“It’s not easy to break a world record.” Once long ago Sri Chinmoy told this to Dipali Cunningham as she set one of her many world bests. It is also not easy to run 446 miles over 6 days as she did here in Flushing Meadow today. Doing it as well, by pushing relentlessly through the worst running conditions she has ever encountered in the 19 years she has been competing in multi day events. And if all this were not enough to establish her performance here as remarkable, this 51 year old runner beat all the male runners as well. It must be duly noted as well that two top men were also seasoned 3100 mile runners who were more than a decade younger than her.
Her victory she will never ever claim as her own. There is no obvious outer reason why this slender middle aged woman has been so good at this sport for such a long time. Her inner strength becomes apparent as you try and keep up beside her. It doesn’t take much to see that her success has little to do with muscles and mind as it has to do with inner strength.
It is a qualities that we all have, and which is never defeated by age, by weather, and adversity if we just allow it to come to the fore. It is also not about winning but about surrendering. Not about conquest but of offering up. You can see it in her foot steps, all lightness and yet determined. You can feel it in her voice as she encourages and inspires others knowing full well that the success of everyone else she can easily identify with as well.
It is a deep inner force, which pulls and pushes her out into the wind and across the mud the puddles and out into the cold, that causes so many others to wrap up and hide in a sleeping bag until the nightmare is over. It is a force which contributed to the laurel wreath that now rests upon her head. This inner force she will tell you is not for her alone but is available to everyone else as well.
She says today as she rounds a corner and heads into one of her final few laps, “All of us are exhausted from the elements that we have encountered here.” We talk about her theme of humility which she expressed a few days earlier. “I think it is going to be one of the lowest mileages that I have ever done.” The weather of course was the adversary for all who ran here this year. A precious few found a golden spark amidst the dark damp clouds but most found the trio of obstacles, wind, rain, and cold a team that was just too tough to conquer entirely.
For her it brought out the necessity, “to be determined, and being happy, and being cheerful, and being surrendered.” The conditions inevitably either made you hide or as she says, “you had to go deep within to your source.” She says that for the runners everything was telling them to stop. Yet inwardly most understood, that stopping was not an option. “That is not why we came out here.”