There are many things and events that clearly mark the change of seasons for us. Nobody has quite the same fervid appreciation of nature’s transformation as do school children and farmers. Kids see the great freedom of summer vacation inching enticingly closer as the days of June fall away. For Agriculturists their livelihoods depend on the arch of the sun climbing up higher and longer into the sky. Astronomers of course know precisely when the great solstice will take place as do school children who know so well the date when the last chains of the school year will at last slip away.
Queens NY, like all places north of the Equator, is as familiar with the tell tale signs of the advent of summer as any place. The whine of air conditioners in windows, fire flies dancing in the still night air, dreams of summer vacations at last morphing into tickets, reservations, and packed bags. But for one tiny area of Queens nothing spells summer quite like the beginning of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race. It is about to begin for the 14th summer on June 13 and will continue on breathlessly until all the runners have completed the race, or 52 days, which ever comes first.
Over the last week the 11 participants have been arriving from 8 different countries. For 9 of them it is like coming home. They are returning to an event that is for them not only the focus of their years but also very much the focus of their lives.
For a few hectic days they become almost full time shoppers. Collecting all the little things that will sustain them over the coming months. Generally this means buying shoes and still more shoes. It is but a brief period of chaotic freedom that they all gladly surrender in order to embark upon the great journey. At 6 am on June 13 everything changes. From then until midnight, each and every day it becomes all about completing the laps. Taking a brief rest and then coming back for more.
The Self-Transcendence 3100 race is gruelingly difficult. The reward at the end of which, is outwardly infinitesimal in comparison to the effort and sacrifice necessary in order to achieve it. People will walk and drive by the course each day most often oblivious to what is taking place on the block on which the race is being staged. For a few however, who slow or stop, it becomes the most wonderful secret hidden in plain sight. A miracle that clearly demonstrates the boundless capacity of what people can accomplish when they look for strength and courage within. Each day turning their backs on the imaginary constraints of impossibility and search within themselves instead for the limitless beyond.
It is now Saturday afternoon. The one and only race meeting takes place in a casual way, fueled by pizza and laughter, and with just a slight undercurrent of nervous excitement. All are present except Asprihanal, who is getting over the last little discomfort of a cold. The atmosphere is relaxed and yet the momentous greatness of what will so soon will take place looms formidably in the background.
For Suprabha it has to be both a sweet and a little sad moment to be here. This is the first year the veteran, of all previous races, is not going to run. She is sitting with Surasa Mairer 51, from Vienna Austria who will now be only the second woman to run the race. Her distance running record is formidable and after running a 24 hour race a month ago she tested an injury and found herself ready to attempt the race that has been calling to her for many years.
Her reason she says, “I am motivated to make progress. You have to overcome so many obstacles. You have to conquer so many things. Your fear and your doubts.” Her running habit only began when she decided to become a student of Sri Chinmoy almost 23 years ago. She quickly recognized that she not only enjoyed running but also that she had a real capacity for ultra distance events. She has run 8 different races in NY, from the 700 mile race right up to the 1300 mile race, setting many records along the way.
Her great experience in long events has taught her to be cautious about setting her sights on specific goals, “I am really afraid to say aloud what my goal is. You never know.” For her the idea of actually running the 3100 began to materialize last August. Until then she always considered the distance just too far. Sahishnu (one of the race directors) spoke with her about the possibility of doing the race and from then on it refused to leave her mind. “I had the feeling I had to do it, that is why I am here.”
On a very practical level some credit has to go to Smarana in getting Surasa here. Before the 24 hour race in Switzerland she had told him that if her foot did not bother her during the race then she would come to NY for the 3100. He of course has run the race 7 times and knows all too well what the experience of running the race is all about. He asked her after the 24 hour race how her foot felt. When she said it was okay he reminded her of her promise. She was inspired by this and it was perhaps the final straw that helped make up her mind to come.
She also has a very clear concept of what she wants to achieve inwardly from participating here. “I really wish to become closer with my inner self. This is a big wish for me.”
Dharbasana Lynn 31 from Auckland New Zealand is also running the race for the first time. For him it is very much a family affair as he is here with his wife Nandana and daughter Shakti. For him he says, “It is something I have been looking forward to for a very long time.” He believes that taking part in the race tangibly demonstrates the incredible heights of what can be achieved when one gives themselves wholeheartedly into an inspired divine opportunity. That just by participating one has an opportunity of allowing their inner spirituality to freely come forward to strengthen and illumine all parts of the being.
“It has been an illusive dream for so long, seeing this race in the distance. Tomorrow it is actually going to start taking place.” He has had the opportunity of visiting the race briefly a couple of times over the years. He remembers clearly being here when Namitaba won the race and describes being there at his finish as, “an amazing experience.” At that point he felt like he immediately understood what the race was really all about. With this he says, “I felt I had to have a taste of this.”
He and his family had been here just a month ago when he took part in the 6 day race in Flushing Meadow. His experience there confirmed and strengthened his resolve to do the 3100. “It gave me the feeling that the capacity was there.” At the same time he is keeping his expectations in check. Realistically the first step for him was at least to be able to be on the starting line and be prepared to do his best. “The starting line is just around the corner now. The elusive dream is quickly becoming a reality.”
Another reality that he and his family experienced was the period between returning to New Zealand and coming back to NY. He calls it, “the most intense 4 weeks of my life. So much happened in that space. It was a huge preparation for the start of the race.”
As for his family he admits that coming here is very much a family decision that he, his wife, and daughter have agreed upon together. He also is grateful to all the support and help that friends back in Auckland offered up to make this dream come true.
What he hopes for himself ultimately is that he and his family experience real self transcendence and transformation. “From a spiritual perspective, from all of my family, I hope it aims to make us better people, and better citizens of the world.”
Are two first-class runners.
They always defeat
The rest of the runners.
Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 152 by Sri Chinmoy