This Race Is Real Life

He starts the day with just 600 more miles to go.  Still an epic distance but now minuscule, in comparison to the 2500 miles he has already run over the past 38 days.  It will likely take Galya less than 10 days more to reach the golden shore of his efforts.  Many things can happen in that time and certainly the searing recent weather is unlikely to offer him any short cuts or hand outs in the next week, that is for sure.

Never has the completion of running 3100 miles ever been served up on a golden platter.  It is always a hard fought journey no matter your talent or capacity.  Galya, who  possess great quantities of both of these qualities  is for the moment in a tie for second place with Pranjal.  He has been strong and consistent these past 38 days.

There are moments when he seems to run with effortless ecstasy, but also there has been for him great swaths of struggle, pain, and fatigue, which he takes without complaint.  From an outer perspective this race has never ever been described as easy.  Soft and gentle adjectives just don’t fit into the vocabulary of race adjectives.

This year will be remembered as the hot one.  The days and nights both simmering with unbearable heat and humidity.   But the past 13 summers have also offered up their own unique buffets of joy and woe.  Last year, in his first 3100, Galya had a memorable cool and wet race here.

More importantly, on this the 39th day of running here Galya, will, by some coincidence of fate, turn 39 years old today as well.  A year ago, when he was also running here he had perhaps the worst day of running in his life, which happened oddly on the 38th day of the race.  The day was cool and rainy and he was quite sick.

When asked if he wanted to see a Doctor, he replied, “If a runner went to a Doctor every time he felt bad, he would never be on the course.

He has received much support and encouragement all during the race and particularly today which is his birthday.  The love and affection that his fellow runners have for him today is heart warming.  This little family of 11 members shares something that no one else can be fully part of.  They have all gone through all the same pain and joy of the road.  It is a place in which in some unique way they are all in tune with one another.  They collectively are able to feel and share the highs, and are aware when the polar opposite occurs.  At that time they are also able try to help others when the inevitable dip of consciousness and energy tumbles.  Looking out for one another as only a family can.   They see if, and how, they can help one another.

Today, at least for now it is just a pure and sweet celebration.  As one they move slowly forward from the line.  They sing the birthday song and they express love and oneness like only this little divine family can.  And yes, then they slowly drift apart but never in spirit.

The Birthday Song

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I Will Enjoy Today

This is the 4th year that Atmavir has found himself celebrating his birthday at the 3100 mile race.  For him it is birthday number 32, and though most of us could scarce think of doing what he is doing on such a day, it is safe to say he would rather be no other place than where he is right now.

There is certainly no gift that we can offer to him that would be adequate to match the courage and sacrifice that he has offered here over 4 long summers.  This year the way has been extraordinarily difficult for this young man, who is actually the youngest of all who run here. If there was one gift that I am certain he would love to receive and that is a smooth swift run into the finish line, which is still 655 miles away.

“I will enjoy today.  Yesterday I was fighting like anything.” The past few weeks have been in many ways a roller coaster ride for Atmavir.  One of the most talented runners on the block he has had periods when he has been able to turn on the jets and just fly.  On others, when he has felt the sun steal his strength he has been reduced to walking and trying to ponder the lesson of this frustrating experience.

His birthday came early for him.  He said he leaves his cell phone on when he rests and through the night text messages were coming through from friends and family back in the Czech republic.   He is wearing a green party hat as we run and the friendly greetings continue as passers by spontaneously offer best wishes.  One even came from a garbage collector just across the street.

He is quite serious about his determination in running hard yesterday.  He says he made an oath that he would run 60 miles or die trying.  The fact that he is still around today is a testament to his gutsy effort.  He ended the day with more than 61.  He tells me that he put more energy into yesterday than he had in the previous 34 days.  “I put tremendous energy yesterday.  I put everything.”

He says that he started his day by going to the Aspiration Ground which is close by before coming here.  “I was really grateful for that.  It is a golden opportunity that I have a chance to go to the Aspiration ground on my birthday.  For that I am really grateful.  I am really happy that I can celebrate my birthday here, among these great people.”

Atmavir Interview

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I Feel Better

On day 19, which was more than 2 weeks ago, Asprihanal ran 71 miles in a single day.  Since then he has been going through, what some might call a dry spell of 17 days.  At least until yesterday, when he cracked off the kind of mileage he is best known for.

Despite heat, humidity, and everything else that can slow a fast Finn down, on Sunday he ran 71 miles again. He is now on the home stretch of his long race and looks to be kicking it in over the last 700 miles.  Today, once again, he is fresh and animated, perhaps because at this rate he can be done in just 10 days.

Others are still searching for the magic elixir, some curative concoction that will restore them to top form or maybe some remedy that will evaporate the impossible piles of miles that need to be surmounted with just 15 days left to go.

Another runner today who is full of energy and enthusiasm is Purna-Samarpan.  Yesterday he was given a recording created by Antara-Prabhat.  It is called Ich Fuhl Mich Besser (I Feel Better).  Through the magic of modern technology and its amazing portability the vocal track is actually Purna-Samarpan’s own voice with a little backup vocal by Antara-Prabhat.

The creation of the song came about serendipitously because it just happened to be an expression printed on a T shirt that Antara-Prabhat wore to the race one day.  He actually wore it on a number of occasions and each time Purna-Samarpan would help him with pronouncing it properly.  From learning to say it correctly the inspiration bird overheard, and the next thing you know, the idea came forward to create a song.

Most if not all the runners have heard the track and been energized and inspired by it.  The race is not all solemnity and introspection.  Certainly the morning tends to be the quietest time of the day for the runners as they shake off a very brief night of sleep and perhaps still linger in their even prefer morning meditations.  As the day wears on they sometimes seek inspiration in all kind of things.  From reading messages of encouragement sent in, listening to talking books, and music of all shapes and sizes.  It is hard to say what is most important of all the things they take in over the day.  From water, to food, to encouragement, to even some ice wrapped in cloth around the neck.  They never have a chance to say much but they certainly look and listen, and always hope they too can feel much better.

Ich Fühl Mich Besser

Purna-Samarpan explains song

*Thanks to all for so many fine and inspired comments.  That you too can identify with this great undertaking is also a great achievement*

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It Is A Big Lesson

I am really happy

When I take this

World as mine.

– Sri Chinmoy

Poem of the day July 18 2007

It seems this morning as if I have never been away.  That pulling myself out of bed on these hot mornings is all that I have ever done all summer long.  Waking up slowly as I jogged over to the start and been continually inspired by all the bright faces of the runners who would seem physically, to have no possible reason to be so enthused at all.

It is a routine that has become impossibly easy to adapt to and also I am continually surprised at how much I am energized by it.  I sometimes wonder, that if it were possible, could I continue to go on and repeat this schedule for a much longer period than 52 days.  That is, if the runners just never stopped at all.  My little ritual is infinitesimal in comparison to what the runners have to put up with.

There are occasionally some long hours for me but it is a comfortable fit, feeling as though I am in some small way part of this great event.   The race is its own world and it has been easy for me to enter it from the doorway that has opened in front of me.

There are many of you as well I know who have found yourself dropping in from afar and feeling a unique oneness to it as well.  Not that you have come physically close, and showed up with ice cream and new shoes, but that in some way your hearts have opened up to this world of Self-Transcendence and you have felt a oneness that defies your physical proximity.

If any of you are inspired, I would be happy to see your comments added to this post, about how the race has touched and inspired you.  Made even some small difference in your lives or in how you look at the world.

“For me I seem to feel that this world is quite often ruled by mind instead of heart.  The mind has a tendency to take things, and gymnastically move things about and separate them.  Each in its own compartmental space. But when you live in the heart, that is a whole another story.  When you look at your brother and you look at your sister, and you just feel, heh.  He is part of me I am part of him.  And the whole world is like that.  When you have unity, there is happiness.  There is joy.  Everyone seems to feel and be in the same one family.”

Vajra reads and comments on the Poem of the Day

Vajra Comments

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Carried Through It All

For 7 days I lived in a different world.  For 7 days I was in a place without oppressive heat, without pain, nor with discomfort of any kind.  It was a place where my clothes were always clean and showers could be taken at any time of the day.  The alarm clock never rang and I never heard any words spoken about suffering and hardship.

For 7 days I became part and parcel of the greater world as we all know it and moved about in drowsy silken comfort.  It was an almost dreamlike state and yet there were many times when I could still feel the powerful reach and pull of the 3100.

In the mornings I would run on this path that was created from an abandoned rail way line.  It lead for miles out of a small Canadian town where I was staying.  For most of the way it ran beneath cool trees, and the air, though sometimes hot was never heavy.  The path was made from gravel and was so inviting you could almost imagine running barefoot upon it.   I am sure there are many places in this world of ours equally as beautiful.  Paths that can compel one to follow and see which grand vista opens up in front of you around each new unexplored shady corner.

There were also many times when the call of the race was just so powerful that I could almost still feel the hard concrete under my feet even though I ran along on a soft path.  Now of course I am back home.  Back to the place which has a reality and divinity far more inviting and far more beautiful and fulfilling than where I was for those brief 7 days.

For me the escape was a unique opportunity to appreciate even more the self transcendence race and respect the efforts and sacrifice of the 11.  How many would not prefer to run under these cool green trees along a gentle path.  To enjoy tranquility over hardship, to accept relaxation over fatigue, to be able to rest easy instead of having an endless hard road of constant unyielding movement in front of you.

The race is so richly unique in what is.  An almost impossible struggle to reach a goal that can only be fully experienced within and almost never comprehended externally.  A divine opportunity to make a pilgrimage to a destination beyond our sight and certainly beyond our mind, yet somehow reachable only by our heart’s oneness.  You may never know if or when you will even arrive, and certainly no magic gate swings open even if and when you complete the distance.  It is a profound life journey in which so few are equipped and brave enough to take and yet they still do.

It is in this incomprehensible act of running 18 hours a day for 3100 miles that the runners here defy human logic and defy all the sane precepts of life.  The only way they can do this is simply because they have consciously chosen not to listen to the mind’s common sense at all.

A more powerful inner voice commands and they are somehow able to listen and to obey. It is within them just as it is within us as well.

My Lord do you ever think of me?

What else do I do?

What else can I do?

“It is beautiful,” Dharbhasana has just recited the poem of the day.  “I guess it shows that creator and creation are the same thing.  That we are not separate from the ultimate reality.  We are always being cared for and concerned for.  It is apparent in this race at times when you think you are struggling.  You still continue and carry on and know, that you are being carried through it all.  The Supreme’s concern and compassion, care, love, and blessings, are there all the time, constant and continual.”

Prayer of the Day

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God’s Will

To Surrender to God’s will

is to become God’s all.

Written by Sri Chinmoy July 9th 2007

This morning I asked Pranjal to read the poem of the day.  Like all the poems Sri Chinmoy wrote the summer of 2007 to inspire the runners, they are short, simple, and direct.  On occasion I have asked some of the runners to interpret what it means to them and perhaps how they feel about it.  It can sometimes lead to enlightening responses but most often the runners are just too tired to do much more than recite it.   Their life energy, frankly, is better  channeled into much more pressing necessities, like staying upright and moving forward, than to delving into the esoteric.

Out of curiosity I asked Pranjal about the poem’s meaning.  When I ask him if he is surrendering to God’s will he said, “you have to.” My next question was intrusive and prying.  Are you succeeding?  “I don’t know.  It is hard to say. I really don’t know if I am succeeding.”

Pranjal has run the world’s longest race already 5 times.  In this his 6th time here he is currently just 10 miles out of first place and has not seemed to have had a bad day since the start.  He never complains, never feels sorry for himself, comes before everybody else and stays until the last possible time has elapsed to squeeze in as many laps as he possibly can.  He never calls for attention to himself and simply focuses on pushing out his laps day in day out.  His life here at the 3100 mile race is reduced to the most minimal and simple of life’s elements: running, eating, and sleeping.

For the rest of the planet we are faced with a myriad of choices practically at every moment.  The selections in front of us don’t often require great moral or ethical debate but sometimes they do.  Selecting lunch or picking out clothes will never create any inner dilemma with any great karmic consequences.  But there are times when we are faced with choices that are either right or wrong.  How we choose, and what we ultimately do, or don’t do, can have enormous consequences in our lives. Sri Chinmoy once wrote, “if we do not fulfill God’s Will, then we enter into ignorance and we delay our progress.”

For all those who have answered the inner call to come and run here you have to salute their courage to face up to this task and then ultimately bear the enormous burden for such a long time.  There may be nothing more physically challenging in life to do than to try and run 3100 miles around a hot hard Queens block.  Their decisions to do this and then to carry on, and complete the journey may also be the sweetest blessing on their lives that they will ever receive.  If earth cannot recognize or appreciate them, than certainly the highest realms of delight will treasure their sacrifice and life’s selfless offering to Self-transcendence.

Pranjal and Poem of the Day

*there will be no new reports here for the next 7 days…apologies to all*

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I Need To Be Here

Sometime yesterday, 39 year old Asprihanal Aalto was sitting in a Doctors office hooked up to an Intravenous drip.  On the previous day he had run more than 65 miles giving him a total mileage of 1677 miles over the space of 24 days.

The weather here has been horrendous for almost a week.  Other than having a freezing blizzard of snow, the combination of high heat and humidity are conditions about as intolerable as weather can possibly be for ultra distance runners.

In any other event, in any other place, today he would be sitting on the sidelines and wishing the other runners the best of luck as he headed back to Finland. Being glad at least that he had been able to complete this race 9 times before.  Taking his licks he could justifiably say a case of bad luck had somehow knocked him out of his 10th attempt.  This however is not the reality, far from it.

Today he has come back here to run once again. From the very start he runs as if nothing had ever happened.  As if he had not been stricken for almost a day by diarrhea, dizziness, and vomiting.  At the 3100 mile race our conventional sense of logic and practically just don’t stick to a surface polished shiny bright with limitless possibility.  The mind simply cannot grasp what happens here at every moment.  You can’t possibly comprehend the miracles popping up with blinding brilliance like July 4th fireworks.  If your eyes cannot believe, than maybe perhaps your heart can at least reach up and embrace this realm of impossibility.

I have a short discussion with Asprihanal this morning about Nelson Mandela and some speech that he once gave relating to fear.  He had listened to a talking book and was inspired by something he had heard said about this subject.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” Nelson Mandela

Sometimes it is possible for me to almost take for granted just how remarkable these athletes really are.  For 25 days I have had the privilege of being able to try and share some of the things happening with them in this little protected universe of the Thomas Edison block.

There are many things that I see happening that I cannot believe, little alone understand.  Just one, in a long list, is how this slight almost frail looking Finnish man can find the courage to come back out here again after the day he had yesterday.   I know I will never ever understand, and he has more than 1400 more miles yet to run.

Fear beckons danger.

Fear is self-enslavement.

Fear is the eternal loser.

Fear is helplessly founded upon stupidity.

Fear secretly travels with the mind and openly travels with the body.

Because you fear, God the Satisfaction does not hear you and God the Perfection does not near you.

If fear knows how to grow quickly, then love knows how to glow soulfully, convincingly and perfectly.

ecerpt from Silver Thought-Waves, Part 2 by Sri Chinmoy

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A Very Sacred Place

The World of reality shows thrives on melodrama, intrigue, and exposes the absolute worst of our human frailties.  It is however a cutthroat microcosm of how many people actually view the world.  One which is shallow, superficial, and the only thing important in life, it blatantly declares, is wealth and fame.

There is supposed to be at the end of the contest one person who is the winner.  Ultimately these kinds of shows offer nothing more fleeting than a pinch of glitter thrown in the dust at our feet.  If this is what is truly important in life than we all are going to be loosers.

In most of its 13 previous years the 3100 has not seen much great drama unfold over the long days.  There is precious little time or energy for noise and showmanship.  The big things most often happen quietly within and are are not exposed to the public, who doesn’t much care what happens here anyway.  Most great experiences take place within where a runner finds something to learn from and hopefully  treasure and then move on to the next one.  Today however was one in which the race saw its fair share of spectacle.

The last 2 days in particular have had their highs and lows of all kinds.  Not least, breaking through to the front page of race life, has been the weather, which once again hit triple digits.  Today 2 of the 11 runners could not stand on the starting line this morning.  Stutisheel did not come this morning at all and Asprihanal stayed in his van.  Yesterday Stutisheel was barely able to walk 18 grueling miles, at which point he could  simply could go no further.

For 5 days he has waged an epic war with his right knee, and for now at least he has retired from the race.  Dr. Mitch Proffman, who examined him today says that the pain there is officially called, “exquisite Pain.”  Which simply means that even to touch it gently will create spasms.  He is able to move right now only with the use of crutches.  His only plan for now is to rest the knee, and allow some healing to take place.  When asked what will happen next, his answer, “we will see.”

In Yesterdays 103 degree heat Asprihanal Alto ran nearly 66 miles.  Who can imagine how it is possible.  How could any of them stay out there at all and yet they did.  Horse race tracks all along the affected heat wave area have been closed.  Con Edison was gravely concerned that it might simply run out of power for the Metropolitan area.  The runners here however managed to go on and go on.

This morning Asprihanal arrives but goes to his van.  He had stomach problems all night and his infected toe is bothering him today.  In a short while he will go to a Doctor and receive an IV.  Exposure to heat may be only one of a number of elements that have collected to conspire against him.

It is possible that the infection in his toe has added to his woes and it is also possible he ate something that had quickly turned in the intense heat.  He tells me the story of an infection he had in the winter 2 years ago.  The Doctors treating him with antibiotics tried 3 times before they could get it right.  At that time they told him they were using the strongest antibiotic they had.  It was one that would kill anything in him smaller than a cat. (It may sound funnier in Finnish)

For Asprihanal and Stutisheel it is not over.  True today they will not run and tomorrow will be another day.  Soon enough they will find themselves once again on the long road forward.  Whether this journey takes them to the end of3100 miles or simply continues on the endless road of the Divine life itself.

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Try And Do My Best Today

Every sane and sensible person is taking it just a little bit easier today in New York city.  Up and down much of the eastern seaboard, most people are taking special precautions because of the now official heat wave in the area.  In New York city and in other cities, cooling centers are being set up to take care of the elderly and those who do not have access to air conditioning.  Where ever you may be during this hot period the smart people are telling us to drink lots and lots of fluids to stay hydrated.

The human body likes to keep a core temperature of 98.6 F.  It really isn’t happy when it goes above or below this number.  In winter we have pretty much figured out how to stay warm but when it comes to summer and temperatures above 98.6 there is simply no easy fix other than to take it easy and drink lots.

(the weather map doesn’t even have a proper color for this kind of heat)

I started reading up on this subject recently and the information is just plain scary.  The body, in its desperate attempt to stay cool pushes more blood towards the skin surface.  It then grabs moisture out of the body and throws it to the surface of the skin in the form of sweat.  The body makes this its main priority and shifts its energy from all the other tasks it is supposed to do, like moving and maybe even thinking clearly.  When you factor in that the air around us, because of its added humidity it just cannot accept our body’s heat.  At this point a person under physical stress is potentially in for some real trouble.

The 11 runners here have heard the scary stories about the forecast and are living in the perilous reality that has now befallen the course.  They are drinking and they are slowing down, but they are also not stopping or giving up.

There is very little evidence that any creatures in nature are designed for sustained activity in high temperatures.  Yet the 11 runners are are doing just that.  They run slower, they run smarter, and they listen to their bodies closely and they listen to their hearts even more.

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Slowly Steadily and Unerringly

The weather is trying its hardest to be the big news at the 3100 mile race.  It is in some ways transcending itself from any of the previous 13 editions of the event.  It just may be the hottest race on record.  A fact that is impossible to ignore when you have to spend 18 hours a day out in it.  Yet for those who are truly committed to the race the heat and humidity are just part of a grand assortment of difficulties that can occur when you are running here.  If you thought you have never had a problem in your life you will undoubtedly find an opponent of dimension, and ferocity, that you never dreamed possible in your life confronting you at some timer or another while you are on the course.

Most of us would love to be able to achieve success easily and bask in radiant beauty at every moment. The race, like life itself, is not so generous with its sweet charms.  Without adversity there is no way of making progress or ever really appreciating what we have and what we really cherish.  2 runners, who for the moment, find themselves on the opposite ends of the success and adversity spectrum are Asprihanal and Stutisheel.

This morning Asprihanal will pass the fabled half way mark in the race, and so far, despite the heat is running consistently and strongly.  He does not have to look not too far back over his shoulder and see that the big man from Slovakia, Pranjal, is slowly inching his way towards him.  But barring catastrophe he is still almost a day ahead of him.

Stutisheel on the other hand is going through an epic bad patch in which his leg injury is causing him not only discomfort but also makes it impossible to even run.  His daily totals are about half of that of Asprihanal.  They are 2 experienced runners and between them they have run the race a total of 15 times.  It is so easy to celebrate for Asprihanal and be sympathetic towards Stutisheel, but in the grand scheme of things we can only see a fraction of the battles that are waging deep within them.

What is being conquered by smooth running and easy miles and what is being overcome by being able to push through adversity.  We all must plum the depths of our inner strength and reveal ever new invaluable experiences within ourselves.

Slowly, steadily, and unerringly

We are marching towards our destination.

Aphorism by Sri Chinmoy

“I just opened it and read it.”  This morning before coming to the race Stutisheel opened a book and read this aphorism.  For the past 3 days he has been in pain and been barely able to even walk smoothly, little alone run.  He tells me how much inspiration and hope reading it has given him.

“Not fast, not up and down, but unerringly.  That is the poem for my day.  Sometimes runners do face themselves with all problems.”  He says he has an inner feeling that he will be running again soon.  He says this experience inwardly than will eventually manifest itself outwardly as well.  “It is a matter of 2 days before I resume my quick speed.”

Stutisheel interview

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