Day 10… Upon The Summit (June 25 )

“A few things have to come together.”  This is Nirbhasa’s 3rd time at the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile race and with each entrance he has improved his performance.  As for which years that he able to take part, basically the ducks have to line up in his very demanding outer life to make it possible.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos

To know even a little of Nirbhasa’s back story is to realize immediately that he leads several full and demanding lives simultaneously and there would seem to be little room for the kind of distance training necessary in order to compete here.  And yet here he is after 9 days with 593 miles in 3rd place.

When asked if he needs a year off to recover after the previous races he says, not now, but maybe after his first race in 2015.

“Every race is different.  I guess it is like meditation.  With meditation the more you progress the more you want you inner understanding to be deeper and deeper.  That is what I feel about the race as well.  Every time I come each time the race is more of an inner spiritual adventure than it is an outer race.”

“That component becomes deeper.  I am able to engage more on that level.”

Nirbhasa, like all the runners actively pushes away negative thoughts and feelings.  “There is an old saying that morning shows the day, so I always try and get out in as good a frame of mind as possible.  You know be happy and cheerful.  If you are not in that frame of mind when by the time you get out on the course than you really have to apply yourself in the first few laps in order to get to that frame of mind.  Because it is crucial to how the rest of the day is going to turn out.”

When asked who is driving his car.  “Well there is definitely an element that you are really reliant on your soul or something deeper within you to do the race.  More and more often I find myself less pushing and pulling mentally.  Instead trying to connect to this inner source.”

“Once you are connected then you kind of feel that whatever happens you are not pushing and pulling.  And so you are cheerful whatever the result is.”

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Day 9… Honestly Happy (June 24)

All the runners who come to run the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race have to have exceptional capacities and skills.  It is a super-humanly difficult and challenging physical ordeal but as well there is an exceptional battle to be endured here mentally.  If there is anyone who seems to have the exceptional ability to confront the battlefield of the 3100 mile race with both strength and boundless positivity it is Harita.

Her cheerful disposition and tireless resilience has once again served her well in this her second time entering the race.  As for her decision to come back and run after spending last year working on the Peace Run, “This time I had a pretty clear feeling that it was probably the right thing for me to do.”

She says that she spent much of last year with Peace run events and activities, and says, “it was probably a pretty good idea to have a year off. It has taken me a year to recover.”

Harita when asked about her positivity confesses that it is something she has to work at.  “You definitely have to really work at it for sure.  I don’t usually wake up that excited about having to run for 18 hours.”

“People tell me that I have a cheerful attitude generally.  That is something that you have to practice in your regular life all the time. You can’t just not do it and come out here and feel happy all of the time.    I think it is a big part of your regular life.  Always try and look at the bright side of life.”

“Just look for the things to be grateful for.  There are so so many things in our life to be grateful for.  Our lives are blessed in so many ways.  The more you can focus on that then the easier it is to feel happy.”

Harita has had a slow start but over the past few days has been running stronger and accumulating the necessary laps.  “Definitely my body feels stronger.  I can run better, but even if you have a good day it is still a huge challenge.  It is a long day and your mind always looks at the whole thing as completely unachievable.  You have to really not focus on your mind.”

“It may sound simple but it is so powerful to really try to break down the race into days and break down the days into moments.  Sri Chinmoy said imagine you are like a child running in your garden.  That is a lot to be really able to put into practice though, but it is a worthwhile endeavor.”

“The whole race is an inner experience.  Something I wanted to do this time differently from last time is not to put so much mental pressure on myself.  Last time was the first time I had done it.  It was so hard not to be constantly calculating the miles.  Even though you should live in the moment, there in the back of my mind I was constantly calculating.”

“I had 3 days near the beginning of the race when I couldn’t really run at all, I could just walk.  I was really very grateful because I was able to stay cheerful and not worry about it, and not be mental about it.  I took it more like a flow and so that is one of my goals going into this race is to be less mental and just have faith that it is all in God’s hands and be in the flow.”

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Day 8… Work Of A Lifetime (June 23 )

If there ever was a time that was most spectacular and thrilling to watch the 3100 mile race it would have to been 2015 when Ashprihanal set the current record for the race.  He broke the old mark by nearly a day but what I cannot help but remember from that summer is that over the course of 40 days and 9 hours he single handedly demonstrated transcendence, courage, and stamina in a way the race had never seen.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos

Ashprihanal is unlikely to break any speed records this year but still he is doing something record setting and  heroic as he attempts the race for the 15th time.  When asked about this he makes sure that I include Ananda-Lahari as well joining the 15th year club.

For me the sheer quantity of his numbers are all simply too vast to grab hold of or even comprehend.  By the time he completes the race this summer he will have run 46,500 miles around the block.  When asked if he can understand it all, he says simply, “yes I can.”

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos

As he approaches me before our interview, he grasps the revolving cap of a fire hydrant and gives it a little spin.  It is a little ritual that he has been doing probably since his first race here.  He told me once he pretended it was like turning a prayer wheel for good luck.

Other objects that often get his attention include patting particular bushes and trees at regular intervals along the course.  He does it so naturally you have to really watch or he will run by so lightly and swift you won’t even notice.

Day 8 starts out well for Ashprihanal, “the weather is good, I made a small joke with Smarana. (see video) For him as for all the runners keeping joyful is unquestionably important to having a good race.  “In the first races I had try more to be positive.  To change hardships, and work on the mind.  So far it has worked without really working too hard.”

“If I felt negative then I would really start working on it.  Now it has been okay so far.”

“I didn’t train as much this year, but here I am doing pretty good.  I wanted to train and I started.  Then I started building my garage so I stopped then started again.  But I did something (training ) definitely. But not enough.”

Ashprihanal believes that he can get stronger as the race progresses.  “Also I have done it so many years, that it all helps this year.”

And if there is any doubt about his motivation for coming here to run the race at age 48 and run for the 15th time, ” It is for my inner progress and for Sri Chinmoy, that is why I am here.”

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Day 7… A Sunlit Path (June 22)

I found a picture recently of Ananda-Lahari taken at his 2nd 3100 mile race 14 years ago.  It strikes me that in so many ways, to at least my mind’s eye, that he has remarkably changed so little visibly. He continues to appear youthful and his temperament is still sweet, light, cheerful, and kind.

My own image, as well as that of most I know has found that time has not treated our outer appearance with similar generosity.  Which when compared to a man such as Ananda-Lahari who has spent approximately 735 days running continuously on a hard half mile loop suggests that an elixir of youth is somehow imbued into the very fabric of the 3100 mile race.

Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos 2006

I am sure of course that if even a stronger, fitter, braver version of myself had taken up the challenge of the race my own results would be much grimmer if not life threatening.  For I, like a great portion of humanity have but a fragment of the inner devotion and dedication that Ananda-Lahari has for this sacred race.

“I am very very very grateful for the race.  It somehow happens that every year I am here at the starting line and it is amazing.  Unbelievable.   It is a miracle.”

This morning on Day 7 I asked him if he had been happy the whole time thus far this year, and he confessed that no, he had not, but said it all with a smile and sweetness.  He has been bothered by, “Pain and the usual things, that you have to spend your whole day running around the block.  I think it takes a while to accept it and sincerely and sincerely enjoy it, and be happy no matter what.”

When asked how long it would take, “I am almost there but of course there are always challenges.  It is not easy.”

“It is not that there is something beautiful here that draws me back.  I just feel that I want to come back.  It is the thing that I really want to do. It is rewarding for sure.  Especially it intensifies for me my inner cry.  My inner cry for God.  My inner cry to become a better person.  More humble and more pure.

When asked how many times he wants to run the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race, “as many times as possible.”

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Day 6… Impossibility Always Bows (June 21)

In the last 7 years Vasu has run approximately 21,700 miles around the same Self-Transcendence block.   Considering that he is well on track to completing the 3100 mile distance once again, it will mean that by August this year he will have run a distance that equals the circumference of the earth, 24,901 miles.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Photo

The significance of the sheer volume of miles appears to have little meaning to Vasu.  He comes and runs his best every morning from 6am until midnight.  It seems clear that what his feet accomplish here are not nearly as interesting and fulfilling as where is heart is taking him.

He, like most of the runners are clearly intent on propelling themselves to a destination in which the finish line is constantly receding.  True transcendence constantly rising upwards by the sheer force of grace, dedication, and a willing body at the true service of the divine within.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Photo

“I am feeling good, I hope,” Vasu tells me this morning.  He smiles as he cautiously admits to having some problems.  “Yesterday I got a blister.” For one who is very experienced at all aspects of running here he says that getting a blister for him is not easy. This year he is also at a disadvantage of not having a full time helper as he has had in previous races.

His enthusiasm for being here running on the course is all consuming, “Every time I want to come.”

Vasu says that many things about being in the race give him joy.  He likes his fellow runners, and all those who come and help, but in particular he likes the consciousness that exists tangibly in the small perimeter of the course itself.

When asked if he could not find some place nicer back home he laughs bemusedly . “Consciousness is different there.”

“The consciousness here is higher.  Here there is inspiration and aspiration and I can go inside myself and pray and meditate and be happy.”

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Day 5… Dare to Do (June 20)

“Yes for sure, I am happy and grateful, to be here again.”

On face value, Ushika’s response to my question, how he was doing, would seem unremarkable. Yet when weighed against his herculean efforts over the past 4 soggy days, and not forgetting his completion of the race in 50 days last summer, it is in truth a remarkable answer.

Over the past 4 days he has accumulated 246 miles, a mere blip, in comparison to the arduous task of completing the additional 2,854 miles that still lies dauntingly in front of him.  He is unequivocal about his eagerness to run here again this summer.  “If I go deep within, it was already clear to me during last years race.”

“Outwardly I was waiting to see how my body would recover before I applied again.  My recovery after the race was good. I even did the August marathon after last years race.  That was good but then I went downhill considerably.”

“It was a difficult time for me.  Not just my body, it was difficult on all levels.  I am definitely planning for a different recovery after this race.”

When asked what he emphasizes in preparing for the race he feels that for him that any preparation is mostly to make his mind more confident.  “You can’t train for a race like this.  But it is still good to do training anyway.”

Ushika says that Rupantar summed up his feeling for the race at the runner’s lunch.  “If God exists, this race is the proof.”

He feels that setting a goal for himself here is futile.  But setting an inner goal is quite a different story.  “Last year I was focusing on gratitude.  This year my focus is on devotion.”

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Day 4… To Arrive At The Destination (June 19)

Kaneenika’s arrival at the 3100 mile race for the first time in 2015 was much anticipated.  She had been participating in multi day races for many years previously and had clearly demonstrated her talent and capacity to take on the longest race in the world.

This race however bestows its rewards on those who run here in many unforeseen ways.  Despite a courageous effort she was unable to complete the distance on her first attempt.  Instead of being disappointed or beaten she then came back the 3 following years and in the process not only completed the race but also set, in 2017, the current women’s record of 48 days and 14 hours.

Now this summer in what would have been her 5th race she is unable to enter due to a knee injury.  This morning I had a chance to speak with her.  “I am definitely missing the race,” she says.

“Until March I was still hoping I would be doing this race and then it was clear that I would not be able.  But I think I am on a good track to recover.”

I suggest that she must have experienced a full spectrum with her 4 previous races.  “It is like life.  You do the same thing every day but every time is different.”

“This experience ( running 3100 ) is really doing me good.  Especially in my inner progress.  I think that is why I am missing the race this year now.  I really feel that this is the place to be for me.”

Kaneenika is clear that there once was a time when she was reluctant to take part in it.  “But when I entered it for the first time it really became a part of my life.”  She says that until she actually ran it she never understood the fascination of those who looked forward to returning year after year.

Nidhruvi once mentioned that if she should ever enter the race she would find herself addicted to it.  “I said, this will never happen to me. But here I am.”

She once asked Vasu if he would come back to the race and he told her, of course, this is my life. “I think this has happened to me too.”

“There is something that draws you here. It is definitely not something that can be explained on an outer level.  As she speaks about her many experiences her she says that all the pain and suffering that she endured here has vanished.  Instead she says she can only see the positive.

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Day 3… What is a Challenge? (June 18)

There is probably no one more surprised that he is running the 3100 Mile Race this year than Smarana himself.  Most years, not too long ago, it would have been a given.   He completed the race 7 years in a row after all and then their was the infinite break in time of almost 9 years.

It is not clear just how it happened but once again inspiration and enthusiasm and training collected themselves together in this fine Austrian runner and he dedicated himself to coming back once more to run again in 2017.

Now came a brand new experience.   The kind of thing that tugs at your heart, particularly when you are so fond and in admiration of this great runner.  The finish line was not crossed.

So with hope and inspiration somehow renewed, once more he came back last year in 2018.  And once more the story repeated itself.  He smiled, he valiantly tried so so hard again, and yet once more completing the distance remained elusive.

So many hearts ached for him and yet he did not crumble or even once show that he was discouraged.  A champion for 52 days was a task that he was able and willing to do.

This year he runs again and is running with strength and joy and trying to keep a safe distance between himself and the last 2 years.   He says, “definitely a difference from the years before.” Smarana tells me he likes the group of runners assembled this year, “it is a very nice crew.”

“Until March I hadn’t even considered running at all.”  But in April a visit to a well know Ayurvedic local Doctor changed his thinking dramatically.  He suggested in no uncertain terms that he should enter the race.  Smarana is cautious about revealing all what was said in the Doctor’s office.  Clearly the prescription was not a casual pronouncement.  But involved some very specific steps that he would have to undertake in order to achieve success.

“Every race is a story and it is very clear what the story is for this race, and so far I am working on it quite well.”

“He told me, if your overcome (this and that), you will fly in this race. I am working on this and that let’s see if I can grow wings.”

“It shows that everything has to come together here, not just the mind and the body.  All the family members have to come together, and enjoy the feast.  I am trying to get them all into one spot and make it work.”

“I by myself would not have decided on my own to do the race, especially my mind.  Somebody else wanted me to do it so I just let go of everything.  I am surrendering, what ever happens happens.  I will do my best.  I am just going to try and stay in my heart and be happy.  Whatever happens I gladly accept.”

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Day 2… Transformation Embodies (June 17)

“I still know who I am after one day in the competition.”

Todor laughs for I have just asked him who he is.   But in fact he is familiar to many in the ultra running community.  He ran the 6 day race in Flushing Meadow in 2017 and did a very good 442 miles.

“I come from Bulgaria and I work as a naval officer in a Naval Defense college where I am a chief assistant professor.   I love running that is why I am here.  It is an amazing competition and an amazing atmosphere.”  He adds that even though he has competed in races all over the world there is no event that he has entered thus far that compares to the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile race.

He is amazed at the feeling of love and support he is receiving from the other runners and also all the organizers and all those who volunteer.  “That feeling is amazing and without it, yesterday would have been much much more difficult for me.”

Todor says that in other competitions he is usually a little faster.  “But here on this concrete with the different weather conditions it is quite complicated.  If the other more experienced runners hadn’t helped me it would have been much different.”

His helper, also named Todor, he says, “helped me a lot.  He is the one who helped the most and without him I would definitely not get 71 miles.”

“My idea yesterday was not to concentrate on speed but instead be steady.  Not to push myself.  If you push yourself you can get more injuries.” Todor is also getting used to just how hard the concrete sidewalk is.

Todor believes that an inner approach to the race is crucial. “If you want to use just your physical to do this I am sure you will find after just one day that it is impossible.  No way.  You have to find some other source.”

“If you go within you will find it easier and just possible to finish the race.”  When obstacles come he feels that you can overcome them with happiness and with inner strength.  You need to have a feeling of oneness with the other runners and with the helpers.”

“We are going forward and forward.”

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Start of 3100…Transcendence is Perfection (June 16)

Start of the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race 2019

The board early

Harita and Suhasini setting up

Pushkar looks on

Sahishnu getting one of the counters ready

Setting up the live streaming webcams

Time passes

Still setting up

A crew is here from Brazil

Kaneenika is unable to run the race this year

The world around us

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