The 44 runners of the Self Transcendence 6 day race started their epic journeys today. Blessed by a bright blue infinite sky above them, the group set off precisely at noon towards their own individual destinations, dreams, and transcendent goals. Somewhere ahead of them is a finish line of course, but between here and there lies before them countless personal experiences. Events and moments, pleasures and pains, that will shape, change, and transform each one of them. Nothing remains untouched. For nothing can be held back and remain immune to the daunting task of running for 6 days. What calls out to each of them and draws their bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits onward can now no longer be resisted or ignored.
Sound of the start: start
For most multi day runners a 6 day race is a vast and vague blank sheet that with each step forward they gradually engrave their personal experiences, add up victories both great and small, and acknowledge disappointment, pain, fatigue and failure as things that must be dealt with as they continue relentlessly onward. Some may compete one with another but for most here the real competition and life long adversary are the faceless doubts and nagging imperfections that cling to our fragile mortality.
In the papers today a new picture was posted of a nebula that exists some 1500 light years away from us. It is a place where new stars are now forming on the distant edges of what man’s most advanced technology can see.
Scientists can picture these marvels but most likely mankind will never venture to these places, that lie out beyond the vastness of space. But our imaginations and our hearts can push us outwards into the infinite. Our dreams and prayers can form deep within us and rise up into the heavens. And 6 days from now these 44 runners will still be running here in Flushing Meadow, until that moment of course when the clock simply runs out of time. They each will cross a finish line one last time, and they, as well as the 10 day runners, will have completed the self transcendence race for 2013.
They will be able to accurately measure their miles. They can also mark and note all the things done right and push aside all the things that perhaps went wrong. But then they will return to the regular world from which they have made this brief escape from. Life will go on, and then they, and you, and I, will all simply continue on our paths leading always towards our own perfection.
Sri Chinmoy, The Wings Of Light, Part 3, Agni Press, 1974
“I have the American record for for 48 hours set 2 years ago. So I am going to the next step to see what I can do for 6 days.” Philip McCarthy looks relaxed and happy in the few brief quiet moments before the start of his race. When asked when his last 48 race was, “I tried one last year about this time but it didn’t go so well. It got very cold and I didn’t make some smart choices. Now I am going into unknown territory.”
“I live in Washington Heights and I have been interested in this for quite some time. I have come out here in the past to help out some runners and to watch, and I thought, I just want to try a 6 day, and this is the one I definitely want to do. I know it is a great set up here, and you have got everything, and amazing people staffing the race and amazing people running it. It will be a nice friendly atmosphere. Hometown crowd, so I can have some people coming out and helping me.”
Like a good poker player Philip politely declines to reveal any mileage goals that he has at this time. Then he adds, “I really don’t know, it is unknown territory. I am going to be taking some risks. It could be something really big or I could crash and burn, we’ll see.”
No matter what happens to Phillip, the moment he stays on the course longer than 48 hours he will be entering into a brand new experience for him. “Self transcendence is definitely part of why I run, especially for the longer ultras. I feel that is one of the things that I get out of it. That you transcend your every day normal self and you reach another state of mind.”
Kumar Limbu an endurance athlete born in Nepal and now living in Flushing is running this race for the first time. He has lots of experience on hilly terrain but this will be his first time on a flat one mile loop. He first visited the race last year because he is friends with Alan Young and runner Allan was helping last year. He is not predicting how he will do but is simply looking forward to running and seeing what he can do. “I want to make a new Nepali record.” Which of course will be immediately created once Kumar completes the race as no Nepali has ever run 6 days.
Allan Young tells me that he first met Kumar while on a trek in Nepal. He told Allan that if he got a visa he would come to Scotland and would like to run the West Highland way race. Allan did not take much notice. He says, “you never meet the trek people again in you life. 3 months later I get a call. Namaste, Kumar here. You know Gatwick airport, write this number down. I come Wednesday….click. The phone went dead.”
“He came with a back pack, a change of clothes, a bottle of ointment, a poly book, and a Scottish telephone number.” Kumar went on to win the West Highland way in a record time 6 hours and 25 minutes.
“I have done 4 or 5 24 hour races. I think the goal was always to do the muli days. I felt the 24 hour races were just a training program. Progressing gradually over the 4 or 5 years. Rasmivan from Bristol England looks confident and fit before the start of the race. “I have been sort of in training for this for the past 2 years. I was hoping to do it last year but I just felt that I wasn’t ready. 12 months have gone by and I feel that I am much stronger.”
His real goal this race he says, “is to ultimately remain as cheerful as I possibly can right up until the end.” On a practical level he says he would like to average 60 miles a day. “That is an estimate, I have no expectations this is my first time. I just don’t know how my body is going to react on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th day.”
“I think with me is that I always like overcoming obstacles and challenges. I think sometimes when you have to struggle at things it certainly gives me enjoyment. It is an achievement and is the idea that you are making progress. Because sometimes in the races when you think things are going to go well you have issues and problems. But it is all about just staying in there. It is not ultimately the end result. It is what happens during the race is more important.”
He describes how he feels that by going beyond 24 hours he will be better able to see, “what is inside me. That will definitely be quite revealing. It will open up other avenues I think. Probably finding out more about me.”
“It is going to be a run with the heart and soul I think and certainly not the mind. As soon as you start going into the mind then I think there will be issues and putting up problems that are not necessarily there. I think it is for me to totally surrender to whatever experience that I have here. And take that with me through the rest of the year and on to the next challenges.”
Sahishnu’s introductions: Sahishnu
Band of brothers
Bob Oberkher and friends
Not to be forgotten are of course those brave souls who started the 10 race 4 days ago. Smarana says he is not doing so well physically but otherwise very nice. His feet are in fact quite swollen and he has painful blisters.
“This time I was coming to deepen my inner peace. Since I have a different attitude this time, I don’t have these expectations or I tried not to have and I lost the rest of it. So I don’t have anything that is freaking me out. Or pushing me to do this or that. I just want to be in the now. Enjoy the moment. Savor the moment. And whatever happens except it as it is.”
He has run the 3100 mile race 7 times but also has a deep respect for any of the multi day races. “Each one is amazing step that you take. Since I have so many problems in this race. I can appreciate people much more. Even when they only make 30, 40, or 50 miles. Because just the effort is admirable. If you don’t fool around and you really do your thing that is what really counts.”
He feels that he was always a little haughty about the shorter races but because he is now suffering he looks upon them with renewed respect. “It helps me have more oneness with others, and appreciate others much more. I am very grateful for this opportunity for myself. To learn how to have more of this oneness and have this family feeling and in this way I am very happy to be here.”
There are many helpers here.
There are all kinds of family gathered here.
“This year I feel a new beginning, as Pranika (a dear friend who has had health problems) begins a new life, I am beginning a new race.” Dipali has an incredible streak of 15 straight victories in the 6 day race, but there has been a lot of unexpected struggle for her in the past year. “I feel tremendously full of gratitude. This morning I felt this incredible blissful feeling and I felt that it was coming from my soul. I can’t explain it. I have never felt so happy at the start of a race, ever, ever, ever.”
She says that one of the feelings that became stronger for her in the last year was, ‘to always remember how precious life is.” Her sense right now is that this race may be the most significant one she has ever taken part in ever in her entire running career. “Everything is new. Everything is fresh and even a new feeling of gratitude.” As we are running she tells me that she is dedicating this race to her late spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and as well to her friend Pranika, who has gone through so much in the past year. Which by chance we happen to come upon at that moment walking along the track.
Pranika tells me that she has just found out about this very special dedication. Dipali left her a letter describing this in which she was not allowed to open until this morning. Pranika tells me that the moment she had her health problem Dipali gave up her running career to help her. “She stayed for a whole month with me in the hospital. She helped bring me back to life. I am so grateful.”
The front runners together
Louis Rios setting his own pace.
More family….Stutisheel and Alakanada
Last year Jayasalini had a Russian film crew doing a documentary on her race. She says, “it was a wonderful experience. I think everybody, them and me enjoyed this.
They made a film and it came on tv, and I know that quite a few people watched it, and enjoyed it. It is really inspiring.” When asked if it took away from her achieving her best results she suggests that it may have taken away some of her time but it gave her back much more when it came to joy.
“This is my 7th time that I am here. This is lucky 7. 5 10 day races and this is my 2nd 6 day race.” Her decision to do the shorter race is because she has only limited time off from her job and also has gotten very inspired to also participate and train in triathlons. “I have done 2 full distance triathlons and this is also really something. I just recently started to really enjoy swimming. This winter I did a lot of swimming, almost as much as I did running.”
This July she is planning on entering her 3rd triathlon. Each time she has competed she has improved her time.
“This is the 4th time that my Mom has come, and she looks forward to it every year. This race unites families. We live in different cities so this race is the time that we can be together.”
“This race is very special, it is my priority. The races that the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team put on are totally different experiences. They are very very special. Of course first of all this is an internal journey. I recently realized that there are a few things that really form your life. And this 6 and 10 day race is something that totally changed me and gave me so much, so much. Of course every year I want to come again and again. This is what makes me happy.”
Be good and remain good.
Be perfect and remain perfect.
If you are already good,
Then transcend your goodness.
If you are already perfect,
Then transcend your perfection.
Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 16, Agni Press, 1983
3 responses to “April 21: Towards Our Own Perfection”
Thank you Utpal,
now with so many runners
there are so many stories to write.
Your are my favorite news!
Thank you so much for your daily journal. Your selfless contributions are tremendously inspiring and insightful. I love the blend of text and photo’s of which you have a perfect balance. Say hello to Nirbhasa for me, he is doing really well! Gratitude, Sadanand
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