“The biggest challenge I thought, as I looked at the weather forecast is the weather.” We are running together in the pitch darkness of the night. The first tender hours of Sunday have barely begun and for the moment the conditions are still and almost perfect. At this point Dipali has been running for a little more than 36 hours. “It was freezing when we started, and when I came out at 3 am this morning it rained right up until about 2 in the afternoon, and I mean it rained. I think we are doing pretty well,” she says, and laughs lightly.
The course change this year means it is no longer necessary for the runners to somehow navigate a loop that sometimes required great ingenuity on the parts of the crew and runners to make it work at all, and even though it rained heavily yesterday, no pontoon bridges or kayaks were necessary.
She tells me that she will run for 2 more laps and then take a break for a couple of hours. “I have just done 40 miles since lunch time. I didn’t take any break. I just ran the straight 40 miles. It is kind of what I do. I don’t know if I can come out tomorrow morning and do another 40. I already feel fatigued from the cold start and the rain.” She had a bad flu just before the race and says she was concerned that she would even be able to do it. “I was very weak, and decided to do it.” She admits to still feeling some of the weakness of how the flu affected her.
I actually prefer this time of night, after 9 o’clock, when most of the runners go to bed. And I actually indulge in the quietness. Everybody has kind of gone, and there is just a handful of people. I find it very peaceful and I stay out here to about 1am. I probably won’t be resting for very long. Maybe a couple of hours off the track and then I will be back out again. That is just years of practice.”
“It is 20 years to the month, in May, that I did my first 7 day race, 1991 in Flushing Meadow. I was pretty clueless.” At the time she says the furthest she had run was 47 miles. She was so enthusiastic that she says she blasted the first 100 miles. This torrid pace however set her back so much she says that she could barely run for days afterward.
Dipali Cunningham now at age 52 is tremendously knowledgeable about distance running and has achieved numerous victories in her races and on occasion, has not only won the women’s division, but been the leader overall as well. With all her success she ultimately gives credit to her late teacher Sri Chinmoy, who she feels taught her the inner lessons that she could apply not just on the road but in her life as well. “The inner courage, the inner determination, and the wisdom.” The race is incredibly difficult and she tries to always focus on the positive. Use the opportunity of running to not only add up the miles but find the route that will as well lead to her own spiritual progress.
“I always say it is a surrender of the whole being. It is a profound experience on every level. She appreciates so much that when she started running these races 20 years ago there were just a handful of people in them. Now she is amazed that there are more than 70 very enthusiastic runners out here in the race. All of them she says, “finding their dreams and goals.”
“These people inspire me. They are bringing me this newness freshness, that you don’t want to disappear in your own consciousness.” She has after all done 32 multi day events in 20 years. This year, in almost a complete change to her usual schedule, she ran a 24 hour race in Ottawa in the fall. “I was really inspired to try it, and I had a great time. I couldn’t believe how it was so different, and yet I feel that I can improve at it. That next time I can do more.”
Then for a moment she recalls how Sri Chinmoy used to come to this same park and train, often in the middle of the night. She imagines she says, that in her quiet moments she can still envision him out here on the course. Even though it has been 30 years since the park last felt his footsteps, as he ran through the night. “We can’t forget these things, they are immortal.”
Click to play interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Dipali.mp3|titles=Dipali]
As usual the board tells an interesting story. Dipali is in 2nd place overall in the 6 day race and Kaneenika once again took back the women’s lead in the 10 day. Yuri is pulling away from Vladamir who is having digestive troubles.
3 time Mr.Olympia and 3 time Mr.Universe Frank Zane dropped by the race today on his way to catch a flight. He admires the runners and says, “it is a question of them wanting to do it, and the satisfaction of doing something that seems impossible and insurmountable to people. Realizing that if they take their time they can be there for the distance. It is about pacing yourself . They are here to do it and they will.”
Frank was a dear friend to Sri Chinmoy and he sees that the inspiration that touched his own life is also mirrored in the performances of the runners here as well. “Just keep going, keep pushing. Don’t give up.”
“If something happens find a better way.” Despite getting older he feels that the spirit is there within him even more. “The determination and drive is there too. Just the body is not as responsive as it used to. We can find ways around that too. ”
click to play Frank Zane interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Frank-Zane.mp3|titles=Frank Zane]
Daulot is still enjoying himself now running into his 3rd day.
And in an example of being able to change your plans, Al did not kick a soccer ball yesterday because of the rain and he did not do so today because of the crowds. He did play catch with himself however.
It is Easter Sunday and the park is very busy.
Many try and use the energy to move along. Lars and Ray sharing a happy moment.
For a change of pace, 10 day race leader Yuri, walks with a friend.
And for no particular reason that I see, Mark and Sarah share a happy moment.
On almost every lap I can’t help noticing Osker Ganz from Switzerland running backward. He tells me, that he has been doing it each lap in order to use other muscles. “It is a matter of comfort.” This is his second year at the race. He tells me that his second day last year, “really was tough. But now it goes smooth. I am really surprised, how much better it goes this year.”
Last year he came into the race injured but this is not the case this time. “This makes a big difference.” It is hard to be happy when you are in pain he adds. That is why he says, “I am trying to not go to the maximum and stay in a good consciousness, and this year I am also talking less.”
The best part for him last year was, that despite struggling the first few days he was able to speed up towards the end of the race. “And there were inner experiences. Especially in the night it is really quiet. That is why I like running in the evening. When you are really tired then the meditation starts. You get deeper experience.”
Click to play Osker Interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/osker.mp3|titles=osker]
Martin is keeping up a great pace. He is running more tha 100 miles a day so far. Dave Luljak seems to be running well once again.
It is still incredibly close between Kaneenika and Sarah in the 10 day race.
Elena Kuchkarova,40,Moscow is running her first 6 day race.
Some music in the park. Kodanda and friends.
Click to play[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/kodanda-band-2.mp3|titles=kodanda band 2]
Tomorrow the park will be much more quiet.
There are though 4 full more days of racing ahead.
Who can tell what new experiences are in store for everyone who runs here.
“I feel joy every day. Every day I am really happy, despite the pain in my leg.” Ratuja Larysa is 33 from Minsk, Belorussia and is running the 6 day race for the first time. When I meet her she is running with a very experienced multi day runner Stutisheel. She tells me she is simply focusing on the experience here and not the miles. “It is my first time. I don’t even know what place I am right now.”
Stutisheel organizes a 24 hour race in Kieve each year and she tells me that he helped her tremendously in the race there. “I had a really strong pain in my knee, and I could only walk, not run. I was upset. He told me, and it was very good advice, he told me to still go forward. What else do you need.”
“I think I am the first person from Belorussia to do a 6 day race.” Previously she won a 48 hour race also in the Ukraine. She was interviewed afterwards and she realized that multi day running is almost a completely unknown sport in her country. “People there, they don’t understand, how it is possible to run 2 days.”
She has had many powerful experiences after participating in multi day events. “I can see how people change after such races. It is a very interesting inner experience. I felt something inside me told me, I must do it. You can do it. So I just listened to my voice.”
She has no expectations about the days ahead. She feels that simply she will get the experiences here that she needs. “All I need to do is try and run, and to walk if I cannot run. To be here, to try and be happy.”
Click to play interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/rajaja.mp3|titles=rajaja]
Is simpler than the simplest:
“Never give up, never give up!”
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 26, Agni Press, 2002.