20 miles into her first marathon she was not certain that she could even finish it. If there was anything certain to Grete Waitz at that moment, on a cold October morning, was that most definitely she would never run a marathon again. Yet she did in fact complete the race that day. The second half of her race would turn out to be faster than her first. She not only completed running her first New York city marathon in 1978, she broke the world record as well by running 2:32:30.
Her run that day in New York was unexpected to everyone including herself. She was a top notch Norwegian middle distance runner who had competed in races no longer than 3km. She had been invited to be a pace setter and add international flavor to an event that was just becoming popular. Sadly we lost this champion today at the age of 57. She inspired not only women athletes but distance runners of all kinds. She would go on to win the NYC marathon 9 times and was a friend to Sri Chinmoy and many of the activities he helped inspire.
Grete’s lesson that day in 1978 is familiar to all who run in multi day races. Not just in Flushing Meadow but everywhere runners try to push back the limitations they believe that are in front of them and holding them back. Few have the capacity to break world records but transcending oneself is another mater entirely. It can and should be a life long task. It is of course something that doesn’t necessarily give itself up freely. It must be worked and strived for.
Grete Waitz once said, “For every finish line tape a runner breaks–complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras–there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.”
The 10 day race is barely 24 hours old and already the start of the 6 day race is beginning to be felt at the race camp. The crews always seem to be busy with one thing or another but one of today’s job was to ready the counting shack that is dedicated solely to those running 6 days.
The crew have not just been hanging around.
There do seem to be quite a few New Zealanders in the fray.
The score board is also ample evidence that everyone has worked very hard in their first 24 hours of running. For one runner every step past the first day is a new personal record for her.
“Now for me a new experience starts.” She is proceeding into this new world cautiously because there are many more days ahead. She completed 69 miles her first day and is hoping to keep that distance up for the entire race. She is optimistic, “I will just try and do my best.
She took a break of 6 or 7 hours last night. Friends had advised her that the first day was very important, to take it easy in the beginning.
She is clearly enjoying herself. She says, “I am happy to see so many people who are happy. It is the first race that I have taken part in where so many people are smiling. Normally when I take part in Alpinist competitions, always people are very serious.” She tells me that when she smiles during them she is sometimes accused of being crazy. “This is the first race that I have seen every body smile.”[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Dasha1.mp3|titles=Dasha]
Sometimes the smiles may be just a little hard to find but we know they are in there.
Andrey Stefanov is a 23 year old runner from Bulgaria who has never competed, until now, in a race longer than a marathon. He seems incredibly confidant however and feels that his training has adequately prepared him for this. He tells me that he had practiced to come here by running 40 miles a day for 10 days. This he accomplished during a recent school break.
Like Dasha he too is covering brand new steps as a competitive runner. As we run together, a boisterous cheer rises up from the scoring hut, announcing that he has just completed 90 miles. He tells me that other friends have advised him on almost every aspect of competing here, from shoes, clothing, to diet.
He seems to be practical about all aspects of his race here. When asked what kind of distance he hopes to run he says, “In the beginning I think 700 would be good, but I can’t expect anything because this is just the beginning.”
Inwardly he feels the race is helping him slow down his mind. He doesn’t think about the race overall just about what is happening to him on each lap as he goes around.
He feels happy and also fortunate to be able to run in the 10 day race. “Very few have the chance to be here, I am very grateful to the organization.” He is also impressed with the atmosphere in the race.”
Click to play interview..some distortion
So much credit as well must be given to those who help so tirelessly to make it all happen. There is no time, either night or day, when a runner is not on the course.
Everyone who helps is a volunteer and though the experience is much different than that of the runners it is a valuable and fulfilling one as well.
Jayasalini is in second place, just 2 miles back of Women’s leader Kaneenika.
It has been 7 years since he was last here but Priyavadin Reisecker 41, Austria, is very glad to return to multi day competition.
He explains that his absence was due to starting a new business with his wife that simply allowed him no free time to train. Now his coffee shop is at last doing well and this has given him the opportunity to at last have some free time.
I wonder if he missed being here and he says, “I think it always stayed within me, all the memories.” He explains that he missed how one experiences nature by being out on the course for such an extreme amount of time. And….”The challenge.”
What that means, “is you get into situations that you rarely get into in daily life.” As we are speaking a plane is taking off from nearby La Guardia airport, traffic is thick and congested on the highway, and for most people it would be a spot you might like to avoid. He tells me that when he is really into the race he can block these distractions out. “When you are in a good consciousness. When you are tired and feel pain the noise is killing you.”
Surprisingly to me, for many of the runners the damp roads and misty conditions are ideal. “It feels slippery, it is nice to run.”
“Last night I had a situation that you very rarely get in daily life. It was a complete disaster. Very slow, a lot of pain, and then it was a miracle, after 10 hours it is all gone. I was running again. It was so nice to experience that.” It had been so bad that he couldn’t run for 30 miles. After a trip to medical they were able to correct what ever was bothering an old and nagging knee problem.
“Daily life quite often it seems there is no solution, and it will be a disaster forever, but there is always some way out.”
click to play interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Priyavadin.mp3|titles=Priyavadin]
Yuri Trostenyuk from Vinnitsa Ukraine won the race last year. He is currently running a close race with Vladimir Razumovsky from Russia.
Syona Ionov from the Ukraine is part of large number of Runners from the region.
“I am in a very beautiful park in Flushing Meadow, right next to the Grand Central expressway, with a lake on the other side, and I am walking around a one mile loop.” Karanayati Morison from Ottawa is right now moving forward within her concept of a perfect world. There seems little in life she enjoys more than being in a multi day competition. What is more remarkable is that, even though injury deprives her of the capacity to run, as she usually does in these events, she is still content to even be able to walk the course. Despite this she has more than 60 miles on the board.
It was only in late February that she slipped on some ice and fell, breaking a rib in the process. “So for 8 or 9 weeks I have done nothing except walk. My immediate thought was, I cannot run the race so I will help. But for some reason that didn’t make me awfully happy. What made me happy was thinking of doing it.”
Eventually after consulting several medical experts it was decided she could enter the race if she took it easy. Right now she is walking comfortably. She adds, “moving is good. Being here is way better than not being here, and it is such a phenomenal experience. She recognizes that helpers who come also can have a great time, but for her, competing in it is infinitely better. “You get so much out of it. Inwardly, outwardly, and every which way.”
Currently she is experiencing a new problem, she has blisters on the soles of her feet. Her solution, “I am being kept alive by second skin. It acts as something that stops the pain.”
For her the damp conditions are ideal. She says that as a onetime English person, damp weather is a familiar friend, and as her feet generally get hot in races the wet cools her feet. “I am happy as long as I can stay warm.” Since she is not running she is able to wear a very protective rain jacket.
When asked what kind of experience she is going through inwardly, she says, “It is unbelievable. I can’t begin to describe the joy I get from just being here. Being here in nature. Being here with planes going overhead. It is just incredible. I can’t think of any better word.”[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Karnayati.mp3|titles=Karnayati]
One never knows what you will see out on the course. While coming around a corner I spotted Dharbhasana coming along with his daughter Shakti. He ran the race last year and then went on to complete the 3100 mile race. This year he and wife Nandana are full time helpers.
“I think this is something like Shakti tobogganing. Shakti got to go around the course several times on her bike last year when I was running, and this year she wants to be really out here again.”
When Shakti is asked how she is enjoying her ride, “Yes, I am having a great time.”
Click on button to hear Dharbasana Interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Dharbhasana.mp3|titles=Dharbhasana]
The main reason
For my being here on earth
Is to see God smiling sleeplessly
In His Beauty’s creation-flower:
Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 108, Agni Press, 1987.