It is only in a photograph that you can really stop and adequately capture the speeding world around us. Time never stops, nor life, nor the race nor really anything that is part and parcel of creation. Just as one footstep continually follows another, thoughts tumble one past another. All experiences, so powerful and real for an instant are then continually being replaced by hopefully higher ones. But int that instant the photo was taken you can at least attempt to reveal and comprehend a precious moment of a life in constant movement.
As someone who takes hundreds of pictures each day I am continually surprised at the little personal glimpses of life I can see taking place in the faces of those who are running here. There are some who are almost always constantly serene. They somehow cast the appearance of a living breathing tranquility. One that has to be obviously in stark opposition, to the heroic encounter with suffering that they are surely being forced to willingly bear.
Ashprihanal’s face is a nonstop playground of expressions just as his arms and legs seem to twirl and spin in their own unique unscripted and unrepeatable choreography. In one instant you might believe you see unbearable agony and in the next he will exhibit such radiant bliss you might not see anything similar unless you gazed up at paintings of holy figures in a place of worship.
He is of course both human and divine and seemingly unstoppable now as he forges his way onwards towards a personal best in the 3100. The finish line now appears ever so clearly in front of him. Just 500 miles away and it looks simply as though Sunday will be the day. Time will not stop but his race on this his 11th year here surely will. Many photographs will freeze the instant of celebration, and then he will simply run past and continue on with life.
This morning the board reveals that Surasa is mortal, or at least yesterday she took off her Wonder Woman garb for the day and ran the respectable numbers she has been running for the past month. Pradeep’s battle with the blister seems to have taken a turn for the worse yesterday but today he will run and shows little evidence of what must have been a tough day for him yesterday.
This morning I come across Ananda Lahari and Pradeep walking together. Earlier I had mentioned that some runners exuded an unmatched serenity and certainly these 2 almost always have expression of someone in a state of constant joy and peace.
I confront them as though they are cooking up some kind of scheme and they proceed to tell me that they are planning on singing one of Sri Chinmoy’s most sacred songs, Bhulite Diyona.
Pradeep tells me, “almost every day we sing a few songs together.”
Ananda Lahari, “It just works out that we somehow almost every day meet somewhere when we have the same speed.”
Pradeep, “that’s the deal. We are here to run. Sometimes we only sing one song, and then whoever is the faster guy he goes off. We kind of enjoy the 2 minutes together.”
They tell me that they have been doing this since the beginning of the race.
Click to play song[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/ananda-and-pradeep.mp3|titles=ananda and pradeep]
Yesterday Ashprihanal ran 141 laps. This on a day which was hot, humid, and much better suited for idle folk to instead lounge at a beach and not pound the hard concrete in Queens. He describes his day simply as, “quite good.”
Last night he realized that when Sahishnu told him, “O you have filled the lap sheet. So now I have learned a new thing. 141 laps is one paper.” He then declares “it is best to stop at 141 laps. Otherwise they would be in trouble with many papers.”
I then ask Ashprihanal about something Andy Cable had mentioned when he had visited a few days earlier. Andy remembered that Ashprihanal had run 148 laps in his 2006 race on day 15. “And next day also I did something like 79 miles. I think that is like 81 miles or something. I had many good days in those days. When I was young and strong.”
I then point out the glaringly obvious that in this race he is also set to do a personal best without having days when he ran 148 laps. “I am definitely trying to do my personal best, first of all. And for second, I would like to finish on Sunday which is a personal best plus one day off. My previous best would mean a finish on Monday.”
“So a personal best is really my goal. I am really happy because I kind of gave up. I had given up hope. Many times it is not easy to push push every year. A 72 mile a day average is not easy. Now I am more consistent because I know that there is always a next day, next day. The main thing is to stay consistent. Today I am planning to do a little bit lower day because Rupantar said it is going to be a hot day. So I am planning to do 70 or just a little bit more.”
“These plans change all the time. So now for me consistency is what I want to do. Not to push too much but at the same time, if I feel strong, than why not.”
click to play interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/ashprihanal1.mp3|titles=ashprihanal]
“Right from June 29th I started.” She started a little late to be officially one of the runners but Verinder, but like many neighbors of the course, loves to come to here every morning and exercise. In that period she says she has only missed 2 days.
“I wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and then I come here. I love this place. Here everything is clean. Vajra comes in the morning. He cleans up, there is no papers, nothing.”
“The atmosphere here is like spiritual. I am a religious personal also. It is such a beautiful atmosphere. It gives you inspiration, to live, and let other people live, and I love it.”
“I spend an hour and a half to two hours every morning. I love every day here.” The finish of the race is coming ever closer. I ask her what she will do then. “I will come but I will miss these people, definitely.”
click to play interview[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/lady.mp3|titles=lady]
The sweat on Pranjal’s arms simply rolls off. Everyone drinks every lap.
Remain cheerful, for nothing destructive can pierce throught the solid wall of cheerfulness.
Today marks a major crossroads for Purna Samarpan’s hopes and dreams of finishing the race. The problem with his leg has reached a critical stage. He is now resting it and waiting for Kaushal to arrive and advise him. Pradeep, ever mindful of others takes a moment to comfort him. He stays for a while. They chat and they he simply has to continue on.
Recited by Ashprihanal[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/poem8.mp3|titles=poem]
Click to play[audio:http://perfectionjourney.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/parvati6.mp3|titles=parvati]
We are all pilgrims
Here on earth
And we are running
Towards the Golden Shore.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 16, Agni Press, 1999.