Her story is a miraculous one. Late in the race reaching the finish line for Yolanda seemed it would be an impossible task. One, that up until not too long ago, was receding further and further beyond her grasp.
Yet today, on Day 52 it is just 60 miles away. Something, that as she confidently walks this morning, the last day of the race, knows is an achievable goal. One she has worked unbelievably hard for.
Her run this summer has not just given her impressive running resume a grand new prize, but also has rewarded her with transformative experiences and shown her surprising strengths that she had known that she had within herself. Qualities that all of us have but are seemingly only brought to the fore when we are confronted by true challenge and adversity.
“This is my last day and if I get emotional it is only because of all the love and support that I have gotten over the past 52 days. Everyone has been so amazing. They welcomed me in.”
“Most of all they believed in me. Even when I was 44 miles behind. I did a great come back. It is going to be a long emotional day.”
I remind Yolanda that in our first interview she had hoped at some point to have a powerful emotional experience. When asked if this is what she hoped for. “YES! I said I wanted to cry. I wanted to feel something special.”
“I have done over 540 marathons and ultras and I have never cried at any of them. Now I haven’t even finished. I am only on mile 3 and I am already crying. It is beautiful.”
Yolanda was incredibly confident when she started this years race but I am curious if when she was behind she had doubts about reaching the finish line. “Yes, when I got sick the 3rd time. I prayed and I talked to God. I asked him why was this happening to me. I know you never give me any more than I can handle. But I can’t handle being 44 miles in the hole. When I also have to keep doing 60 miles every day.”
“I was crying. I was really upset and I actually said that I quit. So I went to my aid station and got my phone and I was calling my husband and all the notifications just kept beeping and beeping.”
“They said, Yolanda you are my inspiration. Yolanda I walked today because of you. Yolanda you motivate me. That was God saying to me……these people need you. You can’t quit.”
“Then I just took off walking and kept doing the 62 miles every day and here I am.”
“I see a new me. I see a growth. A strength that I never ever had and I see a lot of love. It is just overwhelming all the love and joy.”
To all those who have worked hard to fulfill Yolanda’s 52 day challenge she says, “Thank you and I am so proud of everyone of you who have taken the 52 day challenge. The main thing is that you did it. We did it.”
“I did my 60 plus miles a day and you all did many miles a day and you stuck with it. 52 days of working out is amazing. You did it and I am proud of you.”
* This will be the last of my Daily Posts. I am very grateful to all those who have wandered over to this blog every day and even if just from time to time. The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race is impossible without the contributions, both inner and outer of so many people. But of course the primary inspiration is Sri Chinmoy himself. Who’s light and love continues to make miracles like this happen*
“I guess I am starting to.” This is how Harita answered my question about whether or not she can now see the finish line. It is now day 51 and Harita has just 108 miles more to run. When she soon reaches 3000 miles she will be on what Suprabha once called, the bell lap.
“It seems pretty definite now, by the way the past 50 days have gone that I am going to finish, but every lap is a miracle. I am still really praying that nothing goes wrong. I definitely feel that I can see the finish line.”
“Each day is completely different. Every day has so many ups and downs in it. Some days over all are a little easier than others. But most days are pretty tough in many different ways. Physically, mentally, or emotionally, so I definitely don’t think it gets easier.”
“In a way having the finish line coming closer is challenging because you keep thinking of finishing but you find every lap is full of new surprises, new challenges, and new experiences.”
“In a way the race is just one big blur. Because there is so much intensity the whole time. You are so focused in the moment and then you move on to the next moment. The past moment is in the background.”
“Overall there have been a lot of experiences. Overall for me is the spiritual experience. And really the opportunity to really see the power of the inner life and the power of our souls, of prayer and meditation. The more that we can make that a reality in our lives then everything else flows from there.”
“Never in my life have I ever been able to just pray to God and God is right there for me. Sri Chinmoy always talks about crying and having your heart’s cry and I have always seen that as a theory. But in this race I can just cry like a child. You really feel that the Supreme is really right there for you. That is a precious and powerful experience that I have had.”
“The real experience I have had of the true oneness of our world family. This is my body, my mind, my heart, and my soul doing this but everybody is helping in so many ways. The people who write messages or who have supported us or who have come out to the race, and the other runners. It is such a significant part of my whole experience.”
“That is the way that life is. We may think we are running the Race of Life by ourselves but we are not. We depend on each other and we need each other, and we influence each other, inspire each other and give each other encouragement. We would never be able to do anything by ourselves. That for me has been a really beautiful experience.”
“One of the things I wanted to say on the practical reality is that out here on the course there are people from all different religions and all different walks of life.”
“Tough, rough, swearing people and spiritual people, and a lot of sports people and just regular people who come and walk around.”
“There is a lot of Muslim women who come out and walk around and lot of them are wearing the full burka. A few of us have noticed that over the course of te race that a significant number of women who were in the beginning who were coming out walking. The would always wave and smile and some of them have gradually become more friendly over time.”
“We have noticed that a significant number of these women have started to run. Which is really amazing because it is not htat common to see. You really feel that they must be getting something from this race.”
“This one little woman who may be in here 60’s or 70’s has been out here every single day. She as been here for many years. She always looks so serious so I took it upon myself as a challenge to make here smile.”
“After about 2 weeks she stared smiling at me and waving. Then yesterday I saw her in front of me. She was wearing sandals and is tiny and she was kind of running. I thought, O my God, you are running, and I told her…you are running!”
“I said, please, please, run with me. So she did it and ran with me for about 30 seconds. I felt that was such a sweet experience. Of how we are altogether in this world and we can go beyond so many barriers and experience this oneness with each other in this race in so many sweet ways.”
A most exquisite sweetness
I feel and become
When I think of my own
High, higher and highest experiences.
*Video recorded yesterday…..finish to follow soon*
Yesterday morning I spoke with Nirbhasa as he was completing his final 59 miles. I joke when I ask if he is thinking about a good nights rest. “I am not really thinking about that right now.”
“In one way today is just the same as every other day. You have to take every lap at a time. Be in the present moment. Be in a good a consciousness as you can be.”
Nirbhasa says there is no coasting into the finish line. It is never like that.”
I am curious if he has any advice for others who might be faced with their own great challenges. “Of course in this race you have some tough times and then you have some very tough times. But they all somehow pass. You know at the end of the day that everything is just an experience. The good times the bad times. They are all fleeting.”
“The important thing is to somehow rise above and beyond those transient things. Enter into something deeper. You are almost an observer of your own good or bad experiences. There is some deeper part of us that is just an observer of the whole thing.”
“Even if you are having a bad experience. Even just to be able to solve the issue you have to put some distance from it. Not get caught up in your own reactions to it.”
“In many way the tough experiences are ones that ultimately become almost in a way your good experiences. Because at the end of it you really have to use your soul. You end up ultimately closer to your soul and you feel that your soul is the most real part of your being.”
There are still some hours left and he says, “you have to treat it like every other day. In other words another day to try and go deep within. To pray, to meditate, and try to feel happy and grateful.”
Experience is not acquired information.
Experience is not required observation.
Experience is the result of an inner investigation.
The day started with torrential rain and then nature performed one of its little surprises and the day, quite dramatically became gorgeous. Giving Kaneenika, who is finishing her long long race tonight a beautiful blessing. One that all those champions still left here running can appreciate and benefit from.
*photo by Jowan*
She starts day 49 having completed 3047 miles. Meaning of course that she has just 53 miles more to run. What those numbers also show is that she is 133 miles better than her performance last year. And around 8:30 tonight she will have set a new women’s world record at the Self Transcendence 3100 mile race.
As for her final hours and miles, “I feel as though I am doing my regular thing. Just running.”
“There was something very special happening here at various moments. Sometimes I felt as though I was being pushed or pulled. There was definitely some kind of force. A force was doing it for me.”
“At the beginning of the race I actually didn’t feel so strong, the first week and maybe even 10 days. But then all of a sudden it felt as though I was gaining the strength. It just all started happening. It was all coming from inside.”
“To tell the truth I didn’t feel as though I was ready for this.”
I ask Kaneenika if it is possible to get stronger as the race progresses. “Yes that is definitely true. Physically your body gets used to the routine. It is just surprising to me. After all these years that I have been running the multi day races. You do get stronger.”
I ask her if she feels that the races in some way touches the world beyond the little block here in Queens. “I hope so. That is why we are here. That is the real reason. It is not about the outer achievements but what we bring to the world.”
“There was one message that we got from a person who said that he has been watching the race, and he was about to go to a job interview. Part of which he was required to give a lecture. He was so nervous. But when he started thinking about us running here, he immediately calmed down. Then he said everything went so well at his interview.”
“Without Sri Chinmoy there wouldn’t be a race. Without him we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing. Each one of us, and not only the runners. Each one of us is a perfect instrument. The Supreme is a conductor, and we just play our instruments the way he want us to. That is how we play our parts.”
Inside the searching mind.
Inside the loving heart.
Inside the illumining soul.
Last night Vasu was into his final laps before completing the Self-Transcendence 3100 race for the 6th time. He was into the very depths of his 47th day here. His shirt was covered in sweat and he needed to make 67 miles before midnight.
As he passes by me along the dark sidewalk a student of Sri Chinmoy shouts out, “Jai Guru.” Vasu without hesitation responds, “Jai Guru.”
He did not say this loudly but instead with quiet soulful conviction. It was like music to my ears, just as I suppose his constant dedication to this race his spiritual teacher created has been sustaining him at every moment. Not just for 47 days but even over the past 6 years he has run this race and beyond.
In his speech of congratulations Sahishnu said, “Ladies and gentlemen this was Vasu’s second victory and his 6th straight finish at 3100 miles. He finished in 46 days, 17 hours, and 38 minutes. Which is an average of 66.35 miles a day (106.7 km)”
“This was his 2nd best finish. He is still 5th ranked all time. Out of 145 performances now this is the 33rd best performance.” Sahishnu then goes on to tell the story of Vasu’s serious back injury 8 months earlier. So severe that he could barely stand little alone train.
“Miracles do happen, and this man proved that will power and grace from above can really work together. His athletic talent is undeniable. He is one of only 5 men in history to have averaged 70 miles a day.”
The next day he comes back to start the race one last time and run 13 laps in order to complete 5,000km. I join him on his last lap and the rain is falling heavily about us.
“I love this race. I don’t know why I love it. I just love it and do it. I am happy here and I am able to do self transcendence. I hope that I can inspire some people to be better citizens of the world. They inspire me and I inspire them.”
“I do this for my beautiful Guru and for Victory Supreme.”
To become better citizens
Of the world,
We must scatter happiness
Here, there and all-where.
Yesterday Ananda-Lahari ran 84 miles. A number that represents about double what he has been doing most days. Today he is moving less quickly but the ever present smile brightens his face and as I join him I feel my own smile brightening as well.
Today he says, “is a very good day. Yesterday I ran very fast and today I am falling apart but there is eagerness and hope. The focus is there. So I am happy.”
I mention to him that his surprising performance yesterday lifted the energy levels of practically all the other runners as he flew around the block. “I think it is all God’s work. I just play what I feel.”
“It is not as though I do it to inspire people. If it happens that others get inspired great.”
He says that most often when we are negative that, “it is a matter of choice. We have to want. That is the main thing. We have to want to get out of, let’s say, a state of depression, or sadness, or something else.”
“Many times we subconsciously enjoy it. To be there. To be angry, or be sad. We don’t realize it. The first thing is that we need to want. I know only one way. I am really happy that I practice meditation, under the guidance of Sri Chinmoy. He is teaching me how to throw away negative qualities.”
As we pass through the camp area Rupantar yells out, “he is inspiring the world.”
“In ancient times people were going to monasteries and caves in order to be alone to be able to pray and meditate. To be focused on God.”
“In today’s world I have learned that that was the way of the past. Now we have to bring it to society. We don’t want to cut off the outside world.”
“I practice mediation at home, but then I try and bring the results forward into my daily life. This happens when we are in focus and feel joy.” He says that meditation and exercise can go hand in hand. Even if you are tired. Exercising for him is the best form of meditation.
“It is really nice. You can be falling a part. You can have a bad day and then you can still have a really nice day. It is like bringing it into our daily activities.”
The time to be really happy
Here at the very place
Where you are.