“The first day I was happy and the 2nd day was really tough. It was one of the hardest days I have ever had out here.” Grahak ran 51 miles that day
Grahak Cunningham first ran the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile race 8 years ago in 2007. Remarkably he returned the following 2 years and improved his performance each time. Putting a clear and visible face on the sometimes subtle experience of self transcendence.
For all the usual kind of reasons that life often throws at us, he missed the race the folowing 2 years. In 2012 however he came back and had an amazing performance. He not only won the race but in the process also set the 4th fastest time in the history of the race. Grahak completed the race in 43 days, 10 hours.
That all took place 3 years ago. A long time when considering that race conditioning does not have an unlimited shelf life.
Of his 2nd day on the course he says, “I ran from 6 until 10:30am. Then that was it. I had to walk for the rest of the day. I had no energy. It was really tough. It took so long to do a lap. I was struggling.”
“Then yesterday I didn’t do that many miles but I had energy and I was really happy.” (63 miles) Grahak is not certain why he had the difficulties that he had. His day 2 experience reminded him of the struggle he went through in his first year at the race. He suspects that perhaps he could have trained more but is not certain if this is really the reason. Of bad experiences he knows all to0 well that he has to simply leave them behind, and move on.
“I don’t mind. I am just going to stay relaxed this race.” He knows he can’t predict in any way what the next day will bring or even the next mile.
Grahak has been inspired over the first few days by Ashprihanal who had a first day total of 172. “It was unbelievable. Then he has just backed it up day after day. He is in such good spirits. He is really inspiring.” Many of the other performances by other runners he says are also very impressive. “It is not easy to do.”
Just getting to the starting line has been a challenge for Grahak. It is unlikely now that he can possibly set a new personal best but then again, this is only day 4. Over the years he has run more than 12,000 miles here. He knows that his Self-Transcendence cannot be measured by the numbers that sit beside his name on the score board on any given day.
“Patience is really the key. I think I have been pretty cheerful so far. Which is good.”
Click to Play Interview:
A very cheerful Galya arrives this morning.
Yuri checks the daily totals each morning.
Kaneenika working on her feet
Rupantar checks out the new live web camera that updates every 5 seconds.
Yogurt is a popular early morning snack.
Vasu has just got off his bicycle.
Surasa working on her feet.
Start Day 4
It turns out to be a beautiful day
It never gets too hot or too humid.
Ananda-Lahari had 63 miles yesterday.
Some milkweed is blooming.
Ashprihanal for the 3rd day in a row ran the most miles. His 79 miles yesterday gave him 257 miles.
Every day he has been impressive.
He slows down to read an email from Alan Young.
The soft light of morning.
Tony is an electrician and it was while working in the neighborhood that he first discovered the race. He doesn’t remember exactly when it was but believes it was at least 3 or 4 years ago. He confesses that when he first saw the runners he had no idea what was happening. “None whatsoever.”
“I had to get out of my truck and check it out and found it very intriguing that they could even do this.”
“After reading about it and finding out how much time they have to put in and the effort. It is incredible to me. I still can’t believe what they do.”
Tony tells me that he even brought his wife to see Yuri’s finish last year. “My wife actually stood there and cried.” He laughs as he says this. “I even have videos on my phone. That is how good it was.”
“She says she found it very emotional.” When ever he sees a finish even he gets emotional. “It is incredible to watch them finish. That is a lot of miles. It is a lot of effort and I am sure a lot of pain. That is why we come.”
I first met Tony a couple of years ago when he was again working nearby and he brought a fellow worker. He thinks that for most people it is just difficult to comprehend what is really happening at the 3100 mile race. Coming again and again he believes it starts to become clearer. “I have friends coming now because they can understand it.”
“It is just seeing what they are doing and how hard they are trying and what it must be like for them. Let’s be honest. They are going around the same block. It has got to be…in your mind you have to do something to get that effort to do that.”
“I think it makes you realize that life is good.”
Click to Play Interview:
Moving in different directions.
Yuri had 69 miles yesterday.
Coming through camp
Vasu can see things very clearly.
He ran 74 miles yesterday and is in 3rd with 233 miles.
Time quickly passing
Victor updating the board.
A running poem by Sri Chinmoy.
Surasa tells me that she had been thinking about this same poem earlier in the morning and was so happy to see it printed.
She is in 5th place with 200 miles. She ran 66 miles yesterday.
Running with Kaneenika
Kaneenika did 63 miles and has 196 miles.
The magic morning light.
More practical things like water cups.
Kodanda playing his Chinese instrument.
Nirbhasa had 62 miles yesterday.
Pradeep is his helper for the first 2 weeks.
Pradeep ran in this race twice, both in 2011 and 2012. I ask him what he feels is the attraction of the race.
“I like challenges in general. I think that the sheer magnitude of the event attracted me. You see the people who have done it and you see something in their face. You see that they really experienced something about life. That really intrigued me. I also wanted to have that kind of experience.”
He feels that it is impossible not to be shaped and transformed by the race. Sri Chinmoy gave so much attention to the race as well. “It proves how special it must be to do this race. If there were any doubts in my mind his attention to it alone, I felt I really wanted to run this race.”
Pradeep also says that the race, once he took part, was much harder than he had imagined.
“Transformation is a vague term.” He does feel that he broke through things within himself as each race progressed.
I wonder about the suffering that seems to be so much a part of the runner’s experience. “It is not as though you search for struggling and pain. They are experiences that come and they can be very transformative. But the Supreme can give you other experiences that are also great. You don’t prefer any of them. On hindsight you may see that harder experiences gave you more progress.”
I ask Pradeep to describe why Ashprihanal is doing so well. “I think he has a great capacity to venture past his limits. When he is going around he is very inspiring for the other runners. There is an energy that you can feel. The other runners can feel the inspiration. It shines from him.”
Pradeep believes in his own 2 experiences here that he understands how easy it is to be caught up in calculating just how hard too push. He believes that Ashprihanal is not bound by or limited by this kind of strategy. Instead he is very spontaneous and free when he runs. “He is liberated from that kind of mental anguish.”
He has been helping Nirbhasa the past few days. Pradeep doesn’t claim that he has made any dramatic assistance to Nirbhasa’s race but feels that he provides support in subtle ways. “It is comforting to your mind if you have somebody there and you need something. It creates a kind of peace. Which is the main thing. I don’t think I am saving him that much time. But also he can just focus on the spiritual experience and on running.”
For himself, “it is very meditative just being here. I am very grateful to be of some service to the race. It is a great oneness experience.”
Click to Play Interview:
Wet shoes drying
Struggling to grow
Regular camp visitors
Atmavir ran 77 miles yesterday and is in 4th place with 232 miles.
Taking a nap..trying!
Baladev runs into the sun
He ran 53 miles yesterday.
“It looks like they keep the good snacks downstairs.”
Galya remains in 2nd place with 235 miles. He had 73 miles yesterday.
Stutisheel had 63 miles yesterday.
He has 192 miles for 3 days.
Click to Play:
Doubt is the lock,
Faith is the key.
Hate is the lock,
Love is the key.
Body is the lock,
Soul is the key.
Ignorance is the lock,
Light is the key.
God’s Heart has no lock,
Man’s mind has no key.