The Spirit Never Dies

Just to be an Olympian and attend the Olympic games is a tremendous achievement.  To attain a medal of any sort places you on a lofty stage in world sports.  To win the gold medal in 4 consecutive competitions, setting an Olympic record each time, places you on the loftiest rarefied pinnacle of World sport champions.

The legendary Al Oerter was a sport figure, whose achievements in discuss competition, from 1964 when he was just 20 until his last competition in 1968 at age 32 are unlikely to be matched.  In each of those competitions he was never favored to win, and was never selected as the first man on the US Discus team.  Yet in him burned an inexhaustible spirit to transcend himself. He once said, “You die before you quit.” And, “I didn’t set out to beat the world.  I just set out to do my absolute best.” photo courtesy of

He was a admirer and friend to Sri Chinmoy and this past weekend his wife Cathy visited NY to pay her respects to Sri Chinmoy’s weight lifting anniversary and also enjoy a visit to the 3100 mile race.  One morning at the Smile of the Beyond restaurant I had a chance to speak with her and she said that after her visit there she was planning to jog with the runners on the course of the 3100.

“I see the inspiration it gives.  I almost want to bow to them when I see them going.  That feat, well we can’t wrap our heads around it at all, because that is not where it is coming from.  It is coming from the heart, and a kind of inner spirit that they have.  I think Al had that spirit too.  Because he broke through all kinds of barriers.  And loved the event for just the sake of the event itself.  I think the people out there running have that same kind of passion.  Just their ability to dedicate themselves to this event has won my heart, and I applaud it. “

When she talks about what she and Al saw in Sri Chinmoy she says, “the ability to keep going.  It was the effort over a lifetime really.  Al did the same thing.  He broke all odds.  He was never the favorite, but he always came through.  I think because Sri Chinmoy and Al had this in their heart, that they were very focused on what they were doing and could push through anything.”

When asked how this influence is still felt, “It is the spirit isn’t it, and the spirit never dies.  They have left that to all of us to carry on.”

Cathy Oerter interview

Today most definitely Purna-Samarpan and Surasa will also join the others in the 1,000 mile club.  The weather today will be perfect for running and once again the morning is almost chilly.  The runners will need to remember this kind of morning because as each day progresses now the forecast is a slow inexorable march back into the world of sauna-like temperatures.  From Sunday on the forecast is a long string of unforgiving 90 degree days.

Start Day 19

“My legs are not cooperating for me.’  Pavol has been running extremely well this race, at least up until the past 2 days when his mileage has fallen off.  He is hopeful and says, “today we will see.”

Yesterday at the beginning of the day he could not get going hardly at all for the first 3 hours.  “Absolutely zero energy.  Today it is much better.”  The feeling he describes though is that it is like running up a hill this morning and not a small one.

“Every step is better and better.”  He is always an optimist and suspects that perhaps he pushed a little too hard to reach the 1000 miles.  “Pushing is not good for me I don’t know why.  I must run easily.  He tells me that on two consecutive days he stayed at the race until midnight.  The affects of this effort did not come back to haunt him until 2 days afterward.  He is hoping that if his energy is good today he will once again stay until midnight.

“When you have joy it is a good feeling.”  He knows of course that suffering during the race cannot be eliminated entirely, but if one keeps a positive outlook than that will be one of the highest achievements they can experience if they are able to maintain it over the many days.  “When we are happy it is good energy.  Maybe I don’t have good mileage.  Maybe 50 or 55, but to have joy all day makes it a good day.” He believes that one needs to be detached from the results and instead concentrate on this happiness.”

He said yesterday he was just dead.  Even a couple of breaks seemed not to help at all yet he persevered and by 6 pm was at last able to run again.  “When you are walking all day, sleeping, dieing sometimes, where is joy, where is happiness? When you are running everything is good, no problem.  When you are running good you have no interest in miles. “

Pavol interview

Give not what you have

Give what you are

Soon, very soon

Your heart will become a Twinkling Star.

Poem of the Day by Sri Chinmoy

Give What You Are

“I am back.” For two days there was just no gas in Petr’s tank and yet yesterday he seemed to bounce back into his usual Petr form and post a respectable 62 miles.  He has tumbled from 2nd to 4th place on the board but he seems eminently capable of roaring back into contention over the next 2,000 miles.

“I have been walking for 2 long days.”  He feels that for him the combination of starting with a cold, pushing too hard, and the heat set him back.  “I was happy that I again reached 60 miles yesterday.  It was a first step and now I feel stronger.  I believe my mileage will now go up again.  Still I am a little bit afraid of the hot weather.  We’ll see.”

“When I stopped running and was just walking, it was like starting from the beginning.  It was really very difficult.  I was really exhausted.  To get back and to get speed took me all of yesterday.  I was running all day but still it was not good. It will take some time.”

“Today I feel really much more comfortable.  I am really happy.”  He describes that of course from time to time he has to walk but over his 2 bad days he was so tired and moving so slowly it was hard to be satisfied or find anything positive about the experience.

He calls it very interesting.  “I did not have this attitude that I hated the race.  I was okay.  I was smiling at people.  I was in a good mood.
“When I came I felt that this race this year was going to be very difficult for me.  I felt it already.  Even right from the beginning when I was doing fairly well.  Still you have some expectations.  You want to keep the standard very high.”

His tough period did however give him a unique opportunity to observe and appreciate a little better what some of the less gifted runners experience on a day to day basis.  “When I was walking  I really appreciated how much strength and determination others are giving to their running.  I was checking all the people on the track how they are running.  I thought they are really doing so well.  It really makes you more humble.  Maybe I needed it.”

Complete Petr interview

I am happy

When my heart takes a leap.

I am happy

When my heart wins the race.

I am happy

When my heart sees God’s face.

I am happy

when my heart receives a God embrace.”

Song composed by Sri Chinmoy

Performed by Enthusiasm Awakeners

I Am Happy


Your outer spirit sings

You declare the pride

Of your vital glory.


Your inner spirit sings

God Himself declares

Your achievement-heights.

Excerpt from Three Hundred Sixty-Five Father’s Day Prayers by Sri Chinmoy

2 Comments to “The Spirit Never Dies”

  1. nirmala says:

    Melbourne 1956 184’11” 56.36 meters

    Seen as a long shot for a medal, the 20 year old youngster surprised the Melbourne crowd by winning the Gold Medal on his 1st throw.
    It was 1956.

    Mexico City 1968 212’ 6” 64.78 meters

    Considered too old and everyone else well ahead in distances, Al continued to warm-up during a rainstorm and won, setting his final Olympic Discus Record.

    ” I think because Sri Chinmoy and Al had this in their heart, that they were very focused on what they were doing and could push through anything.” Cathy Oerter

  2. nirmala says:

    “We humans can get a lot more out of ourselves then is generally believed. Who are these experts to tell us what we can and can’t do? -Al Oerter

    watch the Memorial Video

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