Most will look back at this years race no doubt as the wet one. The year in which the rain came heavily and it came lightly and it came in every descriptive form of precipitation in between. It sprinkled and it pounded and then it would go away only to dart back with a soggy full throated roar. Today will be just like that. The rain switching on and off so often you just might like to call the person holding the switch and ask them to please make up their mind.
If you had the luxury of just sitting and watching it might be amusing to see swirling rivers flowing past your feet and little Niagras tumbling off of van roofs. But not if you are trying to cobble together 60 soaking miles of puddles, with shoes and socks flooded nearly every step of the way.
It is the year in which at the start of the day one never had enough dry shirts, dry socks and dry shorts. When shoes became damp so often they never really dried. Causing then, on dry days, a stew of musty odors to rise up and out of sport bags. When one umbrella was not enough. When if you were foolish and ever tempted the weather gods they would eventually find an opportunity to strike you with a merciless downpour on the far side of course leaving you many minutes away from the timid shelter of an awning covering your folding chair.
Yet they will also be able to say that it was the cool one. The one in which there were no 90 degree days in July which has not happened in more than 100 years. The average temperature for the month just a little over 71. Maybe there was some meteorological bargain that was enacted on some distant plane that said simply, “We will keep it cool but your are going to have the wet instead.”
Saturday will be something of historical note. Sahishnu believes that never have 3 runners finished on the same day ever before. Tomorrow which is day 49 will see Vlady, Pranjal, and Stutisheel finish their long journeys.
Is a homeless cloud.
Is a soundless sky.
Is a goalless rain.
Excerpt from Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 22 by Sri Chinmoy.
Pranjal starts his last full day on the course with just 88 miles to go. Shortly after the start he grabs a cup of Coke and then swigs it down just a few strides down the course. The empty plastic cup he then sticks in one of the holes in the chain link fence. Over the day there will be many many more empty cups placed tidily in the fence, all having once contained Coke. Pranjal is not sure how much of it he drinks every day, nor how many Snickers bars, the black carbonated beverage has washed down on top of that. Some runners have diets that might make those with sensitive constitutions shudder. When asked why he eats and drinks this stuff he replies, “Suuugaarrr.”
There is no way of finding fault with his personal dietary strategy. For the past 37 days he has consistently run between 62 and 65 miles a day. He tells me he does not drink Coke back home but that there is some local beverage he likes that sounds suspiciously just like Coke, though it has less caffeine and is not as sweet.
This is the 5th time he has come and he is clearly going to break his previous record by more than a day. When he came for the first time he says, “I could not imagine how it was going to be.” Prior to that first race he had attempted the 1,000 mile race several times but had never succeeded in completing the distance in the allotted time. Back then he was not able to average the necessary 60 miles a day. He says when he came to the 3100 he knew he needed to run at least 61 miles a day. It was only last year that he was able to maintain that standard and finish the race before the cut off. In other years he received time extensions.
I ask him therefore why he would even attempt the race in the beginning when he had not demonstrated the capacity to run 61 miles a day. He says, “somehow I was never thinking about this. Usually when people hear about something like 3100 miles they are scared. I actually was never scared by this race. I was never scared by the mileage, the pain, or the lack of sleeping, I just wanted to do it.”
He runs with Vlady and jokes that he could have finished today if he had run 70 miles yesterday and 70 miles today. He says this kind of thing is possible if you do not sleep or take a break. He tells me that in his second race he had this experience in order to finish within the cut off. He says, ” I ran without a break for a week or two, from morning until midnight, no break.” He did this so he could be under 52 days. By doing this he was able to finish one hour before midnight. ” Ya, it was tough.” For him when you are under mental pressure you loose energy. Now he feels more in tune with his running and finds little bothers him.
I ask him why he is doing so much better this year and he is uncertain the answer. “I think running this race is like training. You cannot really train for this race. Just by running this race you are getting stronger.” He says he does not feel competitive with the other two in which the one in front of him is 12 miles ahead and the one behind he leads by 29 miles. “I am doing my best. I cannot run more and I do not want to run less.”
The rain starts to fall heavily and the sound of his footsteps become muted in the drumbeat of a steady rainfall. He says, “one thing for sure, I will miss this race, when it is over. I have a feeling that this is the life. Here I am alive.” He tells me that yesterday he was thinking about his finish when he realized that his journey towards the goal was more fulfilling than the goal itself. “You get joy from overcoming obstacles in your spiritual life and it is the same here. The finish is just the end.”
He still feels in a deep way the inspiration of his late teacher Sri Chinmoy. He says that the race for him is a manifestation of his philosophy of Self-Transcendence. That for him, it is the core of his personal experience here. One, that is not just about making the distance in a faster time but also being able to grow inwardly. That perhaps his life is not about pushing forward but instead it is learning how to surrender within. In so doing finding that the goal is more than willing to come to you.
Because I am alive.
I am alive,
Therefore I must reach
God’s heavenly Throne.
Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 32 by Sri Chinmoy.