June 20: Go Inside Our Hearts

“I feel very good and I am very happy.”

Yuri is running the 3100 mile race for the 3rd time.  He also has a world class smile.  One, that when it spreads across his face can make even a cloudy day seem brighter.  He has a lot to be happy with right now.  He ran 69 miles yesterday and has a 6 day  total of 431 miles.

Like all those running here for the past 6 days his face has not always worn a bright warm smile or his steps always been light upon the road.  It is the hardest possible thing to run 3100 miles.  But Yuri’s smile, one that just might be the brightest on the block is certainly a big part of his many strengths.  One, that may not guarantee a faster time than last year, when he took second place, but most certainly it will help him through the dark hard patches that inevitably lie in the path of each and every runner here.

After running his first race 2013 he wrote a book about his experiences.  He says that he is considering writing another.  Yuri says, “I believe that running helps us go inside our hearts. This book is about how to be happy.  How we can return to our source.”

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He then tells me about an experience he had with one of the other runners.  “I had an experience with Pranjal.  Once when I was feeling very bad I was running behind him and I could feel that he was helping me.  This tell us about the inner connection between the runners.  How they can help each other even though they say nothing.”

“I have an outer goal of transcending last year’s result.  But I have an inner goal and that is to dive deeper into my heart and to get happiness.”

The distance from his home in Vinnitsa Ukraine to New York is 7,470 Kilometers (4,641 Miles).  Yuri has run 431 miles in 6 days.

Map

Click to Play Interview:

Yuri

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June 19: O Runner-Worlds Pinnacle-Spark

We mortals usually try our very best in this vast, complex, challenging, and wonderful world in which we all equally share.  Usually our actions and the brief histories of our lives goes unnoticed and unrecorded by the world at large.  Particularly when placed in comparison to all the colossal global events continually rising up in front of us clamoring for our attention.

Within us though we also know that all our efforts, and all our success and failures do not go unobserved or unappreciated in the realm of the spirit.  Our outer circumstances may appear weak and fleeting but within each of us is an eternal world.  One that is silent, still, and vast.  A realm of consciousness that is our true home and our only reality.

Knowingly or not, we inevitably all try and make our way towards this divinity that is within us.  In so doing we gradually reach out and become one with our own perfection.

Click On Picture Below to See Video:

*Ron Clarke setting 3 mile World Record*

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Occasionally individuals come into this world, who through the sheer magnificent of their actions do attract the attention of a great portion of humanity.  It is ingrained within us that we all hunger for motivation on one level, and more deeply, for progress and transformation on another.   Part of us continually yearns and cries out for inspiration and hope, which is so often obstructed by the trivial and the mundane. Which are portions of the veil, that the outer world uses to so easily obscure our own divinity, which is our birthright.

More rarely though, is that sometimes these same great souls do not just motivate us but they can also touch and inspire the sacred part within us.   When this happens their achievements and their greatness lifts us up as well.  On June 17th, just such a great soul bid farewell to a world still in awe of his achievements as a middle distance runner from more than 50 years ago.  Ron Clarke was 78, he was a champion as well to those far beyond the world of sport.

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In his career he set 17 middle distance world records, and though he never won an Olympic medal, the great Czech runner Emil Zatopek, made sure that he had one.  Once while Ron Clarke was visiting Zatopek he gave him a small wrapped parcel.  Opening it later on his return to Australia he was surprised to discover that Zatopek had given him one of his Gold Medals.

Ron Clarke over the years supported the Peace Run whenever it took place in his native Australia.

Ron-Clarke

Sri Chinmoy was always inspired by Ron Clarke both as an athlete and as visionary of how sports could inspire and uplift all of humanity.  In the year 2000, the year the Olympics were to be held in Sydney he was a firm advocate that Sri Chinmoy be part of the opening ceremonies by offering 30 seconds of silent mediation.

“The Olympic family has the opportunity, here in Australia, at the beginning of the New Millennium to create a moment in history that will be cherished for generations to come. Let the Games of the XXVII Olympiad be remembered for reigniting the Olympic vision of peace.”

In 1976 they met together in Melbourne where Sri Chinmoy wrote a song dedicated to him

Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke, Ron Clarke!
O runner-world’s pinnacle-spark,
Australia’s pure treasure-light,
The world salutes your champion-height.
In distance-speed a stupendous soul.
With seventeen crowns, yours is the goal.

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June 18: Being Home

Stutisheel and his wife spent much of last winter living in Florida. A Place that was ideal for training for this years race. This will be 11th time he will spend his summer here in New York.  A place, that in reality he has not seen that much of.  Considering all the days, weeks, and months he has visited.

What he is all too familiar with, and in fact has a great affection for, is this one block in Queens.  Just a tiny fragment of the great city that surrounds it. But still one he is lovingly devoted to for 18 hours each day.

He came 2 weeks prior to the start of the 3100 mile race however and got a very good introduction to some of the less pleasant aspects of big city life.  He spared me details but I could well imagine a myriad of unpleasant potential possibilities.

However all this dramatically changed last Sunday.  “When the race started I immediately felt back home.  It was such a nice feeling……..and still is.(day5) So I am really enjoying being at home.”

“It is my feeling that this race puts you back in your heart. Back to your source you can say.  To be what is natural for your to be.  So if you follow the current it is a pretty amazing journey.”

Stutisheel believes that the experience he has here running can be found no where else.  “But to have something similar, or in the same category.  I believe any ultra event.  Or something very long can put you back into your heart.  Actually I would say putting you beyond your mind.  That is the key.”

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“Beyond the doubts in yourself.  Beyond your artificial weaknesses.”

“I discovered with the help of my Guru, Sri Chinmoy, that extreme sports can take you back to your heart.”

Stutisheel, including this year, has started the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race 11 times.  Of the previous 10 appearances he completed the entire race 8 of those times.  Last year he set a personal best of 48 days, 3 hours.

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“2 times it was a different story.”

“There are many things behind why I didn’t finish those 2 races.  But if any time things do not go as you planned it in your life, ultimately the Supreme turns these things into your progress.  After these 2 experiences of not finishing, every time I was getting such a strong impulse.  ….Don’t give up.”

 Click to Play Interview:

Stutisheel

The Loop

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June 17: Patience Is The Key

“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.

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“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.

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“Patience is really the key.  I think I have been pretty cheerful so far.  Which is good.”

Click to Play Interview:

Grahak2

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June 16: Happy and Grateful To Be Here Again

When Surasa first entered the 3100 mile race in 2010 it was a monumental moment. The previous year the great Suprabha Beckjord had run the race for the last time.  From its inception in 1997 no other girl had even attempted to run the race prior to Surasa’s entrance in the 13th running of the race.  But Surasa had an extraordinary history of distance running reaching back nearly 20 years.  Even at age 51 she was not fearful of trying to run the longest race in the world.

But this race is like no other and in her valiant effort that year she completed 2760 miles.  Of course the door now was wide open.  So Surasa came back again the following year, once again the only female entrant, but this time she had found what was needed to complete the race before the cutoff. She finished in 53 days, 15 hours.

Not content with her achievement  in 2011, she came back once again in 2013 and had an even better race.  She came in 5th overall and completed the distance in 50 days and 4 hours.  At this time she also set the record for being the oldest runner to complete the race.  A record that lasted until last year, when William Sichel ran at 60 years of age.

When I welcomed her back to the race this year, she said, “I am just happy and grateful to be here again.”

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Surasa describes her inspiration to come and do the race as something she clearly experiences within herself.  Last year, “I had the feeling that it was too much.  I cannot do it.  I also thought that it was good to have one year in between. I wanted to do it but at the very end I thought it was too much.”

“On one hand you are sad that you cannot do it but on the other side you are wise, and then you are grateful that you didn’t do it.”

As for being here this year.  “It is such an opportunity to do something that the Supreme wants you to do. It is such a chance, and I am happy and grateful for this opportunity.  I try to never forget to be grateful to have this opportunity to run.”

Ashprihanal is running the race for the 13th time but she does not see such a thing happening for her.  “I will be over 70.  I started this race to late.  I was already over 50.”

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She says that in her previous races here she always thinks each one will be her last.  “Then after the race I get so inspired to do it again.”

Surasa also describes how she tries deliberately does not set goals for herself.  “Of course I want to try my best.”

“You are never disappointed if you never set a goal.  This is what happened in each of my races that I did.  I was always satisfied, and was always happy with the mileage, so I was not disappointed that I didn’t set a goal.”

 Click to Play Interview:

Surasa

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June 15: More Enthusiasm

Ashprihanal said, “I have taken a year off and now I have more enthusiasm.”

Many significant moments during a race this long and hard can sometimes be obscured by the shear immensity of it all.  It is convenient to find therefore from time to time little sign posts along the way.   To be able to better take stalk and attempt to comprehend even fragments of this grand miracle taking place in full public view. If you do not pause and observe from time to time and grasp for a clearer perspective than it becomes impossible to appreciate what is truly happening overall.

The race record set by Madhupran in 2006, was 41 days and 8 hours.  It has long been the pinnacle that the best runners have sought after but none have been able to really get that close to.  In that year he averaged 74 miles a day an incredible achievement.  The only one to get close was Madhupran’s previous record of 72 miles a day in 2002.  After that comes Ashprihanal’s performance in 2007, which was an average of 71.8 miles.

Yesterday a new record was set by Ashprihanal that, if it does not speak of great things to come, than at least demonstrates that this 44 year old runner from Helsinki may run his best race ever.  All this considering that he is running it this summer for the 13th time…….which ties the record held by Suprabha for most times running the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile race.

“My previous best was 90 miles.  I did not set out to try and do 94, I just stayed focused all day…..and move all day.  Than it became my record day.”

I mention to Asprihanal that he looked very relaxed and happy most of the day.  I was curious if he had been pushing hard the whole time.  “I was working hard all day but not pushing.  I was walking at the corners. I was focused all the time.”

He mentions that yesterday had been hot for him, but today with overcast skies and a light breeze it is much different.  In the morning it rained briefly.  “Today is perfect running weather.”

ashprihanal

Ashprihanal is also enthusiastic about completing his 13th 3100 mile race.  Which adds up to 73,437 laps of the course and of course a total 40,300 miles. “That is many years around this block……It is something.”

As to the future he plans on taking next year off to climb mountains…….”But you  never know what happens.”

Click to Play Audio:

Ashprihanal

Around noon today Sahishnu informed Ashprihanal that his first day total of 172 laps was a new race record, breaking the previous one of 171 laps set in 1999.

ashprihanal-and-sahishnu

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June 14: A Chance To Make Progress

This is the 19th summer that a group of runners has gathered on this sidewalk here in Queens NY to embark upon a monumental challenge.  Each has been summoned by some deep inner call within themselves to come and run for 18 hours a day, and do what is nearly impossible for most of us to even comprehend, complete 3100 miles within 52 days.

There is a tangible and profound sense of peace that spreads out well beyond the limited dimensions of the concrete as they, and all those gathered around and about them, meditate in a brief silence before the start.  There is no shouting, no awkward demonstration of bravado, no trivial display of strength and cunning.  This is not that kind of race where this kind of mind set or behavior could possibly help. Each runner has to pull from within themselves enduring qualities that are well above and beyond just strength of mind and talent of the human body. Time and again it has been shown by all who run here, that this race has more to do with the unbounded power of spirit within than the limited capacity of mind and muscle.

But it also must be noted that this impossible Self Transcendence task of running 3100 miles has been completed 131 times over the past 18 years.  37 different athletes have come and found within themselves the strength, courage, and inner resourcefulness to complete the distance.  But of course just to stand at the line and strive and to endure its unbelievable challenge makes a champion of all who come and take part.

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“This is Sri Chinmoy’s favorite race.  He used to come literally hundreds of times when he was in town and would take time out from his busy schedule in which he traveled all over the world.”

“He always thought of this race as a chance to make progress.  The success part who knows what will happen?”

“Your competitive nature can come through.  That is not the important thing.  The important thing is that you are offering this race to a higher cause deep within.”

Sahishnu’s Introductions and start:

Intros

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Sri Chinmoy at Start 2004 Photo by Abakash

O our 3,100-mile-run runners,
My sleepless, prayerful, soulful, powerful
And proud gratitude-heart-throbs
I have discovered
In your aspiration-mountain-height
And in your dedication-fountain-delight.

O my Saturday two-mile-race runners,
Your running is challenging,
Yet charming and thrilling.

29 July 2000
New York

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To See Tomorrow

These are the champions who will by tomorrow no longer have time to stand still or even rest for very long.  Tomorrow the relentless challenge of completing 3100 miles begins.  Only 52 days to complete this Himalayan summit goal.

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For Ashprihanal this is not a new challenge.  He has conquered this greatest of all distance running races 12 times before.  This 44 year old from Finland will try and do what only Suprabha has done.  Complete this race for the 13th time.

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The race directors make final announcements.  Galya and Stutisheel listen and wait for tomorrow.

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Everyone listens and everyone waits.

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Just Being Grateful

“No Matter what’s happening I just want to be grateful to be out there.”

“I definitely know at the end of it.  No matter what shape or form I finish, to even to attempt to challenge something like this.  The sense of satisfaction you get out of it.  You can’t put a price on it.”

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When we spoke, Nirbhasa had just a few days left before he would be running the longest race in the world, The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile race.  Beside him is a mysterious green beverage and in front is his lap top computer.

After I leave he will be spending hours working on it, taking advantage of the abundant wi fi in the cafe and making changes to the 3100 mile website. He is calm and at peace. To be standing on the starting line on Sunday with the 11 other runners is something that he has visualized for himself for the last couple of years.

Prior to that slim 2 year window, the sport of ultra distance running was not something that he had given much thought too.  “If you had asked me maybe 3 or 4 years ago that I would be doing multi day racing at all, I don’t know what I would have told you.”  Despite this in the Spring of 2013 he ran his first 10 day race.

“I started that race not knowing what to expect.” He says that he had no real goal of what he would achieve in that time.  “after four or five days I was still running and I was on course due to do 60 miles a day.”  This he knew was the standard necessary to be able to complete the 3100 mile race before the cutoff.

“In the middle of that race I first started thinking about doing the 3100 mile race.”

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We can never really know when exactly it is that our own thoughts can catch up to the inspiration that flows and moves within us.  Nirbhasa had heard from many others just how profound and trans-formative experience it most often is when a runner commits themselves to running in a multi day race.   His decision however to run the 10 day race instead of the 6 came from someplace deep within.  “It just goes to show the difference between the mind and the heart.  The mind likes to do things in increments.  Sometimes the heart gets a feeling and just wants to go for it.”

On the last night of the 2013 race Nirbhasa put on an astonishing display of running when he ran 90 miles for the last 24 hours.  He had talked to a veteran runner who described that strategy and he says, “that is what I thought you did.  My mind wasn’t looking forward to it.  But at the same time I thought, that is what everybody does.”  The next closest runner was something like 20 miles shorter for that final day. He made 1000 km for 10 days.

Click to Play Part 1 Interview:

Nirbhassa 1

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