They assemble on the starting line one last time. Now there are but 3 champions left on this hard but sacred ground. They have covered many thousands of miles these past 53 days. Yet they remain in the exact same spot as where they began. An irony most certainly not lost on those who seek out and crave outer adventure. For a spiritual athlete however the quest is not for victory without, but to try and achieve a self transcendence victory within. Something intangible to most, but no less real than a gleaming trophy sitting in a case.
The journey is not about the number of signposts that you have passed along the way, or who you have left behind. It is more that you have been attentive to your own inner voice and just how many you have inspired and gathered up with your heart’s oneness. In so many areas of life we judge and measure and attempt to balance all the conflicting and self important bits of who we are and who we think we are.
Here the playing field is flattest for those runners who can somehow manage to toss away the nagging conflicts that erupt between a lethargic body, a restless vital, and a mind tainted by doubt and fear. It never becomes effortless and yet the greatest burden a runner here has to bear are those stubborn bits dredged up from the shadowed places we all have within.
Early this morning a young runner got up and set off for a training run with a special lightness in their step and a sense of eager anticipation in their heart. They left before the day became heavy from the sun”s heat. They found cool satisfying steps that led down a familiar country lane, or beside the bright waters of the Black Sea, or maybe it was even on the still streets of Kiev, before the cars filled the city with their confusion and their haste.
Somewhere in the Ukraine or maybe even in the Russian Federation a young runner went out running knowing that by tonight something significant would at last be realized. Something that would take place far away but still be able to uplift their own dreams.
For no matter how you look at it, Stutisheel, over 8 years has been a consistent and true inspirer of distance runners throughout the region. Tonight in what is most certainly an historic event, he will complete the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race for the 8th year.
They may have never met him, perhaps only read one of his books, or attended one of his talks. They may have never even fully committed themselves to the spiritual life, or maybe never even run as far as a marathon. Yet still they have somehow heard of his historic accomplishments and felt in themselves an unmistakable inner thrill.
We know this to be true because once upon a time a young runner from Berdansk, Ukraine, felt this same thing. His name is Sarvagata. In Vinnitsa, also a young runner named Igor was dreaming of the 3100. Both thinking it was impossible, not just to run 3100 miles, but also to spend such a lengthy time here in New York so far far away from home.
Yet in their admiration of Stutisheel they found that the impossible was possible. That he was just the first of many who would follow in his steps and find their own places on the starting line. Find that transcendence is not to be taken lightly but with absolute willingness, cheerfulness, and surrender to whatever the inner experience commands that you do.
There is some strong anecdotal evidence that suggests that at one time there was a sect of Buddhist monks in Tibet called the Lung-go-pa. Theirs was a life of absolute austerity and spiritual discipline. By practicing meditation and pranic breathing exercises they were able to perform incredible feats. It is said they could run tirelessly, for incredible distances across the barren landscape.
To observers it was so effortless it was almost as though they barely touched the ground. Their faces continually turned up to the sky, focusing on a single celestial object.
In her book, “Magic and Mystery in Tibet,” the author Alexandra David_Neel, wrote
“By that time he had nearly reached us; I could clearly see his perfectly calm impassive face and wide-open eyes with their gaze fixed on some invisible far distant object situated somewhere high up in space. The man did not run. He seemed to lift himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps. It look as if he had been endowed with the elasticity of a ball and rebounded each time his feet touched the ground.”
Less mythical and certainly very real are the marathon monks of Japan called Kaihigyo, a Buddhist sect based in Kyoto Japan. They are recognized as spiritual athletes and train extremely hard both in their exercise regime and in their meditation. Their ultimate goal is to one day complete a 1,000 day challenge. Only 46 men have completed this feat of fasting, chanting, and running in the last 130 years.
There is no simple all encompassing description for anything to do with the self transcendence race, other than the two words that make up its name.
After that the mental world flounders at trying to grasp the enormity and significance of how the runners do what they do, and more significantly just how powerful, peaceful, and transformative it is to be there and identify with it.
*Yesterday the injured Surasa increased her mileage once more and completed 106 laps (58 miles) She has 3 days to complete 168 more miles*
A little more than a year ago scientific researchers finally calculated just which bird had the longest yearly migration route. Prior to then their instruments were just too cumbersome for some species to wear and thus make their calculations. The winner of this dubious distinction is a very small 4 oz bird called the arctic tern. Each year flocks of them travel back and forth from the Arctic to the Antarctic, a journey of some 44,000 miles. Nature has no doubt given them good cause to do this. Their path way is also not a straight one. They often follow special seasonal shifting wind patterns and stop here and there along the way to feed and prepare for extra long legs of the flight.
The runners who come here to the 3100 each year do not have the singular excuse that human nature can provide, to do what they do. Their journey goes no where but around and around. It is a task in which though they are never hungry they are however almost always continually sore and tired. All their human needs and wants could easily be fulfilled back home in their own countries. There is no incentive to do this other than one that is indescribable and is generated by a deep and inner source.
Atmavir today will finish the race for the 5th year in a row today. “I feel very grateful to be here this year, though it was a very difficult year for everybody. For me it was absolutely the toughest one. For me it was a miracle that I was able to compete the race this year.” He says that on the very hot day 2 weeks ago, that when he left the track that night he went home and had tremendous problems. “I felt it might be over.” He says that it was only through divine grace that he was able to complete the race this year. “I am very grateful.”
Despite being so difficult he says, “I got inner fulfillment. There are more things than miles and laps here.” He feels as though he made real progress towards his goal. He then reads a poem which he says helped him tremendously.