On Saturday morning when Ashprihanal arrived at the race he stepped up on the edge of the curb and stretched his calves, just as he has done every day here. He was directly in front of the numbers board as he did this. I could see that he was looking at the mileage he still had left to do. Speaking to no one in particular, he said, “the old Ashprihanal could do that”.
What it showed was that he had 65 miles or 119 more laps to go. A number he had not met in more than 3 weeks. In my mind, the person I was looking at was just a slightly diminished version, of one of the greatest multi day runners of all time, Ashprihanal. One who was incredibly talented, certainly still capable of majestic flying around the course, and probably the guy who would not finish until sometime the next day. I was wrong.
Being by nature a little cautious I called the race late in the afternoon to see how he was doing. It was then that I learned the shocking news that Ashprihanal was flying once again as he has always done here before. That on this his 12th incredible race he was going to pull off one of those little miracles that seem to rise up out of nowhere. One of those moments that show you that impossibility can be put aside when you find the strength from within to make it possible.
The caliber of this miracle is not quite like what happened to Lasse Viren at the 1972 Olympic games when he fell while running in the 10,000 meter race. For what happened there is perhaps one of the greatest moments in all of sports. The Finnish runner Viren got up off the track and then sprinted as fast as he could. He not only caught up with the pack, but he also won the race. Setting a world record in the process.
“I have been having a problem with back, my hip, and my knee. And I have not been able to do 60 miles on only a few days. That is not my normal self. Because normally 60 is very easy for me. My standard is more like 70. Today the problem is totally gone. So today I could do 70. I am definitely going to finish, no problem. I would have been moving if my body had worked.” I ask him then why is his body now working. “Just Guru’s grace. That is what happened.”
“I didn’t go to any Doctors or anything like that. A lot of joy yesterday. 2 great finishers. Today was very nice running with Suprabha.” Someone he has shared the course with many times with over the years. He says that Vasu who won the race the day before was very impressive. “He was always in a good consciousness, always listening to Sri Chinmoy’s music, always inspired by asking stories about Sri Chinmoy. Just a great guy.” He says he told Vasu several stories from his own life.
Ashprihanal has been carrying a small bell now for almost a lap. Sometime earlier in the evening Surasa had completed 3000 miles and he had wanted to honor her. He rings it now over on the other side of the course. She says, “O so nice.” She also says that when she came by the counters she had no idea that she had reached that great number.
A few jokes are made about the old Ashprihanal vs. the new Ashprihanal. He says, “let’s say the healthy one. I definitely think I am going to run again. That is my plan, but maybe I take a year off. This race has been mentally good for me. I have been happy.”
2 years ago after the race I was physically and mentally exhausted. I really needed a year off. This year I am not. I am even physically okay. Yesterday I would have said that physically I am not okay. I am very happy that whatever the problem was it went away. Everything is good now.”
Your business is to begin. God’s business is to finish.
Sri Chinmoy, Flame-Goal, Agni Press, 1973
“Ladies and gentlemen this is another extraordinary event in the annals of the 3100 mile history. Because Ashprihanal has now completed the race 12 times. Finishing in what most people would die for. A time of 48 days, 16 hours, and 14 minutes. Which is an average of 63.68 miles a day or 102.94 km a day. He is the 2nd fastest all time and 7 time winner of the race. This year finishing 3rd. Congratulations from the marathon team and all the helpers. You are the best. Guru once said of him, running 700 miles is like drinking water.”
“He is Finland’s treasure and our joy, Ashprihanal.” Sahishnu.
The Board this morning shows that Pranjal will finish in about 8 hours time
Ashprihanal is once again at the starting line because he wants to complete 5,000 km today. And maybe because he wants to perform one more play.
It is just one of those perfect days to run.
Pranjal has 31 miles to go.
“In the morning I am always sleepy. The morning is not for running it is for sleeping.” He is clearly exhausted and yet he never ever stops moving on the course. I ask him if it is possible to be even more tired than he already is. “I don’t know. I have never tried. I have never gone over 50 days.”
He is slower this year and doesn’t really know the answer for it. “I don’t know my legs are not so strong. Only in the beginning did I have problems I had a bad stomach for one day. The rest was okay but I am just slower.”
He then asks me to take this picture.
I ask him if it is like his car at home and he jokes, “I have 2 of these.”
“My blisters were not as bad as I used to have. Even the weather wasn’t bad this year. There was this stretch of 7 days when we had very hot weather, and a few days over 30, but the rest were just nice.”
He says that even in the winter he was doing more speed training.
He has been doing a video blog for the past 2 years. This year he has been doing it in English for the first time and it has been a great way to get some of his unique insights into the race. He first started doing a written one, but this he says, “is a little bit faster for me.”
“It helps me after a day of running to just take my mind somewhere else. To focus on something else. I like computers and I like to sit there and work with this video. It doesn’t take that much time. It is okay for me.”
I ask him about emptying the mind. “I just try and push away all the distractions. I just try and stay focused on running. I sometimes do not even look at the people who are cheering me. I don’t talk very much to people. I found out that if you give attention to people, you are giving your energy also. It is not much, but it is always a little bit. Just a drop of energy. This way I just try and focus my energy on my running. I know sometime people think that I am ignoring them, but for me it is really important to stay focused on running. It is not even something that I consciously believe. It is just part of me.”
About his motivation. “I feel that Guru or God gave me this capacity to do this race so I have to use this capacity. I feel it is my duty to be here. It is not that I am thinking about maybe being here, it just happens that, ‘I WILL BE HERE.’ It is much easier when you have no choice, it is much easier. Your mind is not trying to fool you. Trying to take you to something easier.”
“It is part of my life. I am working at home and I am here. Here is more fulfilling. I am really alive here because it is totally intense. Normally you cannot experience this intensity in normal life. I found in my first races that it is very hard to get back to normal life. Because you experience something so intense for 2 months. That after that everything is just boring. Not interesting. Nothing can fulfill you. It is really really hard to get back to this normal life.”
His solution to do this he says, “is like turning the page. This is like one side of life, this race. You turn the page and you come back to your life before. Then you can bring something from that page, from this race,to your regular life. But you have to be really focused on that normal life. Even this focus you have during the race you can use in your normal life. Especially in the spiritual life you can use it.”
It is a great day
Ashprihanal flies and flies and flies
Surasa has just 86 miles now to do.
She is having an extraordinary race
She ran 113 laps yesterday.
She will finish tomorrow morning.
Corrina changing the board for a big moment soon to come.
This morning there is a brief moment when Sarvagata reaches 3000 miles.
He could finish tomorrow night
Yuri continues to do so well. He did 115 laps yesterday.
So inspiring to see him run when he is strong and healthy
To see him enjoying so much about what has happened to him in every way.
The Swami is here today.
He identifies himself so much with self transcendence.
When Nidhruvi finishes on Tuesday only then will it all be over
So incredible to see her run so consistently .
She did 112 laps yesterday and has 152 more miles to go.
Not ever that easy.
Sopan has made 2700 miles yesterday.
Even he doesn’t know for sure what the next few days hold for him.
But there is a nice moment of distraction when he and Ashprihanal perform a play.
That involves water balloons thrown by the Enthusiasm Awakeners.
“Heh Sopan did you have a bath this morning.”
“No I didn’t.”
“O, You must be dirty.”
“I wish somebody had some water balloons so we could have a really good shower.”
“This is why they call them the Enthusiasm Awakeners.”
Vasu is here to enjoy the singing.
Once he finishes his 5000 km Ashprihanal joins as well.
Many things are less than serious here.
Special moments happen that touch you in ways big and small.
Baladev running strongly this morning.
On this day so many things seem easier
Ananda-Lahari listening to his own deep inner voice.
Sarah overcoming so much, including the flu a day ago,
She has done so much here and deserves to be proud of her achievement.
All of this will be gone so very soon.
“ladies and gentlemen,our 4th finisher Pranjal has finished for the 9th straight time. He is 12th ranked in the world. This year he ran 49 days, 7 hours, and 57 minutes. Which is 62.8 miles per day or 101.3 km a day. This man is unflappable. Nothing bothers him. He has such clear vision. He loves this race. He epitomizes self transcendence. When he came here his first year it took him 59 days to finish the race, and his best is 47 days.”
“Even this year with the heat wave he was strong throughout.”
“From the marathon team and all the helpers a huge thank you.” Sahishnu
Poem of the day
Recited by Pranjal
From start to finish,
Only to be close to God.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 48, Agni Press, 2007