Sometimes sport stories have a way of inspiring us like nothing else can. An athlete or a team when faced with incredible odds and formidable adversity simply rises up to the challenge and performs something just this side of miraculous. We are instantly inspired and amazed by what we have witnessed and the world around us seems not quite so ordinary. That special things can and do happen and just maybe we might be able to do something great as well.
One of my favorite runners is a man named Johnny Miles who comes from a small town in Nova Scotia Canada. He was a naturally talented runner and his father decided to train him so that he could enter the Boston Marathon. He taught himself how to coach by simply reading about other marathoners, who there weren’t that many of in the 1920’2.
Somehow Johnny’s dad got the idea that he should run 100 miles a week to prepare. In the summers this was easy, running on country roads in and around where he lived. But the marathon is in the Spring time and winters linger cold and late in that part of the world. On his last long training run it had snowed, he once told me, and the roads were impassable. He said his father told him that he should run on the railway tracks instead because they were always plowed.
When he arrives in Boston in 1926 he is just 21 years old. He has no real idea of how to run this thing he has trained so hard for. His Dad says that what he should do is simply follow the favorite in the race named Clarence DeMar who had won the race the 3 previous years. Quite to his surprise however was the appearance of Albin Stenroos from Finland who was also world famous. The local press were ecstatic. Before them they thought was an epic battle between the 2 greatest marathon runners of the day.
Except of course nobody knew this kid from Nova Scotia who simply followed the great ones until they fell apart. To his surprise he was alone in front of the pack, not really knowing what was going to happen next. If in fact the other 2 would somehow come back and challenge him again. Eventually a car came by with some marathon officials who yelled out to him. “You’ve got it, kid, You’ve got it.” Johnny Miles then went on to win the race and set a course record of 2:25.
Nobody probably noticed the moment when it exactly happened. The clipboards of the counters are always kept up to date but there is always a gap between what they say and the numbers which the big board are showing. But sometime yesterday Ashprihanal was passed by Atmavir. The day was also brutally hot for everyone here. It was once again a day when people were trying just to keep moving. Not worrying about how many laps they would make but just how to finish the one in front of them.
What is happening to him now is eerily similar to 2 years ago when his great soaring flight to the finish line was shockingly interrupted. On day 39 he was overwhelmed by this devilish New York weather. After this he then had to battle for another 8 days just to make it to the finish line. An heroic and supreme effort by anybody’s reckoning.
What he faces now though is much more formidable. For what stretches out in front of him is the imposing reality of 870 more miles. Yesterday he walked all day and today he is doing much the same. In the days ahead the weather is supposed to improve and perhaps his wings will come out an he will fly once more.
But this race is always much more about what we don’t see then what we do. For each runner here yesterday the conditions were simply so shocking it was hard really grasp how anyone could go on. Yet Ashprihanal found in his legs and his heart 74 laps. Doing so with a courage and strength that we have grown accustomed to now over the years.
The only thing certain now is with each new lap he walks and each new day at the race, he is entering a new and unfamiliar world within himself. One that is challenging him in a way that Ashprihanal, the flying Finn, has never had to face before. Yet the destination has still not changed despite all this. It has always been and will continue to be his own perfection.
Train your mind
Train your heart
Train your life
The morning starts just a little overcast and a hint of a breeze.
Sarah has found a place she is most comfortable with here now.
Pranjal deals with a new blister
Today is Atamavir’s 35th birthday. The runners all honor him at the beginning and sing for him.
He has transformed so much since he first began the race 7 years ago.
The heat has never been his friend and yet he has found a way to tolerate as he never had before. He even did the most laps yesterday 104
“I will try and offer gratitude and gratitude to Sri Chinmoy, all day. It is all his grace that we are here.”
By late afternoon a few little cool showers will pass by.
Ashprihanal has so much support here in so many ways.
Others like Ananda-Lahari have found a way to endure the walking world. Who completed 79 laps yesterday.
When you simply watch it is hard to understand why things happen the way they do.
Baladev was very happy to get 101 laps yesterday.
His goal is still clear
Sopan struggles like his friend Ashprihanal but finding peace and finding more laps are still possible.
Yuri walked all day yesterday and did 59 laps.
Today he looks stronger and happier and the confidence that he can overcome this challenge is coming back.
He receives encouraging words from one so much like himself and has also known his fair share of troubles here.
Vasu managed 102 laps yesterday and has 900 miles more to run.
Nature touching the course in many ways.
A birthday card is prepared for Atmavir
It gets so full of names and tributes as the day goes on.
The 2 mile race goes on across the street this morning. Snehashila knows no other way but to kick it in at 88 years of age.
Encouragement when you need it.
Little things almost missed
Feet don’t fail me now.
Sarvagata still has some magic left to show.
He did 101 laps yesterday
He is just 11 miles behind Vasu
Pedro watching the water
Lunch is served
“It was really really hard for everybody and just a day to survive.” Pranjal
Pranjal did manage to complete 100 laps though
Sundar comes this morning and offers to make him a little aerodynamic or maybe it is just a haircut.
From tiny things comes greatness.
In close you can see in Surasa’s eyes a great power
But having a team is so important. Someone said to me today that a helper can mean you save 11 seconds each lap, or 20 minutes in total a day.
Finding strength and beauty in the smallest things
Atmavir does not have a helper but he feels his shoes are special
There is so much support as well in many other ways.
Nidhruvi passed 2000 miles in the depths of a very hot afternoon yesterday. “I had a deep feeling. For 4 or 5 laps I was totally concentrated. And I chanted all the time ‘gratitude.’
I ask her why some are more affected by the heat than others. “It is like in life an up and down. Everybody goes through injuries in this long race. I think it is almost unavoidable. But it makes us stronger.”
“The thing that I actually did yesterday because it was so hot. I really saw many of the boys really suffering. I was just praying inwardly to the Supreme to please help them. That they would be able to run again. And just to help them overcome what ever it was that they had to overcome and go through. To make them stronger. That they don’t loose hope and somehow also stay happy.”
“If you are a true runner than you have to go through everything. You have to know everything, you have to accept these kind of experiences.” Speaking now about Ashprihanal she believes that up until now he has never had the experience of only being able to walk for days and days. “I think this gives him another view of running and of this race. To see it from that angle.”
She says that she has spoken to him about this and noted that he seemed happy and at peace. “I was very surprised and pleased with him.”
“After 6 or 7 days I start to loose weight. I think I have lost 7 kilos but now my helpers are trying to fill me up like anything. I have to really force myself to eat and especially to drink.”
There is a little breeze sweeping brightly over us as we run. “It is blissful. It is just bliss. This cool wind I am eternally grateful for, to have one day to be able to breathe. I hope it lasts for some time. You know it is New York and it is summer time. NY is known to be really humid and what can we do. It is really tough and rough, but we have to go through it and we have to finish this race.”
“There is no celebration before 3100. I celebrate at 1000 it is special. 2700 is special. I will just be grateful inwardly. I have to reach 3100 then I can start celebrating.”
111 amazing laps yesterday
Prayer of the day
Recited by Atmavir
You are looking for
The perfect seeker.
Why not train yourself
To be that perfect seeker?
Start with yourself.
Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 222, Agni Press, 1995