July 13: My Favorite Place

“It is my favorite place.” By all outer appearances there is nothing about this simple sidewalk, that goes around a school and a park that would ever make it onto any travelers must see lists.    Visitors to New York, like Suprabha, could easily find more beautiful and more interesting sites than this.

It is place that is simply so ordinary that on the surface there is nothing about it that would catch your eye.  Yet despite this, it still has a powerful and compelling way of capturing your heart.  Then when it has done this,  it is somehow able to open up limitless vistas of possibility within you.  Not something any other half mile rectangle of concrete could possibly do.

Suprabha

There is certainly nobody who is more connected and invested to this place quite like Surprabha.  She lives in DC and has a gift shop there and only occasionally visits Queens.  Yet so much of her life, both inner and outer has taken place right here over the past 14 summers.   It is quite natural, and no stretch of the imagination to assume then, that a part of her will always be connected to it.

There are some who might make a strong claim that this place is also theirs.  Let anyone claim it as their own, their very own.  There is more than enough hard concrete and golden dreams of Transcendence  here to satisfy everybody who wishes to be a part of it.

Yet Suprabha has certainly spent more time, and run more miles, and journeyed far far beyond the hard 43,000 miles that she has run here over those long hot 14 summers, starting in 1996.

suprabha-today2

On this quiet Sunday morning we stroll casually around the loop.  The clock is not running, and no one is counting her laps.  Instead it is just a brief visit to her favorite place. She points out some of the sites that she enjoyed the most.  “This stretch I love.  You come around the curve until you see the buses.  In the evening it is so peaceful.”

It was in 1986 that she ran her first really long race of 200 miles.  It was at a time, just 2 years after women were allowed to compete in the Olympic marathon.  “Sri Chinmoy really introduced it for us.  He actually encouraged a small team of girls.  His vision was to bring women into the running picture I think.”

I mention that Ray had said that it was not impossible to imagine that a girl could be an overall winner here.  “Look at Dipali, she is often second overall.  She is amazing and she has the women’s world record.  I think women have qualities that lend themselves to super long distance.  Like patience and perseverance.”

suprabha-and-surasa

“I feel extremely lucky to have participated in all the races.  It gives me joy to come back and see them (the runners in this years race) go around.”

“When I run any time of the year here, when I come to New York I really do try and bring back some of the things that happened here.”  We are coming along by the Grand Central and she mentions that Sri Chinmoy visited the race so often, “he probably stopped at every foot around the course.”

“We are so lucky.  He was here so many times.”

She says that even after his passing in 2007 and she went on to run the race another 2 years, she still felt his presence.  “Everything is still happening the way it always was.  There is still so much oneness.  There is still so much love.   There are still so many ways to participate, to offer something, and to receive something.  It is still all being generated from the same source.”

Click to Play Interview:

Suprabha

Paradise is the place
Where my heart wants to grow.
Paradise is the place
Where my mind wants to know.
Paradise is the place
Where my soul wants to sow–Sow the seed of perfection.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 62, Agni Press, 1983

suprabha-and-ckg

Photo by Jowan

Yesterday was a typical day.  Yet one thing the board shows is just how tenacious William is at trying to gather up a few extra miles every day now.

board

Sarvagata had the most laps yesterday with 127.

pre-bikes

Ananda-Lahari had a great day with 107 laps.  The most he has done since day 3.

pre-ananda-lahari3

The girls arrive

pre-arrival2

Rupantar does his video.

pre-rupantar

Something discussed.

pre-girls

Ananda-Lahari has nothing to say

pre-ananda-lahari

Yuri asking for some things to be picked up for him.

pre-yuri

Start Day 29

start

His performance has been extraordinary.  Sarvagata is having a tremendous race here this year.

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His face always showing something different.  As though he is exploring new places inside that he has not visited before

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Certainly not always serious.  He is after all trying to experience happiness in a new way.

sarvagata-and-sarah

Yet he knows the importance of always moving.  He starts the day with 1965 miles.  He did 127 laps yesterday.

sarvagata4

And today one more milestone.  A big one, 2000 miles.

 

 

Photo by Sarvadhara

Photo by Sarvadhara

His momentum perhaps so great he can pull others along with him.

sarvagata2

Yuri had 122 laps yesterday.

flower-yuri

He is nearly 100 miles ahead of last year.  The cooler weather has definitely been a friend to him.

yuri2

He receives a message this morning that gave him great joy.

yuri-and-letter

Pranjal did 118 laps and has 1833 miles.  50 More than last year.

flower-pranjal2

“It is the end of week 4.  Almost one month is over.”

“This year has been very special.  I do not remember such good weather.  The rain has been only short.  That’s it.”

pranjal2

“We also have not had much hot weather, as we usually have.  So far we can’t complain about the weather.  I have not any problems with injuries, blisters, or anything.  So I can’t complain about that.  It is really great and I am really happy about that.”

“I think my mileage is pretty good, it is not my best, but I haven’t checked it.”

course-corner

He has 1833 miles which is 50 more than last year.

“It doesn’t really matter to me, I just try and do my best.”

pranjal4

He has also lost 3 pounds since last week. “It’s not so bad so far I have lost 18 pounds.  I hope my weight goes down slowly, in that way I won’t slow down quickly.”

“I’m a little bit slower than I used to be.”

He says that most of the runners are doing well, particularly Sarvagata, “in the evening he is incredible.  He is just so fast and was flying around.”

flower-pranjal

I have been waiting for…..at least 3 seconds.  I wonder what is keeping Joe.

flower-bird3

The season is slowing changing.  New flowers in bloom now.

flower5

Vasu had 122 laps yesterday.

vasu-camp

He has 1790 miles so far this year.

vasu

There has been a problem with some monkeys the last few days.

camp-monkey

Hastakamala staying out of the monkey zone and working on the board and generally helping at the race in whatever way she can.

camp-hastakamala

Casey is still inspired even after 2 days of being here.  Her shirt is also an inspiration to everyone as well.

casey2

She tells me that she saw a poem that particularly inspired her.

casey-3

She loved the last line in particular.

casey4

Always bits of green and the sound of shoes scuffing by.

flower4

Stutisheel had 110 laps yesterday.

stutisheel

He performed for the Enthusiasm Awakeners and they in turn play a trick on him.

stutisheel-and-parvati

This is the audio of his and Sopan’s performance.

stutisheel play

Today a lot of sports are being played in and around the course.

stutisheel-profile

Enjoying some time with friends along the way.

stutisheel-and-boys

The Enthusiasm Awakeners not here for long but an important part of the day.

flower-parvati

Sarah ran 114 laps yesterday.

flower-sarah

As of this morning she has 1744 miles which is an average pace of 62.24 miles.

sarah

Suprabha’s world record of 62.49 was set in 1998.

sarah-behind

Jayasalini again had 110 laps.

flower-good

So often finding strength in her happiness.

jayasalini2

Other times she is simply tired like everyone else.

jayasalini3

Getting such great support from her friends and team.

jayasalini-helper

Learning from those who have a little more experience, and feeling the energy and strength that she did not know she had.

jayasalini

Another great day to run.

flower3

Teekshanam has encountered a series of physical issues over the past 2 days that he is having to work out.

teekshanam

Currently there is a problem with shin splints but beneath it all there seems to be a long standing hip problem.  At 1 am today he got taken to a chiropractor recommended by Sopan.  Let’s hope it helps.

teekshanam2

The problem was solved with the monkeys after the camp ran out of bananas.

camp-monkey2

Nidhruvi had 109 laps yesterday.

flower-nidhruvi

She has 1665 miles which is one more than last year.

nidhruvi2

She is also getting some added enthusiasm from top cook Nirjarini who is predicting a German World Cup win.

nidhruvi-and-nirjarini

Baladev had a good day yesterday with 110 laps.

flower-baladev

He has 1639 miles, which is 64 more than last year

baladev2

Growing close, so very close to the hard path.

flower

William had another great day with 116 laps.

flower-william

His determination and focus always clear.

william4

Tarit performing a little shirt surgery.

william-tarit-shirt

William taking his first short break of 20 minutes.

william-rest

Then it is simply back out and at it.

william-cmp

Sopan is a happy runner.  He is focusing on the important things for himself right now.

flower-legs

The mileage goal is not so significant.  At least for now.  He is trying his best to endure his physical problems and find as much joy as he can.

sopan2

He is enjoying his experience much more here this year.

floer-sopan

Ananda-Lahari had 107 laps yesterday.  His most since day 3.

ananda-lahari

It is not clear what gave him the big push yesterday.

ananda-lahari2

Kristin Hoffman performed at the race on Sunday afternoon.   It is a short clip captured by Sarvadhara

Click to Play:

Kirsten

Some leaves have fallen.

flower-sopan

Ray spent the night in Brooklyn and says he had some problems once again getting back to Queens.

ray

The shirt didn’t stay on for long so I hope you read the writing while you had the chance.

ray-fence

Ray does a lap with Sahishnu most days.

sahishnu-and-ray

Sahishnu who is a pillar of not just this race but all Sri Chinmoy Marathon team projects says the weather hasn’t been this good since 1996.

bipin

I ask him specifically about a number of the performances so far this year.  I am interested in comparing what Sarvagata is doing here this year in comparison to his big year of 2011.  He is currently only 8 miles behind that performance.

sahishnu-close

“He lost a day if you recall, when he had to shut the race down that year.  It was the only time we had shut the race down for any particular reason because we had 4 days of approaching over 100.  The runners were just devastated by the heat.  So we shut the race down and gave them two extra days.  But the clock kept ticking.  He finished with 44 days which was the 5th fastest of all time.”

“I have never seen anybody do a sustained speed tempo running in the day like he has been doing.  It is best to have your smart miles when you feel the best.  I think through the day he’s feeding himself, he is drinking a lot.  He is monitoring his body from his previous days efforts.  Is wonderful seeing him stretch off to the side somewhere. Then he goes and does a lap in 6 minutes which is a 10 minute pace.”

sahishnu-camp

“At this stage of the race it is astounding.”

“I think the runners feed off of his energy, just like they did off of Madhupran.  You can’t compare that race to this race.”

Ray is a multilayered athlete.  The bridges the gap between the old pioneer runners of the 80’s, all the way to the present time.  He still has been active in the sport and he still done tons of miles.  Last year he did 4700 miles in training and racing.  He had hoped that would carry over into this race.  This is a different kind of race.  This is a race about recovery.  He is 59 it is a little harder to recover.”

saahishnu-fence

“Having said that it is so great to have Ray in the race.  He gives you a perspective on everything.  He and I can talk running history until we are blue in the face.”

“He has done close to 600 ultramarathons and I don’t think anybody can match.”  Sahishnu then mentions just how much oneness Ray has with the sport and how he is still coaching, even from here other runners.

sahishnu

He says William is so strong because of decades of competitive running. Carrying himself well in these multiday races.  “He has excelled from his 40s into his 50s and now he has hit 60.  With all his records under his belt he is been pointing at this race for a long time.  He realizes that if he can be the first Brit to make it under 52 days it would be a major accomplishment.  He would be the first person over 60 to do it in the world.”

William had some problems adjusting.  “Now I think he is found his rhythm.  It has given him more impetus to continue on, even though he was 75 miles behind schedule.  Now he has picked it up.  He is less than a day behind.  He can make up the distance if he applies himself.”

sahishnu-abstract

This is his 19th summer out here.  “Mentally you could say that it was the same old thing.  I take it as my spiritual sadhana.  It is what I was meant to do.  Sri Chinmoy honored me by allowing me to work on these races.  He told me one time, just a few days before he left.  When I see you I think of the races.”

“In his memory we have committed to doing the races again and again.  I will always have this race to give me inspiration and continue on.  That’s what we do here we keep going, around and around.”

sahishnu-13000

Click to Play Interview:

sahishnu

Vajra and Misha recite the Daily Prayer

prayer

Click to Play:

prayer

Enthusiasm Awakeners

parvati

 Click to Play:

parvati

The existence of a dark place
Means there is somewhere a bright place.
Who knows,
That bright place could be
Your own tiny little heart.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 40, Agni Press, 1982

flower-good2

 

2 Comments to “July 13: My Favorite Place”

  1. Sarita says:

    Thank you Utpal! Everyone is soooooooo inspiring! Great warriors all!

  2. Francesco says:

    Hi Utpal,
    thank you.

    Here and now
    Is the only real time.
    Dream not of a better time.

    Sri Chinmoy, 21836 Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 22, Agni Press, 2001

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