By day 11 last year Sarah Barnett could see her dream slipping away and there was absolutely nothing she could do to hang onto it.
As one of the best ultra distance runners in the world, coming to do the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race was going to be the ultimate challenge for her. Something that she had wanted to do for several years. One, as well, that at 37 years of age she was prepared and as experienced as anyone who has ever lined up by the chain link fence near Thomas Edison high school at 6am in the morning has ever been.
She came strong and talented and she also came injured. A kind of physical problem that would not bend to her will or her wishes. An injury that would snatch away any chance of not just victory but any chance of even reaching the finish line. Causing a persistent pain that made steps hurt, laps feel excruciating, and worse yet, assuring her that the goal of finishing now lay hundreds of miles beyond her dwindling hopes.
We all like to think we can go on and endure hardship. But what courage is it that allows a young Australian woman to stand at the starting line each day for 52 and keep going around and around with nagging pain, and persistent doubt rubbing hard at your shoulders, and a goal that you now no longer can see at all.
But Sarah clearly felt something even though she could not see it. That something that said to her just this, keep going, keep going.
So she did this impossible thing in a race that even itself is impossible. At the end of 52 days she had completed 2573 miles. It was the farthest she had ever run before, and its own muted way offered her a quiet glimmering victory that was probably more important than all the trophies and awards that she has ever received in her career in ultra races.
It was something that she could not put on the shelf because it would remain where it belonged, in her heart.
Sometime today she will pass that mark of 2573 with strong confident strides. Few if any will remember that little footnote from last year.
She tells me this morning she remembered it last night but this morning had forgotten it until I brought it up. She laughs easily as she talks about it now. For now she does see a finish line ahead that is not obscured by doubt or pain. And sometime today with a tick of her lap sheet she will be charging boldly and clearly into her own realm of Self Transcendence. When I ask her about this she says, “That is what the race is about.”
I made this film several years ago. It is Called 3100 Mile Impressions probably 2009
Music by Parichayaka
In the fall of 1991 New Zealand runner Sandy Barwick ran 1300 miles in 17 days and 22 hours. She is pictured here with Sri Chinmoy and Al Howie.
Her 549 miles in a six day race in 1990 in Australia is a record that has yet to be broken. Sarah will be the first Australian woman to run 3100 miles.
Not what you say,
Not what you do,
But what you ultimately become
Is the only thing that God cares about.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 42, Agni Press, 2005
Sarvagata ran 139 laps yesterday. His average pace as of today is 69.82. In 2011 his first and best year his pace was 69.55
It is the start of day 42
One of Pranjal’s feet after 2669 miles.
The boys getting ready.
If you have nothing else to talk about you can always discuss the weather. I suspect that for years to come runners who were here this summer and runners who wish they had been here will look back upon what looks to be the best 52 days of running in Queens New York ever.
Sarvagata starts the day with just 238 miles left.
He is on a personal best pace, but you never know what will happen.
In many ways they have helped and inspired each other over the many days and miles here, Sarah and Sarvagata
He has a kind of strength alone that can lift others along. Like in a track race you can tuck in behind and be pulled, but it is more than physics in the way he elevates and inspires others here.
World class runner and world class help
Help who knows when not to be too serious.
Not taking things too seriously at times seems like a good idea for everyone. With or without the monkeys
Yuri is going to have a better time than last year it is just a matter now of how much it will be.
I would love to be able to translate a conversation like this. All I know for sure is that Yuri did 120 laps yesterday and Volodymyr is encouraging him and supporting him in a way that goes beyond just friendship.
Because it is Saturday the 2 mile race takes place across the street.
The finish line calls him clearly now.
Pranjal did 116 laps yesterday. He now has 2669 miles which is 108 miles more than last year.
Vasu had 124 laps yesterday.
He has 2652 miles, just 448 more mile to go.
Incredibly he has picked up all the mileage he had lost and is now just 2 miles behind his pace of last year.
Boy am I ready to play.
How many bits of beauty do we miss because we don’t even look.
Stutisheel did 122 laps yesterday. Just 500 miles separates him from his goal.
In this his 10th summer here the presence of his daughter Alakananada helps. She has been here for parts or all of those years.
Each of us has the opportunity to blossom.
Sarah and Sarvagata have run quite often together and you can see it helps them both. “He is a real inspiration to me. I think we all look up to him, like an older brother.”
“It just shows that you don’t have to be a super athlete from youth.” ( He is 41 and did not seriously start distance competition until 2011.)
“Leading a spiritual life it can turn your life into something really beautiful. He is an amazing runner. He has offered incredible inspiration.”
I ask her whether she is having real thoughts about the finish line which is 554 miles away. “I just try and stay like a little kid. If we are too much in the mind we start getting worried. O I will get an injury, or what happens when this happens. I don’t know. There is something about this race. There is a real pure joy in it.”
“I think if you just keep faith that we are not the doers. That God is looking after all of us.”
“Things may not turn out the way we plan. We have expectations.”
“Last night I had this goal in mind but I did not quite reach it. In the end you try and give your all. At the end of the day you just have to accept it, and offer it to God.”
“William, right from the start of the race felt disappointed with himself. Every day he didn’t reach the cutoff. He would be so disappointed. One morning he just came out and said look……I can’t do this. It is going to drive me crazy. If I don’t reach the cutoff I am totally miserable. So all I am going to do now is my very best. That is all I have ever done in running. At the end of the day I just accept it. I thought that was such a spiritual outlook. ”
“Everyone out here you can get inspiration from. No matter what their running capacity or their history.”
Click to Play Interview:
For Sarah everything is more than clear.
The monkeys are popping up everywhere.
Jayasalini had a bit of an off day with 105 laps. She has built up such a cushion there is no reason to be concerned for her.
Her running is going just fine.
Her helper Pati has a son who enjoys seeing his Mom’s picture so for this is for you Ramazan.
Jayasalini has 2476 miles as of this morning
Lots of monkey business going on.
I am not sure what it is but I definitely like it.
William picked it up a little and did 117 laps.
If anybody has been better served by the weather this year than William I don’t know who it is.
Alan watching out for everything.
Sahishnu shows me his board which indicates once again another record.
He also has some proof that Alan takes a nap from time to time.
Nidhruvi did 104 laps yesterday.
She has had a problem with her hip that was worked on for quite a long time yesterday. But treatments take time and cost laps.
Vishvarupani is helping her both with food and drink but also with joy and laughter.
Baladev had 89 laps yesterday.
His total is 2362 miles.
It is almost 100 miles more than he had last year.
You call this a road? I am better off jumping through the trees.
A tiny yellow blossom.
Teekshanam had 113 laps yesterday.
He has 2150 miles and is running confidently now.
It will be interesting to see what he does with the 11 days left to him.
Kanala and Petra are counting together and I ask them both what difference do they see in Sarah between last year and now.
Kanala: “She was injured last year. From the very beginning so. It is very obvious that she is not injured this year. I think she is stronger, but generally she is such a strong runner. She never has a helper in any of her races and she manages very well. She must know her body really well.”
Petra: “Definitely she is shining, and she looks very happy. She tries to keep herself happy.
Kanala: “She is very easy when things happen. Because I think she knows when things are just changing constantly. Nothing remains unchanged. So even when an injury comes or adversity than they change.”
“Quite often when she stops she will read one of Sri Chinmoy’s poems.”
I ask them both how they understand just how Sarah is managing to do so well.
Petra: “God’s grace she says.”
Kanala: “This race was started quite a while ago. Those who ran then were the pioneers. Nidhruvi, who is just passing by is one of them. These people in the beginning it was much harder for them. They had no idea what to do. They had to figure out everything from their own experience. Now a days I think it is accumulative knowledge in the consciousness of the running community. I think that it actually helps that there are other people who have done it. Just the knowledge that it is possible.”
“I think that the consciousness of humankind is progressing through these races. I am not the only one who has that impression.”
“We come here to here to help and just hang out, because when you come here you come to a different world. And you are happy. Just by being here. You just enter the space of the race and you are happy.”
Click to Play Interview:
Ananda-Lahari had 80 laps yesterday
He has 1899 miles.
He does not know about the monkey hiding in the tree.
Sopan did 64 laps yesterday.
There are other animals here and there today. Not quite so mischievous as monkeys.
Ray taking care of the feet that have gone 1595 miles.
I don’t know what the other animals think of his big dog socks.
There is a handball tournament in the back corner today. Ray doing his laps, taking his pics, and cruising along.
Behind the Prayer is a great photographer Jowan.
Click to Play:
Song of the Day
Click to Play:
When God asks you to try,
You must realise
That not only does He know
What He is talking about,
But He also knows
That you do have the capacity.
Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 212, Agni Press, 1994