August 13 This Time is Special

sup“This time is special,” Suprabha says as she talks about her experience here this year in the 3100 mile race.  For anyone who has had the opportunity to observe Suprabha running day in day out, they would have to profoundly agree with her direct and simple assessment of her race this year.  Just 15 days ago it appeared that it would be impossible for her to continue.  One of the doctors who examined her at that time, Dr. Mitch Proffman says, “she was in excruciating pain, she couldn’t even step down.  She couldn’t even move her hip.  It is truly a miraculous recovery.  She is an inspiration to everybody.”

The mantle of heroine doesn’t fit too well upon Suprabha’s slight frame.  In a supermarket line or even out here at the 3100, as the only woman running with much younger men, after a quick assessment of her, one would probably be hard pressed to easily identify her as an exceptional athlete.  She certainly does not outwardly resemble someone who has the distinction of being, as Sahishnu called her, “the greatest super long distance runner in history.”  What defines this petite champion is not her outer strength and speed but her absolute inner dedication to this race created by Sri Chinmoy 13 years ago.  Yet even if the world does not celebrate her astounding list of achievements her incomparable distance records clearly demonstrate by themselves how incredible an athlete she really is.

s30The vocabulary of language is in so many ways inadequate to catalogue or even properly comprehend her accomplishments.  After so many years and miles of constant running competition, descriptive adjectives have long since failed to keep pace with her as she just keeps going and going on.  Suprabha tells me that once a friend came to her earlier in the summer and related to her that she had been listening to some old tapes in which her late spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy is speaking about her.  He said several times how miraculous it was that Suprabha ran this race.  Yet now she has done it again for a record setting 13th time.

If one has any belief, or just simply accepts, that heart power is far superior and more significant than the power of the mind or the body then what Suprabha has done, not just this year, but throughout her ultra-distance career becomes abundantly clear.  It would seem that it is in her receptivity and her inner spiritual connection, that she finds her apparently limitless strength and enthusiasm.  What would crumble most people to the ground, she simply accepts, not as adversity but as inspiration to reach higher and dig deeper.  All of course part and parcel of her spiritual teacher’s philosophy on life.  She says, “it has taken me until this year to really understand what Sri Chinmoy gave us in this race.”


lstart4SCAN0112l first step

There are just a handful of people on hand to watch her start the final 29 miles of her journey.  It is not surprising, it is not a particularly easy time for most people to be up and about let alone ready to run at 6 AM in the morning.  Yet as you see her standing alone, just as she has for the last five days, you cannot but help but appreciating the breadth and depth of her history here.  It is one that looms  imposingly vast behind her.  With each new race it continues to stretch out behind as she forges forward with ever new self-transcendence.  Just to imagine 13 years of 6 am starts is imposing and impressive by itself, particularly to those who cherish sleep and feel easily swayed by lethargy’s tempting call.

s32She tells me how she got up in the middle of the night and then thereafter would wake up almost every hour with happy anticipation that she would still be able to come back in the morning and run. That the race was not yet over.  She says, “I consider myself to be a morning person.  You have all your work lying in front of you.”  And yes she finds beauty in the evenings  as well.

She talks of still corners where night rests gently and as she describes the course you begin to understand how she has probably seen every bit and fragment of this place that she calls, “sacred ground.”  It seems no matter what gift nature and weather bestow upon her here it really does not matter.  This is her world and to most it would be a tiny hard block but to her it is a limitless universe of spiritual possiblity in which she has traveled farther than anyone else.

sag7She is joined by some young girls and seems delighted in their company.  She greets a man walking his dog and says goodbye to him and asks him to pass on greetings to his wife.  Just as she knows the material world before her here she is also  friends with a large company of people who move in and out of the school, the houses in the neighborhood, and the homeless ones who sometimes take up temporary residence here.  She says, “I have known these people for years.” She has as much if not more enthusiasm for the race as when she first started off years ago.  She says the race, “is such an amazing thing.  It is an incredible gift, not just for me but for everybody. Everybody can find a place for themselves in this race.” She understands that as selfless as many people are who contribute to the race they also must receive something back from it inwardly

l25If she feels blessed to be part of it she also feels that it has something to offer all who identify and contribute in any way no matter their capacity.  She mentions not just the team that organized it, she says, “I felt the support of the whole marathon team.”  There are many others as well who played significant roles in making the race not just practically doable but also inspiring.  She mentions also those who come and perform music , or bring food, or even just come by and cheer.  “It does so much for so many people.”   She points to the flowers and speaks about those who not only planted them but kept coming back time and again over 2 months and cared for them.

She mentions a long list of medical people who have come and helped on numerous occasions, and all the little miracles that allowed them to afford not just the time but the money to come here.  For herself personally she says it was the financial support of her friends that made it possible for her to run this year, “I am so lucky and so grateful.   Without that I wouldn’t be here this year.”

She says that for her the next job is to simply, “to integrate back into society.”  It is no simple matter to abruptly shift focus from a very public outdoor world of running and meditation to a life that somehow fills up the other 10 months of her life.  As for next year and what it brings, that is a story that is yet to be told.  Savita reminds me that ‘this’ is the moment that counts.  The current one that still has almost a half day of running.  She says that it is enough to, “treasure every step, the race is so special.”  She too calls it sacred ground.

sup10  goodThis year will not be her slowest race in 13 years.  That distinction goes to one some years ago in which an injury prevented her from really training and the race that year lasted almost 63 days.  When Sri Chinmoy heard that she was coming off an injury and was not race fit he told her, “good girl you have done more than enough training.  In your case it is all grace.”

So many repeat how much Sri Chinmoy loved this race and how often he would come here to the course.  It has been 2 years since his passing and yet in so many ways his inspiration is still so bright and luminous here.  Suprabha says of her race this year, “there were moments when I could actually feel Sri Chinmoy.”


photo by Alakananda
photo by Alakananda

sup finishSahishnu says, “she has a supremely determined will.”

Her time is 60 days, 8 hours, 58 minutes, and 51 seconds.

Her 13th finish.  He adds, “from all of us and perhaps the world, congratulations.”

Suprabha’s finish

flower 1Race prayer from August 9th 2006

Today’s victory we celebrate

only to invoke a new goal

by Sri Chinmoy

3 thoughts on “August 13 This Time is Special”

  1. It is perhaps the most expensive race in the world, but definitely it is the race with the most gifted runners- they show their extraordinary skills in full measure. The 13th finish of Suprabha is a great, great victory. Suprabha says of her race this year, “there were moments when I could actually feel Sri Chinmoy.” This is it, it is his race.


  2. I am always touched by the grace and humble spirit of the 3100 race participants.
    I get such joy from working with them.
    Mitch P.

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