July 3: I Can Never Stop

“It was the toughest day of the race for me.”  Not just for Sopan but for quite a few other runners Tuesday’s humidity, created a challenge for them that some simply could not adapt or adjust to easily.  In our minds we can easily make the assumption that it has to be hard to go so far with so little sleep.  But until you have been absorbed in the steamy embrace of a New York summer’s day, you simply do not know how daunting the weather can be as well to your performance.  How this additional burden can adversely affect not just muscles but also how it can strain minds.

wilouhette

Yet despite being bullied by the humidity all day Sopan somehow found his way back up to a good lap count of 111, and was able to cross the 1000 mile barrier. “Feels like a good sign. I only have to get more organized in the evenings at home and go quicker to bed and get the extra sleep I so much need.”

ashprihanal2

Last year both he and Ashprihanal went to an amusement park called Six Flags.  “I think they have the world’s fastest and highest roller coasters.  The roller coasters other places do not compare.  Americans really know how to make roller coasters.  I don’t know how high and how fast you go.  It only takes a few seconds but those seconds are really a lot of fun.”

roller-coaster

Quite often we try and use the metaphor of the roller coaster to describe our lives.  Personally when I looked at this picture Sopan took of the roller coaster he rode last year I simply could not even imagine getting on one.  Or more importantly, how doing so would be in the complete opposite direction of my own idea of a fun time.  Yet for Sopan and Ashprihanal a ride like this is all excitement, and an adrenalin rush.  “So much joy.  We really had a lot of fun.”

Going to an Amusement Park offers harmless enjoyment to millions of people around the world.  Most people when offered the opportunity, to either go have a day of relaxing fun, or instead, spend the next two months struggling and suffering while running on an unforgiving sidewalk in New York, would not hesitate for a second making up their minds which they would choose.

Sopan and Ashprihanal and the other 10 runners here of course made a very significant and life transforming decision to run this race.  Each day, no matter how it outwardly appears, still sees them inexorably climbing slowly and steadily  upward.

There will be stumbles and tumbles both physically, mentally and spiritually as each day passes.  How they will eventually feel when this extraordinary ride of life completes its circuit here is still a long way off.  No matter what outwardly happens, their inner experiences here will all represent real inner progress.  The heat, humidity, and suffering will come and go but not the transcendence.

Ashprihanal says, “When you finish this race you feel so good.  You feel that you really deserve to sit down.  That is the reward of this race.”

ashprihanal 2

Photo by Bhashwar

Photo by Bhashwar

The outer run intimidates my body.
The inner run liberates my body.
The outer run tells me
When to start and when to stop.
The inner run tells me
Once I start I can never stop.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 30, Agni Press, 1982

Some early morning counters discuss when they will sign up again

pre-counter

Some seem not bothered by the weather like Vasu

pre-vasu

Surasa also seems unfazed by the humidity.

pre-surasa

Sarah proudly displays a shoe personally tailored by Ray K last night.  Designed especially to help the blister on the back of her heel.

pre-ray-k

Petra visiting from London tries to be at the race as much as she can.  She will even be here when the camp breaks down at midnight.

pre-camp

Meanwhile he who enjoys roller coasters has to sit this morning, if only briefly to work on a blister.

pre-ashprihanal

Start

start

The weather will remain sticky all day with thundershowers in the evening.

flower6

Umbrellas strategically placed out on the course will come in handy.

umbrella

The journey always so, so, far.

wide-nidhruvi

Yesterday Sarvagata started to look like the runner we are all most familiar with here.  He ran by far the most laps, 132.  It is not just that he has become stronger outwardly but you can feel his gathering inner strength as well.

sarvagata

Ashprihanal ran 130 laps and always so light and swift.  He has a much different kind of strength and capacity.

ashprihanal3

Atmavir also had his toughest day and ran low mileage for him 111 laps.

atmavir

Atmavir is still ahead of last years pace by more than 100 miles

flower

Sarah continues to press on despite blisters and pain.  Arpan helps her with additional shoes.

sarah's-shoes

She is getting not just a little extra care out on the course.  Once again a mysterious new but useful creation has popped up on the course.

sarah-station-sopan

It is a kind of thing that brings harmless joy to all the runners.  Spontaneously it will grow throughout the day.  Surasa is inspired to add some wild flowers

surasa-and-aid-station

Surasa of course is still doing well but gets a little medical advice from nurse Bahula

surasa-and-bahula

Vasu is so incredibly strong and consistent

vasu6

Nikolay is watching out for him.

vasu-and-shoe

“I am just here visiting.”  Alakananda is someone who has experienced the race in just about all its aspects for the past 8 years.  She has helped her Dad Stutisheel on every summer that he ran here.  Her very presence, if even for just a week somehow goes at least a little way to make up for the huge vacuum of his absence here, for the first time in many years.

alakananda

“I think I will be back next summer full time, just the way I used to be.”   She first came when she was just 13 years old.  Stutisheel had run his first race here in 2004.  “He got so excited and liked it so much, he felt really inspired to bring me here the next year.  He felt it would be a really good experience for me.  Which it turned out to be a really amazing.  Probably the best thing he had ever done for me.”

alakananda3

Photo by Jowan 2006

Photo by Jowan 2006

“Introducing me to this race is definitely a life changing thing.  In so many ways.  I cannot imagine my life without the race.  It has been my home for so many years.”

“I have been coming here for every single summer.  Besides being just a place it is also a battle ground.  Where you transcend your own weaknesses.”

She describes that nothing is easy about the experience either for the runners or the helpers.

 

“You have to practice your devotion and self giving.  It is a big deal, and if you go through it successfully, you come out a better person.”

alakananda

Baladev and Atmavir say they have similar constitutions.  Baladev also struggled yesterday with the humidity, and finds the little ways to keep going.

baladev-and-ice

When Nidhruvi arrived this morning she looked at the board and exclaimed.  “Look only 10 miles more to make 1000.”

nidhruvi

Her day got a boost yesterday when she managed to get her mileage up by a lot, 106 laps.  She is getting encouragement in many ways.

nidhruv-letter

Some things are perfect just the way they are.

flower2

And sometimes nature needs just a little bit of help.

parvati-and-solution

Kodanda contributes some flute music

kodanda

kodanda

Always looking for peace

peace

Some like Rupantar have to work a little harder than others

rupantar's-list

Some have the job of just being spectator

dog

 

Everything grows in its own way

flower3

“Actually it is very funny.”  Yesterday Atmavir created a little display on the far side of the course and with a marker made it say Ananda-Lahari’s 99 cent store.   He said that today that Sarah’s aid station is also giving everyone joy and that the most important thing there now is chocolate.  “It is the cure of all our injuries and problems, for everything. (laughs)  I am just kidding.”

pedro's-list

“I am running.   Let’s see.  It is the 3rd running day for me.  You never know what you get.  So let’s see what will happen.”

ananda lahari

Yuri had a more than good day yesterday with 119 laps.

yuri3

Some local girls enjoying the flowers

visitors

The sun comes and goes, but the journey remains

sun-floer

Pranjal’s shoes are doing a good job he says by lasting 6 days instead of 4

pranjal's-shoes

Pranjal says, “I had to push to finish every lap.  It was very very hard.”  He still completed 112 laps.

pranjal2

Prayer

prayer

Recited by Alakananda

Prayer

Enthusiasm Awakeners

parvati

parvati

When God touches
The divine in me,
I run and run
Towards my Destined Goal.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 36, Agni Press, 2004

flower4

2 Comments to “July 3: I Can Never Stop”

  1. Francesco says:

    Great job Utpal
    Thank You!

  2. Stutisheel says:

    Utpal, thanks for nice interview with Alakananda. I’m feeling so happy that she is at the Race

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