Day Nine: The Fire Within

Multi day races have been with us a long time.  There are some records that show it was a sport as early as the late 18th century and certainly it continued on, well into the 20th. There was a time when it was considered a popular spectator sport.  It was something every body could identify with, because for just about everybody, walking was the only way you were going to get anywhere.  You were probably very lucky to have a horse in the early days, and to have the capacity to cover great distances on foot was practical.  It was also probably pretty entertaining for those who couldn’t make it so far.

Eventually it became a real spectator event, and sometimes people would come by the thousands to watch, and perhaps make a little wager now and then.  Well there are no bets on the outcome of the Self Transcendence race here in Flushing Meadow.  No world records are likely to be broken and yet some pretty wonderful things are happening here just the same on a regular basis.   Though mostly they are very personal and very private experiences happening from time to time to each and every runner.  The little miracles that make such a difficult challenge as this so rewarding to those who undertake it.

Many helpers flow in and out of the camp at all hours of the day and night but you would hardly say there were any spectators.  It is a happy place but it is also a busy place.  The runners are trying to do their best and the many helpers are trying their very best to make this experience as perfect as possible for them.  I have heard stories of multi day races in which there are in fact very few helpers at all, particularly at night.  Technology in these races is used as best it can to keep score and track all the data.  There isn’t much high tech equipment at the Self Transcendence race.  It is very much about people working and sometimes playing together.  Achieving goals that aren’t virtual but are real.  All happening both outwardly and inwardly, creating true experiences that just might change your life.

It is really nice to know that there are so many people all over the world who are trying to follow what is happening here.  Thanks to the internet you can pretty much see who is trying to tap into the race from afar.  In Denmark there are a lot of folks following Lars and in Australia there are those who are routing for Martin, Sarah, and Dipali.  There is one red dot in the middle of Russia that really has me baffled.  Many of these people are more than icons on a map.  They are family and friends and fellow runners who just couldn’t come, but are really interested in what is happening here.

The Self Transcendence race is only a click away via the internet.  All the results are available every day, hundreds of photographs, and yes blog posts.  As I look at those dots, I sometimes like to imagine the faces of those who are staring into computer screens to watch.  I have a hope that for all you who take the time to visit via the internet that you remember how wonderful it is to just to stand on a great green field of grass here, blazing with golden flowers and feel the runners pass by.  See their brilliant smiles and sometimes,  if only briefly, the other side.   Expressions that come from a place that exists on the distant shore away from joy.

There are fires burning in the hearts of all who run here.  It is powerful and it is inspiring, and I hope that maybe just maybe you too might really feel that Self Transcendence is taking place not just in a breezy park in Flushing Meadow.  That maybe you can identify in a way in which it is real for you as well.  That in your identification with those who are trying so hard you become much more than a little red dot far away.  That you too feel the fire within.

So many names and so many stories.  Now of course the time is fast dwindling away.  The weather will remain mild until the finish on Thursday but the possibility of showers lurks not too far off in the distance.

She tells me that her mind is a little bit empty, but if her mental faculties aren’t working too well than everything else about Sarah Barnett’s race is working almost to perfection.  She had run a 1,000km race just before coming and confesses that it has taken a toll on her body in this one.  “I am a little bit more tired.  I think it was about day 6 that I had to leave the track.  I didn’t have a choice.”  It was the only day when her mileage slipped and she only completed 36 miles.

“I think everyone goes through that.  You get pushed down and then you get molded up again.  It is a really nice feeling.  It is sweeter when you come back.  I guess it is like life.  You head down into the abyss, and you have to work you way up.”  Sarah feels that this tiredness came from simply needing a little more recovery time.  “The next day was much much better.”

I suggest that a bad experience like that would make a lot of people give up.  “I think it was at night time, that I felt really strongly in my heart, that if you are down than you can come back again.  Time and again through life we have to do that.  We stumble and fall over and have to pick ourselves up.”

Sarah came into the race with some real goals.  She hoped to improve her 6 day split of 713km which she was slightly under.  She is now focused solely on the 10 day, which she says will take an effort of 75 miles a day to do, from now until the finish.  She was given some advice last night in which she was told to simply enjoy it, “and let the energy come to us.  We are not doing anything ourselves.  If you are just enjoying it for the running and not checking the score board every lap.  Sometimes you can feel that, if even just a glimpse.”

“Each of us out here are struggling to find it ourselves.  Definitely it is in praying, and a little bit of meditation.”  She tells me that it is in some of the veteran 3100 mile runners who are also in the race that she sees in them an absolute concentration.  They are not being distracted, they are really focused inwardly.  I feel that if you can do that than there is an incredible power inside.  I am watching them and I am thinking, wow, I want that.”

She has done many of these races but feels that she is still constantly learning.  “I think that the weaknesses that we have in our every day life they seem to be intensified a little bit in the races. I think the runners I admire the most seem to be the most child like.  Then the weaknesses don’t matter so much.” She also feels that being here provides opportunity for the runners to help each other.  Even when we are suffering sometimes, you can laugh like anything.”

Her division in the 10 day race is very close, I ask her if it affects her.  She says, “The only way I can have joy is to set my own goals.  Of course you look at the score board, but Kaneenika is just way too good.”  She does think about what a win here would mean not just for her but also for Australia.  But ultimately she believes that she has to focus on her own personal records.  “Sometimes you wonder, why are we going around in circles, but it is more than that.  It is the relationships you form.  It is like a family getting back together.”

Click to play interview


It is not a hot day in New York but it is a bright one.  Many of the runners are taking extra precautions to shield themselves from the sun.

Andrey Stefanov has 522 miles going into his 9th day.  Pradeep has 461.






Martin Fryer tells me he went through a bad patch yesterday and was set back with digestive problems.  He dropped about 20 miles back from his usual daily total.  Still he has gone further in a race than he ever has before.  In a minute he gets up and goes back on the track, not sure if he can run but certain that he can at least walk.  He calls it, “endless forward momentum.”











Larry Phillips knows how to keep moving.



Al Prawda, just like he promised, brought out his soccer ball and is going to kick it for 14 hours.






“Yesterday I got some kind of head cold or flu, and last night I was ready to not be here any more.”  In a set back that would have sent most people packing Dave Lujak instead stayed to complete the job he had set out to do.  “Sometimes staying here is a lot.  I like the aspect of finishing what you started, of enduring and of accepting your lot.”

On Sunday he was running with such power he was literally burning up the course.  Today however he is still able to walk at least and to smile.  “I am feeling a little better now but earlier I could only walk a lap at a time, and get so tired I would go in the tent and sleep for half an hour.  That kind of performance is way below what I would like to do, but during that lap I was still able to enjoy the sunshine, and the people, and everything.”

“People like to talk about life’s lessons, in a way you do learn them, and sometimes life doesn’t give you very good lessons.  Or things don’t go your way.”  She describes how his Mom went through an illness last year and yet endured.  “A race like this gives you those existential moments too.  Things might go badly, but you seem to learn something through it.  If this is what you are cut out to do than you should stick with it.”

“I have my favorite quote from peoples t shirts.  One of them is about how your determination remains in your heart, long after your success or failure is forgotten.  And what I love about that, is that you tend to forget your failures, and you want to forget them, but not your successes.  Actually your successes tend to melt away too, yet you remember something you got out of the experience.  In a way I don’t think I am the same person who was able to run so much in 1998.  It is almost as though that was a different person, and yet there was something about that experience that remains with me.”

I tell David that for a guy who has gone through so much he still seems to be a pretty happy guy.  “I try to be.  Another favorite quotation is Frederick Nietzche describe the ancient Greeks, who invented tragedy, and who also described peasants as having cheerful pessimism.  I tend to think that is my attitude, ” and David simply laughs.  “I tend to be pessimistic but I try and be cheerful on top of it.”




Click to play interview


There is music once again in the part this afternoon.  Sakshama serenades the runners with his saxophone.

Click to play music.


Elena Kareva from Volograd Russia is simply running a great race. She has been consistent in her mileage for the past 8 days, she has 464 miles.  Currently in front of her are the big 3, and it is easy sometimes to not give enough attention to those  runners who are not on top of the leader board.  This is her 3rd time here and last year she was able to complete 560 miles.  If she can keep at her current pace she is very likely to improve her personal best.  She says that she thinks that she can do it.

She is inspired to run here and it seems to her, that if some have the capacity to run 3100 miles, than she should see what her own capacity is.  At the moment she is running with Uliyana from Finland but who was born in Volograd.  She says that many good runners come from there.  “It is a very special place.  It has a very hot summer and a very cold winter and people must exercise more.  Elena is a very good runner.”

She started running early when she was younger.  It was when she joined the Sri Chinmoy center she says that she started to run and really enjoy the longer distances.  She has run 23 marathons and 5 24 hour races.  “Everything about this gives me happiness.”  For her there is not just a chance to enjoy nature but also to experience self transcendence.  “When I see runners who can runner faster than I can, this also gives me joy.”

She describes her goal here as simply to run, “more, more.”  When asked how is it possible to be happy and positive when clearly she must be tired and hurting.  “The most important thing is grace.  All experiences here are the result of grace.”  She says that she often listens to Sri Chinmoy’s music and feels that this not only inspires her but also helps remove her pain.  He also has written many songs about running.

When I ask if she would rather be home than here she says of the 10 day race, “for me it is a very short distance.  It is completed very fast.”  Presumably she enjoys it so much that the experience is over too quickly.  When I suggest that if she wants more running she should enter the 3100, she simply laughs.   

Click to play interview


My body loves to walk
Towards the goal.
My vital loves to march
Towards the goal.
My mind loves to jog
Towards the goal.
My heart loves to sprint
Towards the goal.
My soul loves to fly
Towards the goal.

My Lord tells me
That I do not have to walk,
I do not have to march,
I do not have to jog,
I do not have to sprint
And I do not have to fly
Towards the goal.
The goal will come to me
If I can become
A sea of silence-peace.

Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 9, Agni Press, 2002.

5 responses to “Day Nine: The Fire Within”

  1. Again great interviews. And especially when the race is coming to an end the runners have gone through such a transformation and you can hear it in their stories. The runners from Russia and Ukraine are amazing I am really inspired by their approach. 🙂

  2. Great interviews 🙂
    But I have to say, that my guess is, that Lars is not followed in The Hetherlands, but in his homeland Denmark. I know several people who follow the updates daily.

  3. Martin
    Maybe the the last of the three stages is transcendence not “mongrel”
    Love Dad

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