Day 46…A Stronger Heart (July 31)

“Its never over until its over.”  Nirbhasa has had on paper at leas a great race.  As of this morning as he starts the day, in this his 3rd race, he is 9 miles ahead of his previous best.   It is a razor thin margin when you are calculating through all the thousands of miles that he has run.  Yet whatever his fate may be in the days ahead, when he goes home tonight the finish line will be less than 200 miles away.

The incredibly hot and humid weather has mostly passed, but its effects still linger in the faces and legs of those most devastated by it.  Nirbhasa was given a blow that he has still not yet fully recovered from.  “I am not entirely sure what happened.”

“During the really big heat wave about 10 days ago, I basically got heat exhaustion.  Especially during hot days I haven’t yet fully recovered.  It still flares up.”

“We had a period of sustained heat, the previous 3 days.  I just have to be very careful, and somehow deal with it.  It was my first time dealing with, particularly that level of heat.   It was 100 degrees in the shade, and the real heat index was something like 105.  20/20 hindsight is always a great thing.  You just deal with the situation you have, here and now.”

The qualities Nirbhasa feel that are most important to doing the race are patience and perseverance.  “You have to sense that the race is your job.  That while you are here, you are inspiring so many people.  That you are doing something beneficial.  You need a sense of dedication to that purpose.”

He says that when it comes to Joy, “you find moments throughout the day whenever you can.”

As for the finish line which is drawing so, so close.  “Yes and no.  If you start thinking too much about it you still have a job here to do.  I still have a few days left to complete.  You have to focus on the task at hand.”

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Day 45…An Unprecedented Journey (July 30)

“My last interview,” Ashprihanal says as he rounds the corner by the handball court.

I am standing of course just beyond waiting to greet him but what I see, rather than hear, is just how much he is smiling with an innocent glee.  For now with just a little more than 200 miles more to go he surely just has to reach across a few more days and lovingly touch the finish line here for the 15th time.

Ashprihanal says, “the last 200 miles is like all the other 200 miles.  It is not a big change.”  When he had 700 miles left he told Sahishnu that from that distance he could comfortably see himself arriving at the goal.  “You start to see you are getting closer to the end.”

He says it doesn’t get easier at this point and pretty much stays the same.  “But it is not getting harder either.  So that is nice.”

“This is like a pilgrimage so we all try and go together.”  He has not been focusing on the fact that he will be this years race champion.  “I am just trying to run the race.”

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“It has always been clear to me that this is an outer race.  Then there is this inner thing.”  Ashprihanal believes as time passes he is experiencing the inner qualities of the race more and more.   “I am trying to feel that the spiritual inner part is more important than the outer part.”

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Day 44…Sweet Days and Bitter Days (July 29 )

I am not sure how long ago I first started keeping my fingers crossed and mumbling little prayers, hoping that Ananda-Lahari not only completes the full distance but also sets a new record for himself in the process.  It has also occurred to me that there are likely others whose twiddling fingers are as agitated as my own and whose lips are continuously quivering.

The odd thing of course is that the runner in question isn’t the least concerned about our worries for him.  He is not worried at all. When asked if he can feel the finish line’s call yet he says he doesn’t even know how far away it is.  “It is only today.  I know I have to focus on one day.”

Ananda-Lahari is a world class smiler and I ask him if he ever has to work at it.  “Yes I have to.  Especially when my stomach is messed up and I am not smiling.  Then I know, even if I force myself to smile then it will get better.  It is not a fake smile.  You just start smiling.  Focus on I want to smile.  I want to be happy.”

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Ananda-Lahari is not completely unaware of how close he is to setting a personal record.  “I just can’t influence if I will make the record or not.  But it is nice to hear that I can do it.”  He feels he simply has to continue on and do his very best every day.

“I didn’t know how many times I would come to the race.  I just wanted to come as many times as possible.”

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“I would say in general, on days I feel weak, then everything slows me down.”  He says it can be heat, rain, or humidity if he is weak then he will be affected.  “Once you feel strong then nothing slows you down.”

“I guess every moment is a mediation here.  But consciously of course it isn’t.  I talk, I eat, and there are times when I am not focused.  But I guess every step here is meditation in action.”

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Day 43…Easily Become Perfect (July 28)

“I think you have to stay focused until the last step.  You never know what awaits for you.”

This morning Kaneenika, the women’s record holder for this event quickly dispelled any notion that the race can get any easier in its precious few waning days.  A prospect that on paper at least seems possible.  Instead Kaneenika says, “you must concentrate on what you are here to do.”

“Now, since I am not in the race, I am thinking it is so exciting.  It is almost over.  Yet I know I can’t say that to the runners who are in the race.  Because I know how it feels when people tell you that.”

“I remember in one race someone told me, it’s almost over there is one day to go.  And I was like, you have no idea what it means to go one more day.  Even to go one more lap might seem like an eternity.”

Kaneenika says she is always surprised at just how much people are aware of what is happening here.  “I think people do feel that something special is happening here.  Very often you feel that some of the people who walk here and run here don’t understand what is going on here. ”

“But then they say something to you and you are surprised.”  Kaneenika then describes a man who used to come around the course quite often last year when she was running.  “Last year when it was really hot and humid he would actually give me the weather forecast.  He would say, tomorrow it is going to be cooler.  He did it just to encourage me to go on.”

There are many essential qualities that help the runners persevere the ordeal of running 3100 miles.  Kaneenika believes that being happy is at the top of the list.  “Happiness is very important here.”

She recalls a time when she was not having a good day.  “I saw somebody on the course and they made me smile.  Then when I came back to the camp I saw an aphorism of Sri Chinmoy saying, just one smile immensely increases the beauty of the universe.  I realized that it is important to be happy here, and to smile.  In that way we can give a lot to the world doing this.”

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Day 42…Enthusiasm Is Strength Indomitable (July 27 )

This morning was just about as spectacular as it gets at the 3100 mile race.  A set of tables groaned with an incredible assortment of goodies, a little machine was blowing an endless stream of bubbles up into the hot morning air, and yes Parvati and the Enthusiasm Awakeners were celebrating another anniversary of this understated but hugely significant group of girl singers.

It is really the simplest of things to drag yourself out of bed and stand with a bunch of other girls in matching t shirts and go through a hand clapping repertoire of songs that lasts about 40 minutes.  It is quite something else to do this with energy and joy and absolute commitment for more than a decade.  I am in awe and admiration for this little miracle that has played out for so long and so beautifully here at the race.

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“July 27 marks the anniversary when Guru gave Parvati’s singing group the name Enthusiasm Awakeners. That’s today and we are celebrating here at the 3100 with lots of prasad,”said Paree this morning.

“We used to sing here at the 3100 starting in 2006.”  Innocently enough  Parvati chose the race as a venue to honor Sri Chinmoy’s 75th birthday that year by singing 75 songs a day for 19 days.

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Parvati said, When I mentioned this upcoming project to Sri Chinmoy, he was delighted but also wondered how many singing group members would actually come — and how many would ‘make friends with the goddess of sleep’. To our delight, Sri Chinmoy would often drive by our group singing and later in the summer began to stop and teach us a brand new song.

Paree smiles and her hand reaches out towards the end of the block as she describes the daily arrival of Sri Chinmoy’s little red car.

“It started out as this limited project and then became a tradition.  There is such a special relationship between this group of girls singing and the runners.  It is so sweet.  We come out to support them by singing Guru’s songs, offering Guru’s songs which is what we can do.”

On their part some of the runners perform little skits.  “It is just adorable.  It is such a cute relationship.  It feeds everybody.  It feeds everybody on every level.”

“The runners enjoy it.  The singers enjoy it.”  Paree says the membership is simply open to any girl who wants to come.  “She has made it extremely easy for anyone.”

“It is so fun.  Somehow it is easy to wake up in the morning.”

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Day 41…To Achieve Happiness (July 26 )

I don’t exactly know, just how many times a day, I am struck by the realization of just how difficult a task the 8 runners at the 3100 actually have.   It comes almost like a flash of light or the sound of a big gong being struck a particularly powerful resonating blow.  It seems to be tied generally when I start to feel a little weary or a little sorry for myself.  Boom/ Flash, your task is nothing when compared to theirs.

I am genuinely in awe of all the runners of course but somehow Vasu was designed without complexity, with maximum sweetness, and a kind singular focus on transcending himself here like it is nearly impossible to believe.  Which is of course his 8th year in a row.

Asked why he loves the race, “you don’t know why you love it.  For everything.  For good consciousness, good people, you do the right things, and everything is good.”

2 days ago Vasu had one of his worst days ever with just 49 miles.   Yesterday he improved to 59 miles, and if I am correct at the speed we are running at this morning his total for day 41 will be very high indeed.  He is passing everybody and I am huffing and puffing like an old steam engine.

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“A week ago I could not run.  I don’t know why, maybe heat, maybe my mind, maybe something else.” 2 days ago however Dr.Kausal came and started working with Vasu to help increase his speed.  Between a very painful massage and some remedies clearly something has worked.

“Yesterday in the evening I started to run a little bit faster.  Today, this morning I am very grateful for his help.  I hope everything will be good.”

“I am trying to feel more gratitude, and peace, and purity, and discipline.”  Vasu hopes to continue some of his spiritual practices when he goes home.  He wants to continue to make progress.

“I think it is good not just for me, but it is also good for the world, and humanity.  Here is a very special place.  I think it works for all the world.”

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Day 40…Time To Be Happy (July 25)

“I even had my jacket on this morning.  I love it when I freeze in  the New York summer.”  The weather here at the race has always been the most unpredictable force that the runners have to find some way to manage.   Days of heat and days of humidity and days of rain are the 3 foes of every summer time race here. You can’t beat them but somehow instead must resolve to work out a relationship of compromise and acceptance. Coax out of a hard day as many laps as you can and hope they add up to 109.

Today only 3 runners made it past 60.  Unusual unless you consider the devastating affect the weather has had over the past several days.  An inevitable price must be paid.  So Ushika, who wore a coat this morning says, “definitely the outer circumstances have brought more joy to my running.”

“Each and every day is different.  Each day has a  new challenge and a new joy.  There is always something new coming up.  Meanwhile I am always looking forward to see what is coming up, even if it is a challenge.”

“You crack one issue and then the next one pops up.  It is a nice game.”

“I just had an experience yesterday.  Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined, that I would think at one point that this race is too short.  But yesterday my mind was thinking that it is too short.  I want more.”

Ushika says he doesn’t fully understand but the experience was clear.  “I had a desire for more.  To dive deeper into the matter.  Dive deeper into the race.   Dive deeper into myself.  To discover more sooner. I got a taste for it and now I want more besides all the challenges.”

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Day 39… I Become Everything (July 24)

Sanjay this morning told me about this interesting reaction he received when he showed his movie at the Road Runners club in Manhattan a few nights ago.  “There is a connection between the 3100 and the Road Runners club,” he says.

“So after a screening to a packed house in New York city I did a Question and Answer but I noticed that 2 kids from the audience sneaked out.”   What had happened was the 2 boys were so inspired by the movie they simply decided to come immediately out to the race and see it for themselves.

When Sanjay came back to the race himself they had just gotten there.  “They just couldn’t believe that this kind of race even existed, and they had to see it for themselves.”

Sanjay says the boys were ecstatic and spent more than an hour talking with runners and helpers. “It was an awakening.”  He felt the boys were introduced to a whole new dimension of their own spiritual possibilities.  “It was really fascinating.”

Sanjay says that for many people watching the movie they have never before seen a true Spiritual Master like Sri Chinmoy.  This experience of hearing a Master’s voice and seeing a Master in action as in 3100 Run and Become could affect people on a very deep level.  It was beyond my control but I saw the possibility that viewers of the movie could make a connection to Sri Chinmoy.”

“In 2007 in the summer I had the chance to drive Sri Chinmoy to Philadelphia where he was invited to lift some of the world’s strongest men.  Who were in a competition there.  They were gigantic.”

Sanjay says that as soon as Sri Chinmoy started warming up they started gathering around.  “You could hear the sounds of the weights crashing.”  He says as the warmup progressed Sri Chinmoy lifted effortlessly.  “They understood just how heavy these weights actually were.”

“They were appreciative of the weights that Sri Chinmoy was actually lifting.  Never giving up.”

In total Sri Chinmoy lifted 5948 pounds in the space of half an hour. “Today was one of the highlights of my weightlifting career“, he reflected after the event. “These great strongmen have inspired countless people on earth, and I am so happy I could offer them my most sincere appreciation from the inmost depths of my heart.“

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Day 38… Today’s Inner Progress (July 23 )

41 years ago Arpan came up with a great idea to celebrate his birthday.   One which he planned to perpetuate every year.  He called it an ageathon and the formula was simply to run the same number of miles as your age on that day no matter what.

As an athletic and very fit 26 year old looking at running 26 miles was not a big ask.  Remarkably 4 decades on and the tradition has continued but with some minor slight bending of the rules.  Still athletic he plans to do the amount at a 24 hour race on the weekend.

This morning on his special day he came early to the 3100 to start his day with something close to his heart, and it is by the way a race he entered on 2 occasions.  “I am enjoying the race and being here on my special day.”

“The good thing about this race, whether running it or helping is that everybody can participate.”  Arpan describes a sense of oneness that exists between all those who immerse themselves into the powerful orbit of the race.  “There is a sense of family.  There is a sense of helping each other.  This race really embodies that, both in spirit and in action.”

“There is a mental and spiritual aspect to the race, that you have to really embody.  It is kind of like a meditation where there is a calming of the mind.  Instead, try and feel the joy that comes from the heart.  That will help you face challenges.”

Arpan says we always have to overcome doubts but turning inward towards our own heart gives us the power to overcome them.  “Sri Chinmoy wanted people to be happy here.  You can do that.  I have tried it.”

“Sri Chinmoy loved this race.  He was here every day when he was in town.  He would wave to the runners and then the car would stop and he would hand out prasad to the runners.”

He then tells a story about how we was running the race in 2004 and Sri Chinmoy came by while he was running with Stutisheel.  When he went to get his prasad, “Sri Chinmoy wished me happy birthday.  It is your birthday today.  I am very proud of you.  He said a few other things and he was very sweet.”

“After Sri Chinmoy drove off Stutisheel had tears in his eyes and said, What else could you want on your birthday?”

As it turns out he had a harmless desire to also have some clouds and some possible thunder and lightning.  “Within a lap there were these clouds coming over us and I heard thunder and lightning in the distance.   It didn’t even rain.  It was just like a prayer being answered, and we both started laughing.”

“There are really a lot of ways you can really be happy here and get joy.  It is really an amazing experience that you can’t forget.  It is a very powerful meditation and spiritual lesson for life.”

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Day 37…My Inner Faith (July 22)

When you have so many days of extreme running packed so tightly back to back it is almost impossible to sift through all the days and remember one in particular.   I have a feeling, that despite everything that yet might happen to Smarana here at the race, that July 21st will stand out as a beacon to his self transcendence journey.

It was the hottest day by far and the humidity was so thick it was choking.  The handball tournament was going on with its shifting crowds of rowdy fans and yet Smarana maneuvered through it all and managed to be one of the only 3 runners to make at least 60 miles.

Smarana agrees that the last 2 days were difficult, “You can see it in my miles.”

“It was so humid and sticky.  It was really tough.  2 days ago it was like running against a wall, you had to push.  On the other side you had to play smart.   Because if you push too hard, you might have to pay the price.”

“Yesterday it was much better also I think I had a different energy signature.  Then it is easier to run.  If you have weak energy, it is difficult to run.  But if you have strong energy than the outer circumstances do not affect you as much.”

Smarana says he has no control of this, “I wish I could.  I keep searching for the switches but they keep hiding.  It is not you flipping the switches it just happens.  Sometimes it is just grace.  You don’t know why or how.  You haven’t changed anything.”

“It feels like a downpour of grace.  The heavens open.  There is a torrential downpour and you just accept it gladly, without questioning.”

Smarana starts the day with 880 miles more to go.  “This inner confidence is really amazing.  With this strength you can overcome everything.  If you have this inner strength then the outer difficulties will just go away.”

“I have really learned a lot from everybody.”  He says in particular the consistency of Nirbhasa and Harita he has found inspiring.  “I have seen that they also have had problems and issues, but somehow they just continue to deliver.  This was very inspiring and helped me a lot.”

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