April 20: Happiness Is The Key Word

There are some places in this world of ours in which just the very sound of their names creates mysterious and wonderful images in our imagination.  Most often they are far far away and are simply so exotic and so remote that you can’t ever really imagine actually going there.  I spoke with Pati Ibinova today who is a 48 year old runner from Irkustk.  A place to me, who has lived his entire life in Canada, as just about as far from Flushing Meadow park as it is physically possible to be.  Which according to the internet is more than 5,000 miles away.


Pati doesn’t speak English so with the help of a friendly translator we conducted a little conversation on a warm bright afternoon.  “I get lots and lots of joy here, ” she says when asked why she has come so far to be here.  It has been 4 years since Pati was last here at the race and when you look at a map it doesn’t take too much imagination to realize just how expensive and difficult it must be for a person to get here from there.   Who knows just many flights and how many hours of travel and how many months and years she probably saved up just to come and run.

pati3Right now Pati is doing pretty well amongst the other 10 day women.  She is currently in 5th and completed 130 miles over her first 2 days.  The first thing she says about Irkustk is that it is cold.  It turns out that from the beginning of November until the end of March it rarely gets above freezing.  So it really defies the imagination as well to picture just how difficult it must have been for Pati to go out the door each morning and train and prepare herself to come here and run for 10 straight days. It is only some hours later that it truly sinks in,  just how incredibly dedicated  Pati, and a lot of others here are,  in coming to the race, from so many far off places.

When asked why she came back after 4 years, “happiness is the key word.  The miles are not so important.  It is the happiness inside that keeps me going.  Everybody has their own happiness but it just comes forward more intensely here.”  Pati as we are speaking is bubbling with enthusiasm and joy.  Before she is about to leave and run some more she tells me she wants to share a secret.  She tells me she is dedicating her run here to her little country.

Pati Ibinova


The Self Transcendence race here is extraordinary in so many ways.  Top class athletes mixed in amongst those who are perhaps here for the first time and will finish hundreds of miles behind.  Some who will improve dramatically over their previous efforts and some will kill themselves just to make one more mile than they have done before. Yet what binds all the runners here in both obvious and subtle ways is how their heart’s goal is so much the same.  To pursue their own perfection. To transcend themselves and find out just how beautiful and powerful they truly are within themselves.  And yes as well to be truly happy.  A happiness that is worth traveling the length and breadth of our great and wonderful world to try and attain more of.

Martin has finished his first 72 hours here with 261 miles.

boardVolodymyr has also traveled far and worked hard to come here.  He comes from Vinnitsa in the Ukraine which is a place no less exotic than Irkusk but also for some reason seems to have an incredible number of very good multi day runners who come from there.  Volodymyr is here at the race for the 5th time,  He says he comes because, “moving is life, and after every time I do the race I feel as though I am a new person.”


volodymyr2“Every race here gives me more and more happiness.  I feel not just the happiness here but also when I go home to my regular life.  This race helps me to be happy.  I also feel that the race allows me to transcend my capacities.  I feel that this race is all about self transcendence but I feel that by running it is preparing me for an even higher level and that is to be able to run the 3100 mile race.”

“I dream about the 3100 mile race and this race is the only the first steps which will take me there.  That is why I eagerly look forward to it and fly to this race with wings.”

For him the 3100 mile race which takes place in Queens each year is the Mt Everest of all distance running challenges.  “If I have a good result this year in this race I hope to be able to run it next year.” There is lots of laughter and joking throughout this conversation.   I joke with him and ask what he would do if he was invited to come this year and run the race.   He laughs, “Just let me know when it starts and I will be there.”


Race leader Martin Fryer


Women’s leader Samita


There are many who come out just to see the race going on and be even a small part of it.  Theresa tells me she has been coming out here just to see the race for the past 4 years.  She loves to come and spends time cheering the runners and seeing the numbers on the boards get bigger and bigger each day.


Patanga is a first time runner from Brazil.  He says that his country is well known for many other sports but not very well known for it’s marathon running.  He believes he just might be the first Brazilian to run this race.  ” I have done one 24 hour race, an ironman, but this is my first multi day race, and I am loving it, absolutely.” (laughs)


I ask him why he selected the 10 day race instead of the shorter 6 day race.  He describes how a few years ago he was attempting to run a 47 mile race for the first time.  He realized late in the race that he was in danger of not making the cut off.  He then started picking up his pace and managed to cross the finish line 30 seconds before the race was stopped.  He was amazed at being able to do this and realized then that he had more capacity than he realized.  “Or that more capacity was given to me than I could imagine.”

patanga-stretchingThis experience than created and inspiration within him to then try this race.  “I am not afraid of it, because I do not know it actually.  It felt a bit like looking into the infinite.  You are just staring into the beyond.  It is something you cannot imagine.  Just a completely new experience.  So far every moment, every hour, I have a different experience.  Hard things, good things.  But everything, that’s what makes a day, many good and difficult things.”

“It is better than I thought it would be, definitely.  Still I am in the 3rd day.  I feel that this is the day that I am getting adapted to the race.  So only I feel pain here and there.  Sometimes quite severe but generally my body feels completely fresh, except for one or 2 places here and there.  Where as on other days I felt completely destroyed, or totally tired and everything was aching.  So I think this is the beginning of the real ultra racing.”

I don’t have any mileage number in mind.  I don’t want to do too little.  I feel there is a certain amount which is possible for me to do.  But I don’t know exactly what it is.   I just want to be up to my own capacity.  Or maybe go beyond what my capacity is.”


“In the early morning before I start the race.  I try and meditate a little.  But immediately when I start to focus it comes spontaneously.  The meditation is already there, just waiting.  Here, at every moment in the race there is a certain stillness of mind.  I see things and I don’t react to them in my usual way.  There is a poise and peace of mind, and this goes on throughout the day.  It is so satisfying and fulfilling.  It is not as though I am always looking for something.  Things are there and I can see them and be happy.”


The day is a delightful mix of overcast and sun…….and yes the wind comes too.


Everybody finds the proper footwear no matter how unusal


The finish line calls out again and again but the last lap is still a week away.


Lots of activity going on in the camp.


Laundry dried the old fashioned way.


Last year was the first time that Mark Dorion had missed running the race here in quite a few years.  It took major surgery from keeping him off the track but he came any way and helped out instead for the entire time.  He is not back to his usual running form and says, “I am still recovering obviously.  I felt really good in training over the winter but that is very different than being out here all day and all night.”


“I am out here plugging along and if I am in last place alright.  Believe it or nor, it might change but I am on about the same pace as I have been on other years.”

He tells me how he has been helped tremendously by all the medical help and attention that he has received from the medical.  He says that after a massage you will always feel great even if it is just for an hour or two.”

“The best training for this race is in fact to do it the year before.  But you never know what is going to happen.

Mark Dorion

75 hours and counting


2nd Place man Ananada lahari


Martin goes down for a 15 minute break.


Fred had a tough night and today he is getting some well deserved help from Dr. Mitch Proffman in the medical tent.  “Last night my lower back started bothering me.  I couldn’t straighten up.  I did what I didn’t want to do and that is get in the car and turn on the heat to try and warm it up.”  He confesses that he got lost in the car.  While Mitch is here I am going to go ahead and get this taken care of.”


At this moment Fred is waiting for Mitch to finish with another patient who turns out to be Usika.  When asked what happened to him, Mitch says, “he fell apart last night.”

I ask Usika if this is true, and he laughs.  “Yes, today I am collecting the parts again.”

Mitch says he has found 3 lumbar vertebrae.  “And we put them back in. “So he is going to be fine.”

Fred Medical

medical3A little later I cornered Nirbhasa in medical. I ask him how he is feeling.  “Pretty good.  Thanks be to God my mileage has been consistent.  65 the first day, 60 the second, and 60 the third.  Probably I am an unusual ultra experience so far because I think for a lot of ultra runners it is not like that.  For the first 3 days it has seemed quite clock work for me.  Obviously there have been a few little ups and downs.  Other people seem to be going through tougher times.”

“I was talking to Vasanti before the race and she said something nice.  Her goals first of all were to be cheerful.  Second of all to finish, then 3rd of all to have a particular time frame.  So I am actually trying to put that in order.  Because it is kind of funny when you are out there.  Really the main thing is to stay cheerful.  I am not seriously injury plagued.  I am pretty tired.  But you have to remind yourself when you are out there that there is nothing wrong with you  You can keep going.”

“I guess the basic thing is being in the heart, and not being in the mind.  Because when you are in the mind, even if you are not injured, the mental tedium of grinding out all the miles.  You know, spending 16, 18 hours on the track.  You know just putting out all the miles can just get to be too much.  It can create a lot of mental tension.  So I guess I am just trying to stay in my heart and not in my mind.”

Medical Nirbhasa

Crews continue to work on the camp.


While a few others are just having fun.


I am jogging at a fairly quick pace trying to keep up with Michel Guoin who is right beside me walking.  “To keep energy all day long I am speed walking and running.  I have 3 speeds.”

He reminds me that this is his 6th year at the race.  Last year after trying for quite a few years he set his personal best in the race of 547 miles.  I joke with him and tease him that wouldn’t it be safer not to try and do the race again and not do better.   “I will sit on it but only for one year.  Now I have come back.  It is always a pleasure to be here with all the people.  Especially for all of my family to come here.”


He says he has come this year a little injured, with a bad ankle he picked up in a 48 hour race in Arizona this past winter.  “So that is why I am trying to alternate, to run and to walk, with my speed.”

He says that his son, who has come with him and his wife since the beginning also wants to run in the 6 day race next year.




Michel’s friend Sylvie who starts tomorrow.

sylvie-and-michelPrabala has 117 miles after 2 days.



Question: How does joy help us?

Sri Chinmoy: Every day, every hour, every minute, every second the seeker must know how to open the heart-door of the Supreme. He needs the key, and the name of this key is joy. When the seeker is happy, he not only has the key, but he is the key. The happier the seeker is, the easier it is for him to open up the heart-door of the Supreme. The key is most perfect when the seeker is the happiest of human beings.

Sri Chinmoy, The Significance Of A Smile, Agni Press, 1977



4 thoughts on “April 20: Happiness Is The Key Word”

  1. Reading about the race makes me yearn to be there. My daughter is there to do the Six Day and I wish I could be there too.

  2. Pingback: Multidays.com

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