June 25: A Finish Line Ahead

Yesterday the Self Transcendence race found itself with a brand new leader.  After 8 days of running Grahak  went home last night with 2 more miles posted on the board than Vasu, who is still recovering from a very bad blister.  Both runners have completed more than 500 miles.  For the rest of the sporting universe  and ultra runners in particular this is certainly an almost unbelievably daunting distance to be covered by foot power alone in so short a time.  Yet when you try and imagine just how much longer they will still have to stay out here and how much further they have yet to go, what has happened here thus far, is all no more than the gossamer flutter of a butterfly’s wing.

For most fans of competitive sport  the 100 meters is a race that is eye blink quick and seems to explode in front of us in a quick and powerful  blur of striding legs and pumping arms.  Yet yesterday the world saw something it has never witnessed before at least not here in America any way, when in the Olympic qualifying event, 2 girls finished in a dead heat for 3rd place with the same exact time of 11.068 seconds.  Even a camera shooting 3,000 frames a second could not determine who had reached the line before the other.

The USTAF officials puzzled over what to do for some time.  Even with their eyes squinting intently at the images of the runners frozen in a microscopic sliver of time as they crossed the finish line could not determine if one girl was there before the other.

For the watching world it is a puzzling conundrum that evaporates any conceit we might have on the infallibility of technology.  Even the rule books could not easily decide what to do next as most thought it was not simply possible.   For the 2 girls, Jeneba Tarmoh and Allison Felix whatever the eventual outcome might be is a life changer as only one of the 2 can take a legitimate 3rd place spot on the Olympic team.

What makes this really puzzling is that there was a brief moment when they had at first decided that Jeneba had actually beaten Allison.  She is quoted as saying,  “It hurts,” she said minutes after the race, battling tears. “I definitely feel God has a bigger plan. We always make plans and think we know best. And sometimes it’s just not the case.”

Here at the 31oo mile race time does not exist in the snap and spark of  nanoseconds but in the leisurely arc of the sun drifting across the sky. Victory here will not be much at all about who finishes first but more about how well and how far each runner journeyed within.  The podium here can easily accommodate all 12 no matter when they finish.  By the end of 52 days we hope all will eventually feel the tug of the ribbon grow taught across their chests when they cross over the finish line.  Feel it break apart and as well sense the splendid inner thrill that at last the weight and burden of all the days and miles spent here may at last be set free.

Yet as well within each and every one of us a race is constantly and continuously taking place.  Some may be fast asleep beside the track, and others still groggy and but trying to pull themselves up to full wakefulness.  The fortunate ones are those who have already started their race and are striding forward even if they can’t yet see the finish line ahead.

Heavy rains are forecast for latter in the day.  This means tarps and awnings have to be made fast and tight because often the winds pick up as well.

Start Day 9

For Pradeep things are slowly and steadily improving each day.  It is hard to grasp the simple reality that you can get stronger and more luminous every day rather than simply expend all you have over the many miles and disappear and dwindle into nothingness.  A perfect example is Arpan  who did his second best day yesterday by running 65 miles.

“I only have 2 brain cells working.  One is for the left leg and one is for the right leg.”  We have run many miles together here over the past 7 years and if there is anything you need to say about Pranjal is that he is always cheerfully consistent.  He is a big guy and when I listen to the interview  we made earlier in the day I can hear the constant heavy scuff of his feet as he moves along. His real strength and determination are not readily apparent unless you really take a close look at him.  If you can’t do that then a simple glance at the mileage board with his name in 3rd place in front of what appears to be a large group of faster lighter runners.  As always though outer appearance don’t always lightly reveal the inner workings of who and what he is.

Also a major factor in his makeup is his amazing consistency.  Almost always he is the first to arrive and the last to leave. The only time he ever broke this pattern was a few nights earlier when he left about 11pm.  His simple reason for doing this, “I was hot so I went home.  I was cooked.”

At this moment Grahak passes and he hands him an empty cup to put in the garbage.  When I ask him why he did that he jokes, “it is good to use him.   So he can feel useful.”

He is briefly complimentary of Grahak’s race here.  Of his own, “I am satisfied.”

Sunday for most in the neighborhood is generally  quiet and more peaceful.  He says that for him there were simply too many people around.  “I like it when it is empty and there is nobody here.”  He adds that his independence is such that he is so content and focused on what he is attempting to do here he would not even care if there were no other runners here as well.  “I like it alone.”

I then ask him what he thinks about.  His answer just might be the ideal strategy for those who really want to succeed at this impossible event.   “I think I am not thinking that much.”

At the start of the race he wore a Japanese head scarf.  “We got it in 2005.  Sri Chinmoy brought it from Japan and gave it to us.(runners that year)  I like it a lot.  So I try and wear it at lest one day at the race just for a couple of hours in the beginning.  Then I just keep it somewhere safe.  It is something special which we still have from him.”

As we run together this morning I point out this and that thing or different kids on their way to school.  He is aware of the world around him on the course but gives precious little notice to anything much on the outside at all.  What is going on inside him only he really knows.

He has kept alive a daily running streak now for 4 years.  “I don’t run every day to stay in shape, I do it because I want to.  I have been training for the race for the past 3 months the rest of the year I am training for other things like marathons.”

Click to play interview


A neighbor close by brings flowers every day.

“When I first learned about this race I dreamed that I could come, this is 10 or 15 years ago.”  Svetlana enjoys running herself and ran in the Father’s Day marathon just a week ago.  Her previous best in a 24 hour race is 111 km.  She first came to visit New York last year where she helped out in the 10 day race.  “I was very happy to help but also very difficult.  Being a helper is a special job.”

She loves helping here because of the atmosphere.  “My soul is singing.”

Click to play English Interview


Click to play Russian interview

russian interview

Click to play Svetlana singing

Svetlana singing

By late afternoon the rains come in with real force.  Pushkar did 120 laps or 65 miles yesterday.

Vasu seemed strong this afternoon in the rain.

Pedro recites the Poem of the daypedro and poem
 Enthusiasm AwakenersClick to playparvati 2



My mind tells me
That what I need is a finish line.

My heart tells me
That what I need is a progress-run.


Sri Chinmoy, Friendship-Birds Fly, Agni Press, 1992.

3 Comments to “June 25: A Finish Line Ahead”

  1. Baridhi says:

    I’d like to comment Pranjal’s interview. My comment is: …

  2. nirmala says:

    “Every day my heart and I can love God a little more” if you read “and” backwards you get dna and with this you get into the very moment of God, I mean God brings you closer to Him. Since I know that the Head Band is a gift from Sri Chinmoy, I love it now. Before I did not know why the runners have it every year. It is a red circle and this reminds me of a video I saw about the Japanese running monks. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S06oMxdt40A
    I see that the poem of the day mostly goes well with the runner that is interviewed. And here is a text that I used to recite quite often from Sri Chinmoy which he liked about a new cycle that is bout to begin:

  3. nirmala says:

    When we consciously open ourselves to the Light, inevitably all our unconscious weaknesses and limitations come forward to bar the way. The more Light beckons us, the stronger becomes our unruly, undivine and unconscious part. This is an unescapable spiritual law, which we can see operating in the individual as well as in the collectivity.
    This eternal battle between darkness and Light becomes even more intense when a New and Higher Cycle is about to begin in the evolution of mankind, which is the case today. From Sri Chinmoy

    and here is my personal message: no matter how far away I am from this Light, God will not give up on me., because now I have His promise in the form of this 3100 mile race!

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