”

At this same time she was in close competition with another girl and were always just a few miles apart.  “So I had no idea how to do this.  Because I could hardly move.”

“Usually at midnight I would take a break for 2 hours.  But somehow when that break time came I was in a flow.  I thought, that if I stopped maybe I couldn’t move on any more.  So I was sitting down sitting next to the East river and looking at the Manhattan skyline in the night sky.”

“I asked Sri Chinmoy inwardly what should I do.  Should I continue or should I go for a break.  Immediately I felt the answer….continue.”

“So this is how I finished early and won the race.”

Gratitude is not a mere dictionary word.
Gratitude is the golden link
Between man’s heart and God’s Heart.

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Day 41…School Of Life (July 28)

If Sergey had started running east from his home in Nizhny Novgorod on June 18 instead of around the block that contains Thomas Edison High school, his 2139 miles would have taken him across much of Russia.  Instead, after 40 days he begins his day in the exact same spot he started his epic journey.  Circling the same block now 3898 times.

Of course Sergey’s journey, like that of all the 10 runners is not just about how far they have gone by foot, but just how much then can accomplish within.  What new horizons in their inner life’s journey can they reach. New goals that can never be tracked or recorded by lap sheets and score boards

In our previous discussion Sergey philosophically spoke about all the runners he shares this sacred path with.  This time I hoped he might speak more about himself.  But always the humble smiling selfless man that he is, he continued this time to speak about the inspiration he has received from the many visitors to the course over the past 40 days.

“I would like to talk today about the other people who come to the race to help.  I am much more inspired by their example.  They are stories of daily trials and heroism.  In this way we are inspiring one another.  Here it feels that the entire universe is composed of those who are inspiring one another.”

“For example when Ashrita comes to the race he trains on the field right next to us.  He is training for his records and as you know he is the holder of the most Guinness records.  He is always thinking of new and new and new.  New things and new records to be broken.  When he is training we can see him from our track.  He is always so inspiring.  It is great to see that.”

“Also coming to this track is one runner who has run more than 500 marathons.  Most of them he has run in under 3 hours.  That for me is unbelievably inspiring.  Of course it is Arpan.  He has a project that has run for many many years.  It is that he runs on his birthday the same number of miles as the years he has spent on earth.”

“This time on July 23 he was running 65 miles, most of it on this track. So I was just thinking.  O Arpan if you get to live to be 80 years old on that day you will have to run 80 miles.  Or maybe even 90.”

“Also, not long ago Karteek came to this track.  He has swum the English channel 11 times.  So when these people come here, it is like they inspire us, and in turn we inspire them.  In this way we are supporting one another.”

“Sometimes Suprabha comes and she is someone who has run this 3100 mile race 13 times.  She is so tiny, so small. I am always thinking how is it possible that she could have done this.”

“Somehow this race is attracting people who have accomplished all kinds of achievements.  A great variety of different people.  Always when these people come their stories are all so rich that it helps us to move forward.”

“This race has been an amazing experience.  It is like a school of life.  Because here every day is so intense.  Now it is day 41.  In regular life there is no way you can have so many experiences.  You could not possibly learn as much as you learn here in one day.  It is a very very rich experience.”

To be a good student of life
You must feel the necessity of going
Not only to the outer school
But also to the inner school.

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Day 40…Enthusiasm Awakeners (July 27)

They sing for 30 minutes a day, which of course when compared to the grand canvas of a runners very long day isn’t a great deal of time.  Yet just to walk by or stand for even a moment while the Enthusiasm Awakeners sing and clap and cheer is a joyous reminder of the importance of enthusiasm in our lives.  And to the runners of course how just more difficult their task would be without it.

The energy and joy of their performance lasts long after they have headed off to jobs and other tasks.  As someone who has heard and seen a great deal of their performances over the years I know and feel deep respect and appreciation for their tireless contribution to this incredible event.

They have been here standing and singing by the low brick wall ever morning of the race for more than 10 years.  Today is a special one though for it is the 10th anniversary of when Sri Chinmoy gave them that name.

This morning the ranks of the pink shirted group of girls has swelled considerably in honor of the occasion.  Parvati has been the leader of this group of girls for 18 years.  Ever since Sri Chinmoy asked her if she would form a group to sing some of his English songs. A task that she has continued to perform, as so many years and runners continue to sweep by.

Parvati has calculated that over the years her group has sung for 44 different runners from 17 countries.  Of the 44 runners 9 were women.  Ananda-Lahari has been the only runner they have seen every year since they have been coming to sing.  She adds that they have learned 1528 songs from of which they routinely sing 227 of.

Parvati tells me that in the last year that Sri Chinmoy came to the race he would drive his car there every morning while they sang and then teach them a new song each day.  That summer he taught them 51 songs.  “We got so much joy and inspiration that it has continued to carry us through all these years. I am so grateful to Sri Chinmoy for his vision of this race.  And to all the participants of the race including all those who help in any way and follow the race each year.”

Nilpushpi tells me that she too would come in the mornings when the group sang and play her keyboard further down the block to encourage the runners.  “Giving and receiving joy always.  I received much more than I could possible give.”

Later she was invited by Parvati to join in with the group.  “I was thrilled.  What joy, oneness, and friendship.  I deeply admire, appreciate, and adore.  The group gives boundless and sweetness, joy, joy, joy.  Amazing magic.”

Paree is the musical director of the group and whose job it was to record in a small book all the songs that Sri Chinmoy composed for them when he pulled his little red car over to the curb.

It is a small book but it includes 2 summers worth of songs each carefully transcribed as they were sung by Sri Chinmoy.  The book is a unique and precious thing and as Paree held it delicately in her hands I could not be aware of its absolute sacredness.

The story of how the whole process began and then developed was based on I guess you might call a series of coincidences.  Parvati asked her group to come in the mornings to the race in 2006 and sing 75 songs from their archive each day.  They came and so I suppose Sri Chinmoy decided to come as well.  A relationship, and a timeless bond then created between the singers and the 3100 mile race.

“He would come every morning and teach us a song,” she says.  A smile lighting her face as she remembers those precious sweet moments.  Now captured in her clear bright penmanship in a little book.

“Many significant songs were written in this time.  Songs that have entered into the disciple culture.”  She tells me a list of many songs which are still very well ingrained in my heart.”

“After the race was over that year Sri Chinmoy continued to come out here.  The dates go way beyond the end of the race, especially in 2007.  Sri Chinmoy used to come out in his car every morning and so his students just continued to come.”  She opens the book to the final song which she recorded on September 23 2007.  It is a birthday song dedicated to Parvati whose birthday had just taken place.”

“I like looking at this, it is like a little time piece.”

Photo by Jowan

Enthusiasm is beautiful,
Enthusiasm is powerful,
Enthusiasm is fruitful
When it is found inside
Our life-breath.

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Day 39…I Will Do Everything (July 26)

In the Spring of 2007 Andrey had come to New York to run his first Self Transcendence 6 day race in Flushing Meadow.

“After about 2 days of running I was trying to rest but I had so much pain.  I was totally out of it. I didn’t know what to do.  So I started to invoke Guru’s name, very quickly.”

*Translation by Kanala*

“He wasn’t physically at the race at that moment.  But immediately he appeared inwardly to me.  He immediately calmed me down and soothed me.  Guru told me to just lay down for a rest, and told me, I will do everything.”

“So I thought, okay, let’s see what happens.  So I laid down to rest.  I rested for about 2 hours.  Then when I woke up I was amazed because I felt as though everything was like new.  It was though I hadn’t even begun to run.  Like I was just about to start to run.”

Such experiences of course do not happen every day.  But the more that each of us feel we are connected and dedicated to our inner existence, then the confines and challenges of our outer lives takes on a different perspective.  It becomes easier not just to see that nothing is impossible in our lives, but also that we all need to continue to move forward to our own real self transcendence.

As of this morning, which is the start of Day 37, Andrey has completed 2047 miles.  A distance that makes his accomplishment in that first 6 day race look pale in comparison.  In fact after his first 6 days here he managed 341 miles which was just one mile less than his total distance in 2007.

He is smiling and moving well when we talk.  Not interested whatsoever in going home and looking content, even though he still has another 14 more days of running here.  He says, “I realize that we have many different systems in our bodies.  Every time you lie down to rest one of these systems starts hurting.  It means there is a connection between the mind and the body, which is very strong.”

“This has all been one big positive experience that I have had happen to me here, because I don’t have too much pain.  There is always a smile on my face.  I feel joy.  I feel all the blessings, but I realize that paradise exists in every corner of the globe.  That in every corner of the earth is paradise.”

Everything is easy
If you know
That God is doing everything,
In and through you.

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