If we lived in a world which was inhabited by Super heroes than what goes on here around a small block in Queens might be appear quite ordinary, if not darn right monotonous. That last time I looked up in the sky however I saw plenty of birds and planes but not one caped crusader streaking across the skies. The 11 runners here are not fighting crime, bending steel with their bare hands, but yet they are doing something seemingly impossible nonetheless.
A week ago I spoke with my 90 year old father about what was taking place here. He was genuinely shocked at the mileage the runners were able to complete every day. He asked whether or not the world’s media was clamoring to cover the event. He was further surprised to know that only a few came and only from time to time.
Abichal wrote a comment a few days ago about one of my posts. He has run this race quite a few times and knows a whole lot more about the 3100 than I will ever know. He countered a comment I had made and said that this race was for the masses. I of course agree with him wholeheartedly.
The world is more than hungry for fictional superheroes to leap out in 3D from movie screens but have not dared to look to the real source of all true greatness. Furthermore they cannot believe that in fact all of us can be true champions of one kind or another. Most of us simply do not dare look within ourselves for the unbelievable strength and capacities that sit dormant within us. It is within each and everyone of us that our true inner capacities exist and they far out shine the puny dimensions of our minds and bodies.
The 11 runners demonstrate this each and every day. I have used more adjectives than the runners go through shoes in trying to describe what goes on here. Ultimately even if one is not a runner, or in fact much interested in sports at all, the 3100 can manage to still speak to their hearts and touch all, in a profound and meaningful way. The 11 runners all have a goal they are trying to accomplish, every day right here. The rest of us just have to find our own goals, and try to make our own journeys happen as well.
The start of day 5 was a gorgeous one. The local forecast suggests that it is soon going to get hot, and for quite a few days to come. Petr again had the most miles and is just 4 back from Ashprihanal. Ananda Lahari has 257 miles after 4 days.
The board is once again back on the fence. It is a brand new and one would have to look very very hard to see that it is in any way different from the old fence. One thing is still the same and that is runners arriving with little time to spare.
Start Day 5
“I was dead yesterday evening which is interesting.” Pranjal Milovnik, 37, from Bratislava, Slovakia makes this comment without even a hint of self pity. In fact he makes it sound like a joke on this bright fresh morning. This is his 6th time here and he has been improving every year that he has run. Last year he averaged a little over 64 miles a day and so far his average is just over 70. He is a big guy and you have to think that he has to work a lot harder than the smaller lighter runners.
You have to admire his determination which is on one hand relentless but at the same time it is not heavy or rough in any way. You hear his shoes slapping the ground hard as he runs but it doesn’t take too long, as one runs beside him, to feel a sweetness and lightness of being, that is just out of view of our usual perception.
Last night around 11:30 he was trying to complete his 120th lap for the day. On the far side of the course he felt for a moment that even getting around and finishing the last loop of the night was going to be just too much.
He doesn’t say where the strength came from to do it, but it shows nonetheless. It came from deep within himself. There was also enough strength to get on a bicycle and ride home and then somehow wake up and come back here again today. When asked if he even thinks sometimes about how many more incredibly difficult days are going to be ahead of him, he says that if he did, “it will kill you.”
I ask him what quality it is that he has that compels him to go forward when faced with such unbelievable adversity he simply laughs. The goal beckons him no matter what. Turning away is not an option. He says simply, “I am stubborn.”
“Every day is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” If this were true than Asprihanal Aalto,39, from Helsinki, Finland, has had more chocolates by far than anyone else running on the course this year. This is his 10th year running the race and when he finishes the 1300, it will mean that he has been participating in this event for a full decade.
At this juncture, he feels that all the runners bodies are at last really starting to adapt. He himself had a fever before the start of the race and was still able to complete nearly 84 miles. So far he is averaging 72 miles a day, but at the start today, Petr is just 4 miles back. Last night he describes leaving the course early, which for him means 11pm. In doing this he completed 64 miles while Petr continued on and did the most for the day, 70.
“Some days are better and some days are worse but still you are happy because you have had some chocolate.” I make a joke with him that today he is eating his 5th chocolate. He suggests that some days the chocolates are like Russian chocolates. Which means to him that they are not the most delicious ones. (Russian readers please do not be offended)
At this point he gets excited and describes a moment yesterday when he actually had a good Swiss chocolate. Because Pushkar’s Swiss team won its World Cup match he treated the other runners to some very good Chocolate. There is now an unspoken agreement that of the 4 countries represented in the World Cup, that any runners from those countries, should their teams win, than they must treat all the other runners.
Ashprihanal mentions that he received an email from Grahak (3 time 3100 mile runner Australia) yesterday. He told him that he wished he was here, and that he was missing the race. The two of them, most mornings here, used to perform a very short humorous skit for the girls who sing at the course early. He really enjoyed performing, and felt that as amusing as it was for the girls, it was also a very positive and uplifting experience for them as well.
He tells me that a new thing he is trying this year is to listen, at least for part of the day, to talking books. It is the story of Eragon, about a young boy who discovers a dragon’s egg. “It is a lot of fun for me.”
I had been told by his brother that the winter in Helsinki was particularly severe. Long cold periods and lots of snow. Ashprihanal who makes his living delivering newspapers says that for him it was not a factor. He admits that he mostly only did short runs but also that he combined that with swimming, tennis, skiing, and cycling. All these activities, at least one sport a day, “keeps the body fit. In the Spring I started running more.”
I had seen him before the start of the race holding a picture of a statue of his late spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. He tells me that at 6 am on June 13th, the same day that the race started here the statue was being inaugurated back in his Country. The ceremony took place in Vaasa Finland at 1pm in the afternoon. The same exact time as the start. “It is really good for Finland. I was very happy about it.”
During the first 7 years that he ran the race, Sri Chinmoy was a often a regular presence at this race that he created. He would often drive by, even several times a day, and also give small treats to the runners to help encourage and inspire them. Ashprihanal says that Sri Chinmoy had told the runners that much much more is going on here than what meets the eye. He still has warm memories of those times and can sometimes imagine that he is still here.
He is feeling good today and is looking forward to the days ahead. He describes the pounding that everyone goes through by running on the hard sidewalk day after day. Eventually you get used to it he says. “My body is now ready.”
On this day 3 years ago the 3100 mile race started. On a cool Sunday morning, June 17, Sri Chinmoy composed this song moments after the race started.
“Longest self giving journey. Heaven’s brightest smile. Earth’s proudest embrace. God’s newest victory discovery.”
Performed by Enthusiasm Awakeners.
Our goal is not fixed;
When we are about to reach
Our long-awaited goal,
We immediately see a new goal
In front of us.
To reach this new goal
Is not a one-inch journey.
It is also a very long distance away.