Day 44… Such An Opportunity (July 30)

For most of us when we look back at our childhood we are reminded that summer represented back then the ultimate freedom from a long year of school.  Days when you could sleep in, go out and play any time you wanted, and perhaps take a family vacation.

It is obvious that this kind of luxury is not available to the runners of the 3100 mile race for even the briefest of moments.  Time is simply too precious and the challenge of making the distance too great.  At the same time I wanted to tempt Surasa with a silly proposition.  Did she ever imagine herself, instead of being in the humid sweat box of New York, pounding out miles on the hardest sidewalk in Queens, rather instead sitting down for a leisurely cup of coffee with cake in Vienna.

“It is a difficult question.  Somehow yes and somehow no. Because I know it is such an opportunity to run here.”

Surasa says that each time she comes she somehow forgets just how difficult it is.  “I forget that the weather here in New York gets so very hot, and it can rain very heavily.  Everything you get here.”

Photo by Spontaneous Beauty

“Now I am thinking more and more what a miracle this race is.  We are all so exhausted, but still we all are running from 6am to 12pm.  For such a long time, it is really a miracle.  So you have to believe in a higher force, because the energy of the body is very limited.  Only spiritual energy is unlimited.”

“The whole universe is full of energy, and it is so beautiful, if you think this.”  She says there will be time enough for coffee and cake after the race.

Photo by Spontaneous Beauty

She is trying to think now about meeting the finish line.  This morning she starts her day with 2588 miles.  “When I think, 8 days more, not so much.  “But when I think, 500 to 600 more miles then I think it is not nothing.”

“But in this race you never know what happens until the last day.  Right now things are getting better and better in my body.  You just have to stay positive and looking forward.”

The Board at the start of Day 44…*Note totals may not be accurate… Magic Number is 2,562 *

Camp early

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Day 43… Sometimes I Am In Heaven (July 29)

I did not take this dramatic picture that links to the video of today’s interview with William.  To my eye it perfectly represents the incredible ordeal that comes when you have been running 18 hours a day for more than 6 weeks.

At the same time, as William has said repeatedly, at this time of night he is at his best.  His body drenched in sweat, fatigue etched across his brow, but inside something beautiful and profound is taking place despite it all.

William lives on one of the most secluded places you could ever imagine.  Sanday, is just one of the many islands that spread out from the northern tip of Scotland.  It is a place so incredibly different from his current habitat it almost defies comparison.

Asked if it is possible to get lost there William says yes, but of course that was before they improved the signs.  “It is lobster shaped and there are quite a few circular routes that you can use to train.  It is quite convenient from that point of view.”

Photo by Spontaneous Beauty

“I have always been an early riser so I try and get out about half past 5 and then I like to do my meditation.  I always like to say that I have had a good day by 9  o’clock.”  William says that he doesn’t do a lot of training.  Put into context he says that because he has been training for 26 years and done 106 ultra marathons and 20,000 miles racing, he doesn’t need to run far each day.

I tell William that his wikipedia page has so many accomplishments it is hard to follow.  “I have trouble myself.  When I get back from racing it takes quite a few weeks to sort it all out.  I have 2 or 3 statisticians that help me.”

He says that accumulating records keeps him motivated and in the sport.  “I use the records to set a framework for my running.  His original goal was 60 records by age 60 and then 165 records by age 65.  Unfortunately he was able to get more than he had originally anticipated.

“So then I came up with the last one, Journey to 750.  Basically all the records I set here 4 years ago I have been able to beat.  I know I have 70.”

I joke with William that the race has been described as everything between heaven and also the direct opposite.  “I am in all of them.  Sometimes I feel that I am in prison and sometimes I am in heaven.  I always say that I like the hours running between 9pm and midnight.  “That is when I run my best. That is when I come alive, the race quiets down a bit.”

“I think in reality we drift between all those things, at different times of the day.”

“Now what I am doing is focusing on accomplishing a few more record points.  I am not just focusing on the suffering and the prison aspect.  At the same time I am dying for home.”

“I was just thinking just now. There are so many things I haven’t done for 2 months.  I haven’t earned a penny, as a self employed man.  I haven’t handled money or even made a cup of tea.  So many things of normal life.  It is quite scary.”

“This is all such an unusual experience, in every possible sense.  Both athletically, physically, and mentally.  It is such an unusual thing to do.  There are only a handful people in the whole world that have ever done this.”

“But those are the experiences that you take with you to the grave.  But you have to do them to get the benefit that they will always give back to you.”

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Day 42… Constant Transcendence (July 28 )

Sopan starts the day with 2468 miles.  With just 642 more miles to go and a buffer of 25 miles his chances look very good to be able to complete the distance.  He tells me this morning he feels pretty good, which translate into not having severe blister pain.

“Which means I can start running.”  For the first hour of the day he is walking and gradually warming up his very tired muscles.  “It is part of the race.”

Telling me about the blisters he seems confidant that they come, heal, and then go.  “It is nothing like a disaster.”

Now with just 11 days left he feels the race winding down.  “But that is why I try and focus only on today.  If I start to think about the next few days then the race for me goes really slow.  It makes me impatient.  You want to get to the finish line but it is still a long way.  In my case it is still over 600 miles.”

“I feel connected to the goal. So I try and follow this link.  For me it is almost like connecting to a different world.  You become detached from all that you have experienced before.  You become connected to a new world a new experience.”

“Every runner experiences the race in a different way.  Everyone needs a different experience.  And when you are here you get the experience you need to get.  You cannot control what experience you get.  You can only surrender to it and move forward.  You have to except what is happening, keep moving forward, and keep making progress.  Both with miles and with inner progress.”

Photo by Spontaneous Beauty

“You have to overcome your own inner limitations, that also create your outer limitations.”

Sopan has had many significant experiences when Sri Chinmoy used to visit the race.  “12 years ago when I completed my 2nd race here in 2006.  He was giving an interview to a journalist of a local TV station.  It was 4 hours before my finish and I was running by and heard Sri Chinmoy saying, we can be truly happy only when we constantly transcend ourselves, both inwardly and outwardly.”

Sopan says that before he left the course he gave him a big smile.  Later he would come back for his finish and gave him his spiritual name, Sopan. “I had constant experiences with Sri Chinmoy when he came to the race but this was a special one.”

The Board at the Start of Day 42 …*Note totals may not be accurate, Magic Number is 2,443 *

Early

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Day 41… Enthusiasm-Awakeners Anniversary (July 27 )

*Written by Parvati*

I have always loved to sing but had a really difficult time trying to learn Sri Chinmoy’s songs — which were mostly composed in his mother language, Bengali. In 1999, on the Christmas Trip to Brazil, Sri Chinmoy invited me to form a group to learn some of his songs written in English.

Coincidentally, that evening his students were asking Sri Chinmoy questions and I asked about the quality enthusiasm. Specifically, what should I do about the fact that I did not find it appealing?

Well! Thus began my destiny with being forever tied to this quality. In the first set of songs Sri Chinmoy taught our newly formed group is one which has the lyrics: “Enthusiasm, enthusiasm, God’s Main Food. He begs me to eat, for my good!”.

Sri Chinmoy teaching a new song to Parvati and Paree

Since 1999, our song group’s informal name was either “Parvati’s Group” or the “Enthusiasm Group” — we wore t-shirts that said “Enthusiasm” and the songs that Sri Chinmoy taught us were published as “Enthusiasm Songbooks”.

On 27 July 2007, Sri Chinmoy surprised us by giving us our formal name “ Enthusiasm-Awakeners” — which is the anniversary we are celebrating today. That day, he gave us new t-shirts imprinted with bird drawings and his handwritten “Enthusiasm-Awakeners”.

Learning a new song 2007

This is how it came about that we started singing at the 3100 Mile Race. In 2006, the singing group wanted to honor Sri Chinmoy’s 75th birthday by singing the 1,200+ English songs we had learned from him over those past 7 years. We decided to sing 75 songs a day for 19 consecutive days. Since the 3100 Mile Race was going on in our neighborhood we decided we could meet there early each morning and sing. We hoped it would not bother the runners too much and thought they might even be somewhat entertained by us.

Sri Chinmoy, who visited the Race every day, noticed that we were there and was very pleased with our presence there. Towards the end of our project he started to stop his car in front of our group, call Paree and me to the car, and teach us a newly composed English song. Once we learned it, the rest of the group —who were close enough to hear us— would come up and we’d all sing it together for Sri Chinmoy and then for the runners. That year, I believe we learned 23 new songs.

The next year, in 2007, Sri Chinmoy asked me if our group would again go and sing at the 3100 Mile Race. I said, ‘We were not planning to. We had just been doing that to honor your 75th birthday.” His response? “What? 76 is not special?” So later I told the group this and we decided that it was the right thing to do to go sing at the race.

That Race, Sri Chinmoy stopped each morning and taught us a new song in the same manner he had done the previous year. This year, he also handed each of the singers Prasad. We learned 65 new songs this way. It was an amazing summer, which I have since called “the summer of Grace”. We received so much kindness, affection and blessings from Sri Chinmoy that we will be nourished the rest of our lives.

Thus began our commitment to sing at the Race each morning.

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Day 40…Our Spirituality Is Real (July 26)

This morning Vasu passed one of his last great milestones before he reaches his finish line early next week.  A handful of people were there ringing small shiny bells and there were enthusiastic shouts and hoorays for him after he completed 2700 miles.  He didn’t slow down or pause for a picture.  He will only stop when he reaches the finish line.

It will be his 7th straight finish and most likely he will once again be this years champion.  When I ask him this morning if he is having a good day he replies with absolute sincerity, “Every day is a good day.”

Vasu says that for him, even though it is so enticingly close, he cannot yet see the finish line but he feels it calling to him.  “I try to be happy every day.”

Photo by Jowan

Kobi runs very fast right from the beginning each day.  “He runs fast and he inspires me to also run faster.  It is good very good.”

Tomorrow the Enthusiasm Awakeners will be celebrating their anniversary.  “They are very important to us.  In the morning we are a little bit sleepy, we have no energy for running.  But when the Enthusiasm Awakeners come and we feel how they feed us inwardly and we become happy.  We increase our speed.”

photo by Jowan

“I am very grateful to Sri Chinmoy for creating this group, and to all the girls who participate.  It is very very nice.  I am very grateful.”

Vasu says that his focus for this race has been the importance of spirituality and music.  “They have given me the energy to run this race.  I think they are also very good for our regular lives.  Without spirituality we cannot do this race.  We cannot run.  We cannot be happy.”

“When we are sleepy or our consciousness low we can pray and meditate and listen to music and then become full of energy.  Our spirituality is real.  It elevates us to another level in our consciousness.  It is also very useful in our regular lives.”

The Board at the Start of Day 40 *Note totals may not be accurate…Magic number is 2,324*

Early

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Day 39… Every Day Is Precious (July 25)

This morning nothing seemed to be going right.  Weather issues, technical problems, and a general case of the early morning grumbles.  The trajectory of the day was not going up and neither was my drone, due to rain.  Generally it felt, that whatever could go wrong was in fact…. going wrong.

My interview schedule was topsy turvy and I was getting a little desperate.   So I turned to Smarana, and asked for an interview, and he said yes.  And it was not just a grudging yes, it was one of those sweet, deep, and grateful yes’s that in an instant melted away my woes.

We started our run with him carrying an umbrella in a light rain.  The weather affects the runners in all kinds of ways, and even though it wasn’t raining heavily it was humid and the air was thick.  He said it makes his legs heavy, and makes it difficult. He adds, “I am becoming more sensitive to the heat.”

When I ask whether or not he is looking for it all to be over, “There are two hearts beating inside of me.  One wants it all to be over with and the other one feels that every day is so precious out here.”

Photo by Jowan

“There is such precious energy out here and it is inspiring to see the runners who are still struggling.  They know that they have to hit certain numbers in order to finish.  The pressure they have and how they are dealing with it, is really nice.”

Smarana has also been inspired by all those who are selflessly working at the race.  “Yesterday I was just in awe watching Sahishnu clean the food bar.  He had such dedication and love while he was cleaning it.”

“Mario comes here after working a 12 hour shift in an intensive care unit and comes and gives massages to the runners, and then thanks them for coming to him for a massage.”

“There is such a high moral and spiritual standard here.  You can just absorb it every day.  It is really nice.”

“At the moment this is home but I know this game.  You want to go to the beach or something like that and then when you get to the beach it is kind of boring.  You are always longing to do something else.  But at the moment I am enjoying being here.  I know I can’t finish the race but I know it is just me and the course, with all the other runners and the helpers.”

“There is no outer glory.  I am just doing it for my own spiritual development.”

The Board at the Start of Day 39… *Note totals may not be accurate..The magic number is 2,246*

Early camp

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Day 38… My Heart’s Loving Oneness (July 24 )

“I have never run the 3100 mile race but I have always participated from its very inception as a volunteer.” This morning Vajra handed me a short commentary that reflects both his feelings and his long long history with the race.

He didn’t write a lot and his words fit into 3 compact paragraphs.  They are a collection of humble words coming from a man who has spent his summers for the past 23 years living and breathing the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.

“So many of the runners now have reached a point where their bodies have reached an equilibrium.  Their bodies have gotten used to all the difficulties and they are now pacing themselves till they reach the end.”

2009

“The human spirit as we know it is infinite, limitless, and boundless.  There are many words you can use to express something that is ever transcending.  This race represents exactly that.”

“As long as you have the opportunity to present to people something that will entice them to endure more of what they can unlimitlessly achieve.  This race will always be here to attract those people to run it.”

Vajra believes that Sri Chinmoy created the race, “to get people to believe and understand that there is something within them that is way beyond their own minds capacity to understand, that they are limitless, in every way.”

Asked why he has taken on the most thankless jobs over the years he says, “while I am doing all that, I am actually living through the runners.  I am seeing and feeling what they are seeing and feeling.  I am also, in a way, running in and through them.  This is based just upon my heart’s loving oneness with them.”

“Consequently what they feel I feel.  So this keeps me going.  As long as I have this oneness with them I will be able to continue to run this race and do whatever activities I am called upon to do, as long as the race exists.”

The Board at the Start of Day 38…* Note totals may not be accurate… Magic number is 2,205 miles *

Camp early

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Day 37… This Is Real Life (July 23 )

“I love it, of course I always loved it when they would sing when I was running.”  Sunday morning I caught up with Suprabha after she had been singing with the Enthusiasm Awakeners singing group.  “It brightens the morning for the runners.”

Suprabha has a phenomenal history here at the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.  She ran and completed the first 13 races accumulating a total of 40,300 miles on the course.  Then if you add the first 2,700 mile race in 1996, well you can do the math.  The circumference of the earth is just 24,901 miles.

Asked if she had any doubts going into that first big race.  “I guess I never ever thought whether or not it was possible to do it.  I had enough inspiration and direction from Sri Chinmoy.  He taught how to do one step at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.”

Interviewed during her 10th race in 2006, she said, “There are always new surprises in each race.”  She took delight in the sheer volume of miles she was collecting over her many, many ultra races.

Ted Corbitt in 2005 was amazed that she kept coming back to the race.  “It is amazing, just amazing.”

Suprabha, besides singing with the girls singing group, had also done a couple of shifts counting.  “I felt I was here to be part of the race again.  It invokes all kinds of feelings.  That this is really my home and once you come back it feels as though you  never left.  I just felt the power of the race.”

She says that for her to be at the race, “This is real life, and this is Sri Chinmoy’s world.  Everything else is kind of an illusion.”

My heart runs
The world’s longest race,
And not my mind.
My Lord runs ahead of me;
My breath runs behind.

6 August 2005
New York

Sri Chinmoy, My Race-Prayers, part 2, Agni Press, 2006

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Day 36… Patience Light (July 22)

For all those hungry for instant gratification the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race is not for you.  This morning when I proclaim to Ushika the obvious, that this is his 36th day on the course.  He says, “Wow, what a journey.”

One thing in addition, that is also obvious about Ushika’s race is that he is running stronger now, after running more than 2,000 miles, than he did earlier in the race.  Early on for a short period he struggled to make the quota.  “Physically to do this is not possible.  But even the physical here has to bow to consciousness.  This is the reason I can do that.”

Ushika tells me that one of the helpers of the race was leaving to go to Europe  and he wanted to run a lap with him.  “He was all in his heart.  Almost crying totally touched by the experience of the race.  Ushika, you know what.  I feel in my heart that you can increase your mileage.  Your body may be tired but I feel that you can do more now. He has a oneness heart.  That is what I feel.” After this conversation he ran 65 miles, his best since day one. He said the inspiration did not come from the outer plane.

Photo by Jowan

He then tells me that over the bunk in the van where he rests is a picture of a spider web and a poem written by Sri Chinmoy

Spider, my spider,
You build your home
With patience-light.
Against the speedy time
You and your confidence-fight.
You teach the world
What patience can do:
Build perfection’s kingdom
pure and true.

Sri Chinmoy, Animal Kingdom, Agni Press, 1973

“When I saw that picture and the quote I was totally shocked.  In a positive way.  It happened 2 or 3 weeks into the race that I saw it.  I realized then that patience is the topic of my race.  It is such a powerful quality.  It has definitely added to the experience I am having here.  For me it is the main quality of my race and my learning process.”

“This is the first race that I could exercise this quality by the Supreme’s grace.

The 2137 miles he could have run east from his home in Salzburg

Ushika feels that as a child he was very impatient.  When he became a student of Sri Chinmoy he felt he acquired some degree of patience. This he could use in his business dealings but felt he didn’t have it with himself.

“In many of my other races things went wrong because of my impatience.  In this race patience is an outer blessing because the race is so big.  I have been able, right from the beginning, to have patience.  The first 10 days of the race I was far behind with mileage, but I never felt that I had to push it, to get to the 109 laps.”

Ushika says also that the arrival of his first helper Patanga made a huge difference in his race.  “Then I was able to do the required mileage.”

Yesterday the rain was quite heavy.  “In the rain you need a lot of patience.”  He also describes that he was having a problem lifting his legs high enough.  “I had my third fall, and I tripped most powerfully a few times.  So I sorted out the parts of the track where I run, I walk, and I go slow.  This worked for yesterday’s rain.”

The Board at the Start of Day 36 … *Note totals may not be accurate.  Magic number is 2086 *

Heavy thundershowers late in the day

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Day 35… My Life Is Here (July 21)

Kobi Oren, after several thousand miles and 34 days of running continues to surprise and amaze me.  His focused efforts in the hours he is running on the course is always swift and always powerful. At the same time he is able to give a clear and delicate interpretation to the mystical side of the race.  A balance of the inner and outer that is extraordinary for someone who is taking part in the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race for the first time.

“It is hard work.  There are various seconds that I enjoy.  My eldest son arrived recently so with that I had a lot of seconds of joy.  His coming to the race was a very important moment for me.”

Kobi has a quota of mileage he wants to accomplish each day.  Yesterday he ran 66 miles.  “It is very hard to be here.  It is a hard world being here.” At the same time after completing 2300 miles this morning he says the finish line is becoming just a little more clear for him.

He describes that his life has become so immersed in the race that, “I don’t remember what was before.  It is like that I have been here all my life.  So I don’t know what will be after this.  This experience consumes everything.  My entire life is here.  I know that there is a lot of me out there.  But I am not living that now.  So I really don’t know what will happen at the end.  The end is something that I wish for and something that I desire for, but I can’t imagine what will be there the day after.”

“This is more than the here and now.  This event has its own life.  Before the race I thought it was going to be a journey, a quest, a voyage.  Like in mythology when the hero goes to find a golden feather and then he gets the Kingdom.  But now I know that this is something completely different. This is something like a pilgrimage.”

“You need to do things here in a certain manner.  There won’t be any golden feather here.  There won’t be a kingdom.  It is a ritual.  A very very long ritual to find out who you are.”

The Board at the Start of Day 35 *Note the totals may not be accurate…. The magic number is 2,026*

Camp early

Kobi and Vajra

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