“I think it really helps running with people when you are in a low spot. I just did a long race 5 days ago and I am really struggling.” It may seem a little peculiar for an experienced multi day runner to be having a tough time just a few hours into a 10 race. There is after all still a lot of real estate between her and the finish line.
But for Sarah Barnett from Adelaide, as good as she is at modesty, she is undeniably world class when it comes to multi day running. It will take me some time to check on what exactly the race was she ran a couple of days earlier. As it turns out she had come here almost immediately from the Athens Ultramarathon festival in Greece where she placed 5th overall in the 1000 km race in 9 days and 12 hours.
When I meet her on the first day it is early afternoon and she has so far completed about 25 miles. At that time she is running with Dasha Yashina a first time runner from Russia. They are moving comfortably and their conversation seems like they have been friends for years and not just a few hours. Sarah says, “people are being really kind.” She was unable to attend last years race due to some complications involving a passport gone astray. She has regularly attended the race over the last few years. Now she says, “I want to see if it is possible to put 2 races together. Now I am wondering if it is such a good idea, and laughs.” In the 2009 race she ran 684 miles.
“We have to have faith, and not put our trust in our negative minds.” Her goal is simple, to do better than she did 2 years ago. After saying this she immediately adds, that if if she cannot do it, she will still be happy. Sarah of course is an elite runner. It would be easy to expect some bravado from such a talented athlete, but the opposite seems to be the case with her. Her humility shines on a day when the sky is grey and the winds blow and push almost constantly. Sometime later she will come up to me after our initial chat and say, that while she is here she wants to take the unique opportunity of being at the race and feel as though she is surrendering to her own spirituality. Let it express itself through her running and let the results speak for themselves.
One can of course hope to come away from races, both big and small, with world records and great achievements. This is after all the day it was announced that the record in the marathon was broken. Self Transcendence however is something deep and it is something intensely personal. The counters cannot mark it down nor can reporters with microphones record it. We bystanders may be fortunate once in a while to see a certain smile and a glow about those who have stepped into a new realm. We might, but most likely we cannot see beyond the boundaries of our own world and limitations.
Sarah has started something remarkable today. A 10 day race so soon after a 1000km one. It is impossible to predict any outcome for her this soon and with so far to go. Yet despite this one still has to appreciate the strength and courage she has to undertake such a thing. We all can be inspired by it, and wish her only the best. Perhaps in just learning about a feat such as hers, a hope may be nurtured within us all, that maybe someday we too can perhaps attempt the impossible as well, and transcend ourselves from within.
Sarah’s running companion this afternoon is another remarkable young athlete. She is just 26 and when I met her the previous day she describes herself as an Alpinist. A guide who takes trekkers into the mountains. Her biography describes her as someone who is practiced in endurance events and her running today shows her to be a well trained athlete. Yet today she is attempting a 10 day event when her previous longest event was running for 24 hours. Her choice she says, “was like a dream.” She points to a runner ahead of us on the track and tells me that it was him, a fellow Russian, who told her about this race, and inspired her to come.”
When asked what experiences she wants to take away from here she says, “I want to be more light, to be more happy.” She seems not impressed by being bound by her perceived limitations. Of this event, “I know it can be difficult but you can do it. You can get happiness from this difficulty.” She tells me that her English is limited in describing this experience so proceeds to tell me how she feels in Russian.
Click button to hear interview. Unfortunately there is wind noise.[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Dasha.mp3|titles=Dasha]
She tells me that her experiences when climbing help her see herself more clearly. “When you are in the mountains you can really see what kind of people are around you.” More importantly she adds, “you can see yourself.” This she says exposes both your problems and your good qualities as well. In the mountains there is an expression, “you can be good or dead, no in between.”
“I am going to rush less in the first few days, because I hit the wall on days 8 and nine last year.” 51 year old Mark Dorion of El Paso Texas is now running the 10 day race for the second time. He observed last year how some of the other 10 day runners went out remarkably easy and then as the race progressed they got both stronger and faster. His philosophy now, “there is no rush, I am going to take my time the first few days, and try and have fun. You know me, I run with the heart of a kid any way.”
This is Mark’s 7th appearance at the Self Transcendence races in Flushing Meadow and he seems to be very happy with the new course. “It has got a little bit of everything.”
He says that despite some injuries over the winter he is always enthusiastic about coming here. He tells me that Doctors have told him that he is lucky to complete 10 km racing little alone 10 days.
He tells me that despite being unable to train as much as he would like, his speed is as good as it has been in years. “I would say that mentally I am more prepared.”
He has completed a number of very quick races over the past year including a 10km one in under 40 minutes. He says that this speed can be useful at the end of the race should he need to turn it on. Also coming out of a break it can help him get more quickly back into the race’s rhythm.
He tells me that the most important aspect of the race for him in the race is to be in touch with the spiritual dimension of it all. He has noticed that when one tries to beat the course and live by their watches they miss the most important aspect of the race and the experiences they can gain here. He also feels that his child like spirit enables him to not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge that comes when taking on 10 days of non stop running.
Click Button to play Mark Dorion Interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Mark-Dorion.mp3|titles=Mark Dorion]
There are 38 runners out on the course, all hoping to run their best.
Today at least conditions are great for running.
Light rain is forecast for late this evening.
Fred Davis is also one of the regulars at the race. A native of Cleveland Ohio he has been coming to the race for the past 5 years. He simply likes the camaraderie and the communication he is able to share with such an international field. He says, “I try to communicate with everybody anyway.” If all else fails a pat on the back is a universal expression of encouragement to a fellow runner.
Despite his easy going manner 63 year old Fred is quite methodical about his approach to running 10 days. He carefully keeps track of each and every lap he completes.
His main problem he confesses, “I have been sleeping too much. I even have my list about how many hours I wasted sleeping. My best is 505 but I would like to break 600. I don’t have to move any faster, I just cannot sleep for 8 hours.”
click to play Fred Davis Interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Fred-Davis.mp3|titles=Fred Davis]
Faith must be beautiful.
Faith must be soulful.
Faith must be prayerful.
Faith must be heartfelt.
Finally, faith must be living.
Only then a seeker achieves
Boundless spiritual progress.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 12, Agni Press, 1999.