Day 15… Highest Self-Transcendence-Height (June 30)

Shin splints are an insidious ailment that have reeked misery and havoc on ultra runners quite possibly from the time early man tried to see just how far he could.   Ushika is deep into his 4th day of continual pain in his lower legs and though his mileage has suffered he has somehow allowed the pain to only bother his outer extremities and not his mood or mental outlook.

Between he and his helper Max, they have investigated every possible solution and remedy and are currently working with a kind of hinge device to relieve pressure.  It is a new experience for both of them and then again, when in the 3100 not about new challenges and experiences.

The two of them are an ideal team.  This was clearly evident last year and Max is once again working tirelessly to support Ushika.  Having him around Ushika says, “is the best solution I could dream of.”

Max is fully committed to his role.  He says he got a good feeling last year when he was first asked.  “I wanted to dive into this world so I saw my chance and took it.”  He says the race last year changed him.  “It changed my whole personality, my whole being, so I hope it gets changed again.”

Ushika says that he continues to work on his devotion in this years race.  “It is a life long process.  My goal is to try and speed it up here.”

As for his physical problems and how he is coping, “I could say that I am surprised myself.  I can see that it is all grace.  I don’t have any anxieties, or mental problems.”  Ushika is not sure how he would have coped if the problems had occurred last year but feels that this time he is better equipped to deal with it.

He feels that there is a great difference between the concept of devotion and to actually live it.  “To think of the process is totally useless but you have to go for it.  You have to try and cry and then let it come.”

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Day 14… Perfection’s Gate (June 29)

“It is so relaxing, I don’t have to worry about anything.  It is a different experience, but I am grateful for the experience.  I think any part you take in this race is a very blessingful experience.”

Kaneenika has come to the race this morning as she has for the past 2 weeks to fully take part in several new, and not insignificant roles for her.  Unlike the past 4 summers in which she was here running in the race itself. This morning she sings with the regular Enthusiasm Awakeners singing group and then she speaks with Harita as she runs.  Her past experience in many many multi day races is extensive .  So she is able to assist and encourage Harita in many ways.

“I am a runner, and I do miss the running part.  On the other hand, since I can’t do it, I am enjoying the other part.”

It has become obvious, over the past few days that a few runners have been having very challenging experiences.  As for what advice she would offer them, ” Sri Chinmoy advised us not to think about the next day,  the next lap, or even the next step.  You never know what will happen.”

“I remember a story from last year when I was having a hard time.  I was feeling that I must be a very lousy runner.  I was only able to drag myself around.  There was a man who used to come twice a day by the course and I thought he probably didn’t even notice us.  But obviously he did because when I was having my dilemma, doubting whether I should even be here or not.  He says to me, O great running.”

Kaneenika was shocked that he said this and looked around, as if he must have been speaking to someone else.  “So then I smiled at him and he added, nice smile too.  That gave me a real boost to continue.” She feels it was just another example of how the race is able to work its subtle magic on all those who take part.  That there is always more to what we can do and how much more we can transcend ourselves.

“What I used to do in my first 3100 mile race when things were really tough I would just laugh.”  Kaneenika points towards the other side of the course along beside the Grand Central service road.  “I was hoping that nobody would see me.  It was really helping me. I would just get energy, and be in a good mood and go on.”

“It is all about Self-Transcendence.”

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Day 13… To Believe (June 28)

“I am feeling very good and yesterday was a recharging day.”  Smarana is having a great race and he went home last night after having completed 763 miles over 12 days.

Most of us have a very casual and innocent idea about recharging.  It might include sleeping in, going to the beach, or meeting friends over coffee.  Smarana, does not, nor do any of the other runners, have no access or real interest in what most of us consider relaxation and frivolous time spent.  So in case you wonder what Smarana did to recharge,  he pedaled home on his bicycle at 11pm instead of midnight after running 55 miles.

He says he had been thinking about doing it for a few days and yesterday seemed to be the right time to do it.

“It is very very special to be out here and it is very very special to be here with all the other runners and the helpers.  There is a lofty point of view.  You feel lifted up and supported, and all the runners each has such special qualities.  The more you run with them the more you realize all the special capacities that they have, and their abilities.  You can learn so much from them.”

“Just the other day I was running with Todor, and he was asking, was there ever a time when all the runners finished.  It looks this time like everybody can finish.  It was so nice that he was thinking.”  What impressed Smarana was just how positive Todor was looking at running here.  Instead of focusing on the hardships he was inspiring himself with the best possible outcome for all his fellow runners.

“He has this mental calm and poise and oneness.  So that was very nice for me.  I feel very privileged to be here and to learn.  You are shifted from your normal day to day life and your normal perspective.  You are completely taken out of that.  You have a new playroom to experience things.  It is so nice.”

“It is an amazing opportunity here.  If you can see it like a playground here and have new experiences.  What has changed for me over the years is that in my first 7 races my approach sometimes, I have to say, is that I pushed with brute force.”

“But I really wanted to change and have a more joyful approach to the race. Naturally I have an intrinsic trait that says you push and you suffer.  It has taken me a while to transform and transcend it.” Smarana feels that his last 2 attempts at the race were opportunities to change his attitude and experience here.  He feels more flexible and more joyful.  He calls this approach a joyous way.

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Day 12… The Inner Journey (June 27)

It is possible to imagine that if Todor’s current life was edited down to something simpler and shorter you could easily picture that he had already achieved a great victory.  That in his 11 days of running here he has gone farther and longer than he has ever run before.

But of course this mini version of Self-Transcendence is not what is pushing todor to continue to run for 18 hours a day.  For Todor, like all the runners here have their sights set on a finish line that is still almost 2500 miles away.  There are many many more days of running left for everyone here. The goal is in sight for no one on this hot June day.  Maybe when the calendar peels away another 2 pages and it becomes  August.

“It is amazing how fast the race is going.  I have seen so many things.  It is really unbelievable.  I have already run many kilometers.  Yesterday I was glad when I reached 1,000 kilometers.  In this case I have improved my personal best which was 707 kilometers.  In this case I have transcended myself.”

“I hope I can extend this self transcendence much more and much deeper.  Step by step.  Rome was not built in a day.  At the same time I am trying not to think too much about it or be obsessed with it.  My body and mind have to adapt to the situation here.  I am trying not to push myself. Keep moving forward.” So far Todor’s adjustment to the tempo and rhythm of the race has been stellar.

“I want to be just glad and happy that I am here.  My goal is to just keep going.”

Todor has benefited greatly by have a good helper also named Todor.  “It is quite important not to be alone in such a competition.”  In all his previous races Todor did not have a helper.  “With a helper you can get help without losing any time.”

He goes over the amount of time it takes to grab a cup of water as just a few seconds when you are on your own.  But once a helper comes and offers you a cup while you continue to run you can save valuable  time, which becomes substantial over 5649 laps.

“It helps you a lot and also when my helper encourages me when I am feeling low.  There is a lot of pressure and you have to do so much mileage.  You have some ups and downs.  In the moment when you are at your lowest the helper can help you and overcome the situation faster. ”

“For me in the 3100 Self-Transcendence race it is a very important role to have a helper.  I am very glad that I have one.”

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Day 11… Your Destined Goal (June 26)

Ray Krolewicz has been visiting the race, on and off for the past few days.  His presence here comes directly out of his boundless enthusiasm for distance running and in no small way as well, his affection and love for the  3100 mile race itself.

Though he entered the race only once, in 2014, his infectious spirit seems to be in some inexplicable way woven into the very fabric of the race itself. He has been making trips here every summer for at least the past 6 years.   For the past few days he has been living out of his car and takes the discomfort as inconsequential when compared to what the 8 runners in the race have to endure on a daily basis.

When asked what his relationship is to the race he says, “affection.”

“Affection is always a 2 way street.  You cannot gain affection unless you are willing and successful at giving affection. ”

“I don’t think it is a hard event.  It takes focus.  It takes dedication to task.  But if you think about the joy of all day all you have to do is something you already love doing and that is running and being among friends, and being taken care of.”

“The food here is phenomenal.  So there is nothing but affection all the way around.”

Ray was going into the NYC 100 mile race the next day.  Something he was looking forward too.  But he says that the intensity of the 3100 mile race in every aspect sets it apart from any other race.

He reminisces about his conversations and relationships he was able to establish with all the runners in the unique atmosphere of the race.  “I think everything we do changes us inside.  But I think here in particular.  The intensity of it forces you think about different aspects of life.  The time commitment.  If I can put 52 days into this how about putting time into this or that other activity.”

“I was unsuccessful when I ran here.  I joke that I was beat by over 1000 miles.  (He ran 2014) That is the point.  Even something that would look like a failure in another aspect of your life.  If you gain from it, grow from it,  and accomplish some part of it, it is still better than when you started it.”

“Every race is a school. Every run is an experience that you can learn from.  You just need to keep your eyes open and your mind open.  You talk about mindfulness and Sri Chinmoy talked about it a lot.  So mindfulness opens us, no matter what your experience is.  Learning to enjoy what experiences the world has to offer, and what all the different people in the world can offer you as well.”

Part 2

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Day 10… Upon The Summit (June 25 )

“A few things have to come together.”  This is Nirbhasa’s 3rd time at the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile race and with each entrance he has improved his performance.  As for which years that he able to take part, basically the ducks have to line up in his very demanding outer life to make it possible.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos

To know even a little of Nirbhasa’s back story is to realize immediately that he leads several full and demanding lives simultaneously and there would seem to be little room for the kind of distance training necessary in order to compete here.  And yet here he is after 9 days with 593 miles in 3rd place.

When asked if he needs a year off to recover after the previous races he says, not now, but maybe after his first race in 2015.

“Every race is different.  I guess it is like meditation.  With meditation the more you progress the more you want you inner understanding to be deeper and deeper.  That is what I feel about the race as well.  Every time I come each time the race is more of an inner spiritual adventure than it is an outer race.”

“That component becomes deeper.  I am able to engage more on that level.”

Nirbhasa, like all the runners actively pushes away negative thoughts and feelings.  “There is an old saying that morning shows the day, so I always try and get out in as good a frame of mind as possible.  You know be happy and cheerful.  If you are not in that frame of mind when by the time you get out on the course than you really have to apply yourself in the first few laps in order to get to that frame of mind.  Because it is crucial to how the rest of the day is going to turn out.”

When asked who is driving his car.  “Well there is definitely an element that you are really reliant on your soul or something deeper within you to do the race.  More and more often I find myself less pushing and pulling mentally.  Instead trying to connect to this inner source.”

“Once you are connected then you kind of feel that whatever happens you are not pushing and pulling.  And so you are cheerful whatever the result is.”

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Day 9… Honestly Happy (June 24)

All the runners who come to run the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race have to have exceptional capacities and skills.  It is a super-humanly difficult and challenging physical ordeal but as well there is an exceptional battle to be endured here mentally.  If there is anyone who seems to have the exceptional ability to confront the battlefield of the 3100 mile race with both strength and boundless positivity it is Harita.

Her cheerful disposition and tireless resilience has once again served her well in this her second time entering the race.  As for her decision to come back and run after spending last year working on the Peace Run, “This time I had a pretty clear feeling that it was probably the right thing for me to do.”

She says that she spent much of last year with Peace run events and activities, and says, “it was probably a pretty good idea to have a year off. It has taken me a year to recover.”

Harita when asked about her positivity confesses that it is something she has to work at.  “You definitely have to really work at it for sure.  I don’t usually wake up that excited about having to run for 18 hours.”

“People tell me that I have a cheerful attitude generally.  That is something that you have to practice in your regular life all the time. You can’t just not do it and come out here and feel happy all of the time.    I think it is a big part of your regular life.  Always try and look at the bright side of life.”

“Just look for the things to be grateful for.  There are so so many things in our life to be grateful for.  Our lives are blessed in so many ways.  The more you can focus on that then the easier it is to feel happy.”

Harita has had a slow start but over the past few days has been running stronger and accumulating the necessary laps.  “Definitely my body feels stronger.  I can run better, but even if you have a good day it is still a huge challenge.  It is a long day and your mind always looks at the whole thing as completely unachievable.  You have to really not focus on your mind.”

“It may sound simple but it is so powerful to really try to break down the race into days and break down the days into moments.  Sri Chinmoy said imagine you are like a child running in your garden.  That is a lot to be really able to put into practice though, but it is a worthwhile endeavor.”

“The whole race is an inner experience.  Something I wanted to do this time differently from last time is not to put so much mental pressure on myself.  Last time was the first time I had done it.  It was so hard not to be constantly calculating the miles.  Even though you should live in the moment, there in the back of my mind I was constantly calculating.”

“I had 3 days near the beginning of the race when I couldn’t really run at all, I could just walk.  I was really very grateful because I was able to stay cheerful and not worry about it, and not be mental about it.  I took it more like a flow and so that is one of my goals going into this race is to be less mental and just have faith that it is all in God’s hands and be in the flow.”

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Day 8… Work Of A Lifetime (June 23 )

If there ever was a time that was most spectacular and thrilling to watch the 3100 mile race it would have to been 2015 when Ashprihanal set the current record for the race.  He broke the old mark by nearly a day but what I cannot help but remember from that summer is that over the course of 40 days and 9 hours he single handedly demonstrated transcendence, courage, and stamina in a way the race had never seen.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos

Ashprihanal is unlikely to break any speed records this year but still he is doing something record setting and  heroic as he attempts the race for the 15th time.  When asked about this he makes sure that I include Ananda-Lahari as well joining the 15th year club.

For me the sheer quantity of his numbers are all simply too vast to grab hold of or even comprehend.  By the time he completes the race this summer he will have run 46,500 miles around the block.  When asked if he can understand it all, he says simply, “yes I can.”

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos

As he approaches me before our interview, he grasps the revolving cap of a fire hydrant and gives it a little spin.  It is a little ritual that he has been doing probably since his first race here.  He told me once he pretended it was like turning a prayer wheel for good luck.

Other objects that often get his attention include patting particular bushes and trees at regular intervals along the course.  He does it so naturally you have to really watch or he will run by so lightly and swift you won’t even notice.

Day 8 starts out well for Ashprihanal, “the weather is good, I made a small joke with Smarana. (see video) For him as for all the runners keeping joyful is unquestionably important to having a good race.  “In the first races I had try more to be positive.  To change hardships, and work on the mind.  So far it has worked without really working too hard.”

“If I felt negative then I would really start working on it.  Now it has been okay so far.”

“I didn’t train as much this year, but here I am doing pretty good.  I wanted to train and I started.  Then I started building my garage so I stopped then started again.  But I did something (training ) definitely. But not enough.”

Ashprihanal believes that he can get stronger as the race progresses.  “Also I have done it so many years, that it all helps this year.”

And if there is any doubt about his motivation for coming here to run the race at age 48 and run for the 15th time, ” It is for my inner progress and for Sri Chinmoy, that is why I am here.”

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Day 7… A Sunlit Path (June 22)

I found a picture recently of Ananda-Lahari taken at his 2nd 3100 mile race 14 years ago.  It strikes me that in so many ways, to at least my mind’s eye, that he has remarkably changed so little visibly. He continues to appear youthful and his temperament is still sweet, light, cheerful, and kind.

My own image, as well as that of most I know has found that time has not treated our outer appearance with similar generosity.  Which when compared to a man such as Ananda-Lahari who has spent approximately 735 days running continuously on a hard half mile loop suggests that an elixir of youth is somehow imbued into the very fabric of the 3100 mile race.

Sri Chinmoy Ultra Race Photos 2006

I am sure of course that if even a stronger, fitter, braver version of myself had taken up the challenge of the race my own results would be much grimmer if not life threatening.  For I, like a great portion of humanity have but a fragment of the inner devotion and dedication that Ananda-Lahari has for this sacred race.

“I am very very very grateful for the race.  It somehow happens that every year I am here at the starting line and it is amazing.  Unbelievable.   It is a miracle.”

This morning on Day 7 I asked him if he had been happy the whole time thus far this year, and he confessed that no, he had not, but said it all with a smile and sweetness.  He has been bothered by, “Pain and the usual things, that you have to spend your whole day running around the block.  I think it takes a while to accept it and sincerely and sincerely enjoy it, and be happy no matter what.”

When asked how long it would take, “I am almost there but of course there are always challenges.  It is not easy.”

“It is not that there is something beautiful here that draws me back.  I just feel that I want to come back.  It is the thing that I really want to do. It is rewarding for sure.  Especially it intensifies for me my inner cry.  My inner cry for God.  My inner cry to become a better person.  More humble and more pure.

When asked how many times he wants to run the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race, “as many times as possible.”

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Day 6… Impossibility Always Bows (June 21)

In the last 7 years Vasu has run approximately 21,700 miles around the same Self-Transcendence block.   Considering that he is well on track to completing the 3100 mile distance once again, it will mean that by August this year he will have run a distance that equals the circumference of the earth, 24,901 miles.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Photo

The significance of the sheer volume of miles appears to have little meaning to Vasu.  He comes and runs his best every morning from 6am until midnight.  It seems clear that what his feet accomplish here are not nearly as interesting and fulfilling as where is heart is taking him.

He, like most of the runners are clearly intent on propelling themselves to a destination in which the finish line is constantly receding.  True transcendence constantly rising upwards by the sheer force of grace, dedication, and a willing body at the true service of the divine within.

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Photo

“I am feeling good, I hope,” Vasu tells me this morning.  He smiles as he cautiously admits to having some problems.  “Yesterday I got a blister.” For one who is very experienced at all aspects of running here he says that getting a blister for him is not easy. This year he is also at a disadvantage of not having a full time helper as he has had in previous races.

His enthusiasm for being here running on the course is all consuming, “Every time I want to come.”

Vasu says that many things about being in the race give him joy.  He likes his fellow runners, and all those who come and help, but in particular he likes the consciousness that exists tangibly in the small perimeter of the course itself.

When asked if he could not find some place nicer back home he laughs bemusedly . “Consciousness is different there.”

“The consciousness here is higher.  Here there is inspiration and aspiration and I can go inside myself and pray and meditate and be happy.”

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