To me it is an inexplicable mystery that the first 3 men in the 10 day race are not only from the same country, Ukraine, but also that they come from the same small city, Vinnitsa. If that were not enough to make you scratch your head in amazement, there are also 2 other citizens of Vinnitsa in the race.
The hairs breadth distance between Yuri Trosenyuk and Igor Mudryk is literally heart stopping. On a warm and at last gratefully dry Tuesday afternoon Igor, who won the race last year, is just 18 miles behind Yuriy going into their 9th day. I had made a wild prediction a week ago that Igor would amaze us all again. He got sick however on just his second day but has rebounded with amazing strength.
It is Yuri Trostenyuk however that interests me today. Last year he completed the race with a personal best of 629 miles and took 4th place. If he somehow is able to find another gear and push himself to a whole new level he will not only set another record, he could very well win the race. When I arrive today he is running with 3100 mile runner Stutisheel Lebedyev, also from the Ukraine but unfortunately from Kiev and not Vinnitsa. He gladly accepts the role of translator for us.
He tells me that this is the 3rd time he has done the 10 day race. He and his fellow Ukrainians come further to be here than practically everyone other than the New Zealanders. When asked why come so far to be here he says, “No other race can give you the same experience as this one. To be in such a race means to me to be closer to my true self. In ordinary life we don’t hear our inner voice. In such a race as this it comes forward. “
He tells me, “every time after the race something changes in me.”
It is a powerful transformative experience no doubt to be pushing yourself constantly for 10 days. The end results, show up for most runners, not in the trophies and certificates that they each receive, but in the transformation that takes place within. Yuri says that his friends notice when he returns that he has really changed in significant and positive ways.
“This extreme physical load that we undergo requires us to search for answers deep within. I become more sincere, more receptive, and more one with the whole of humanity.”
He has improved his mileage every year and I wonder if this is significant to him in any way. “Actually it does not have so much importance, but to me the distance I cover corresponds with a new closeness to my inner self.”
He has several runners very close behind him and I wonder if this has any particular significance to him. “For me personally I don’t care. I don’t even look at the board. For me it is an inner race.” He describes several of the meditative techniques he practices while running, including doing japa. “For me it is first and foremost a spiritual exercise and not a physical competition.”
A few days ago a fellow runner described Yuri to me as one who was hard on the outside and soft within. I ask him if there is any truth to this and he laughs with glee. “I almost agree. Sometimes the outer hardness is necessary to achieve inner softness.”
My last question is the obvious one. With so many runners all here from Vinnitsa Ukraine is there something in the water there that we ‘all’ should drink. This brings a laugh and he suggests that it is not the water that inspires him but instead fellow runner Nataliya Hiushchuk (from Vinnitsa) who has been coming here every year since 2005. She came back from that race with such glowing reports about her experiences here that they were all deeply inspired to come as well.
Today the board reveals a lot about how the race is shaping up with now less than 2 days to go. Besides the battle between the 2 Vinnitsians in the men’s division it appears that the 10 race could still be easily won by Kaneenika. Dipali who is more than 100 miles ahead of the next girl is also not without someone to push her. This year there is not a Pam Reed but there is American Alex Swenson, who late on Tuesday afternoon, is is just 5 miles behind.
6 day runner John Geesler may yet to have got the hang of 6 day running but he is not a quitter. Looking relaxed and comfortable he says, “I am still going.” Like many others he is having a few foot problems.
Between the 2 of them they have run the race 13 times. Kushali is in the 10 day for the 7h time and Rajeshri in the 6 day for the 6th time. They are both professional musicians from Kiev Ukraine and over the last few years have set a marathon mark of their own in giving free concerts. Some mark close to 750. At each, they perform only the musical compositions of their late spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.
Todays sunshine and warm temperatures have put everybody into a good mood. They admit that yesterday was another story. For them, the stormy wet conditions were the worse they had every experienced here at the race. There was hardly any moment when you could feel dry little alone comfortable. They love to sing of course and for most of that period the inspiration bird was nowhere to be found. The only birds enjoying the weather yesterday were the ducks.
They tell me, “Now that the sun has come we can sing this beautiful song.” Which is also the title track of their 3rd album. They believe that all the other runners were praying for conditions to improve. It is truly glorious and today there are no, as they describe it, “mud walkers. Now we can be road runners.”
Kaushali who is in the 10 day is also happy that she is in her 9th day, “my goal is approaching very fast. It is good to see the goal very near.”
|This is the moment Louis crossed the line completing 400 miles. Now that the rains have stopped it seemed nice to pay tribute to the other birds who enjoy flushing meadow, besides ducks.|
|Shoes drying the low tech way.|
He has been running multi day races so long he can’t remember exactly it was when he ran his first. Marvin Skagerberg, currently of Plano Texas, tells me straight off, that the race program has his age wrong, that he is 72 not 73. Regardless, he gladly admits to being the oldest runner in the race.
He believes that his first 24 hour race was one the Sri Chinmoy center put on in Greenwich Connecticut, probably in 1981. The math may be fuzzy but his history of distance running is impressive whether or not it is exactly 30 years long or not.
He says it was rare to easily find out about races back then. Occasionally it might be printed in a magazine but mostly you found out by word of mouth. At this race now he says, “I am making a comeback of a sort.” He lists for me a long list of health issues that have plagued him since starting in 2004. For most the problems he has had to deal with could easily defeat even the strongest. There was both 2 heart surgeries and cancer treatment, a combination that would easily prove overwhelming to almost anyone, but certainly not Marvin Skagerberg.
It has been a long hard 4 year period of health issues which Marvin describes as, “No fun at all.” He describes how after each occurrence of a health problem he would inevitably end up in rehab. Of course he was always the best on the treadmill. When the rehab would be over he would always say, “I am no longer rehabilitating any more, now I am training. I kept trying to get back to the races but a lot of things interfered.” It was only last summer that he found himself well back on the road to wellness. This included a race in Tennessee and 100 miles in a 48 hour race in Dallas this past November.
Here he admits that he is not getting very many miles but still for him it is a very happy and joyous experience. “Even when the rain is coming down I am so happy to be with the people I have seen for so many years.” He admits to being competitive with others in his age group but adds, “it is more important to be competitive with yourself. You always want to be better than the last time.”
He recalls a personal and moving experience that happened to him in one of the Marthon teams 1000 mile races many years ago. He had entered the 1000 mile race, but a painful bone bruise in his heel forced him to leave the race for a day. He returned after 24 hours with hopes of completing at least 700 miles, if he could at complete 50 miles each day. He recalls that upon his return he was given an encouraging card, written to him personally by Sri Chinmoy, that encouraged him to continue. The words he forgets, but not the love and concern that Sri Chinmoy offered to him. “That gave me a big burst of happiness that I am going to be able to do this for sure.”
As for his current mileage, he says, “in the old days I would be very unhappy with the mileage but today I am a happy guy. It can’t get any better.”
Too late to change
God’s unconditional Love for me.
Too late to change
God’s Forgiveness-Sun for me.
Too late to change
God’s faith in my
Excerpt from Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 25 by Sri Chinmoy