“This is the longest race in the world and I am here. It is an honor and I really value it. I really love the experience, and I am really happy that I am here.”
This answer could come from no one other than Ananda-Lahari who now in his 17th straight year at the event on his 24th day has completed 1359 miles. Now most days he walks with an occasional spurt of running.
” I think for all of us we just don’t have enough gratitude. We are unable to value life at all most of the time.”
At his first race in 2004, “I was happy like anything. I knew it was going to be a super hard experience. But I was really thrilled and really happy. There was no doubt about doing this race.”
Ananda-Lahari says that during the early races he was thrilled at the nearly daily visits of the founder of the race Sri Chinmoy. “Somebody may say, ‘So what.’ But for me when I look back on my life it was really significant.”
“The significance of the race for me has not changed. It has always been to complete the distance .”
Yesterday Takasumi ran 60 miles giving him a 23 day total of 1372 miles. At the end of an additional 3 days of running here the crucial half way point will have been reached. Takasumi has just to continue exactly what he is doing now in order to be on the happy side of the math.
“Physically I am kind of confident. I have done a lot of races. I feel as though I have trained well but in reality the race has been challenging physically. It doesn’t go in the way you suspect.”
“Mentally I feel stable but it goes up and down. When I am down what I do is take a nap and then feel refreshed. Fortunately my wife is very cheerful and really supports me and that’s how I mentally cope with the challenges of the race.”
“I definitely feel I am being helped by so many people.”
The Board at the start of Day 24
The race director
Wei Ming presenting me with a ‘Never Give Up tag.’
Vasu and Stutisheel
Ready to start
Start Day 24
Andrea did 72 miles
He now has 1629 miles
Doing very well
Filling the hand wash unit
Wei Ming did 63 miles
He now has 1473 miles
Samahita with figs
Harita did 56 miles
She now has 1423 miles
Olga and Anjali
Vasu did 68 miles
He now has 1423 miles
Stutisheel did 64 miles
He now has 1362 miles
Ananda-Lahari did 48 miles
He now has 1313 miles
To solve my outer problems,
I take help
From many, many human beings.
“I was very willing to come to the race, but I didn’t understand its true meaning until I actually got here.”
It has been 3 weeks for all the runners now to adjust and find both the method and meaning of why they have come here to do this supremely difficult thing. For Wei Ming his success at being able to complete over 1400 miles strengthens his resolve, each day his confidence is growing. He feels now that he will succeed and be triumphant and reach his goal of completing 3100 miles.
“I have been running 100km a day which is usually over my limit so I am surprised that I can handle it. I am confidant that I can finish the race.”
“I am getting into a regular routine every day the same. I am getting better and better.”
“All the runners are part of this. I watch everybody and learn from them. I get strength from all the runners. I think it is important that all of us are able to finish the race.”
“In the beginning my concept was that every little step was significant as well as each lap and each mile. The process was most important not just focusing on the finish.”
“Every step I take is very important.”
Wei Ming at the end of our interview stops and wants to make one last emphatic point. “I did not come here to win and beat others. I came here to challenge myself and to be better.”
“I think we all know that our minds put boundaries on things. I think we have a sense deep inside of us, of this unlimited potential and capacity that we have. But we sometimes do not have the means to access it. Or to really believe in ourselves or to have the spiritual capacity to access that part of ourselves.”
“For all of us I think that finding that part within yourself. Giving it a go and daring to believe that you have more capacity that your mind will ever let you realize. That can be the biggest challenge in life.”
When asked if Harita has to break any of her own barriers during the race she laughs. “At every moment.”
“Often we look as though everything is great. And of course things are totally great in the inner worlds. But we are dealing with the limitations of the body and the mind. And it is a real combination of pushing beyond them. Using your spirituality or this deeper part of yourself so that you can flow with the universal consciousness.”
When asked if these lessons and experiences can translate into her life outside the race, “I hope so. How can it not. Everything we do does.”
“Being patient, treasuring each moment, and living in the moment as well.” Harita describes that she doesn’t analyze whether or not there are benefits to be gained to her life outside the concrete loop. “I am just trying to live in the moment and do the best I can. And be really surrendered to whatever happens.”
“Challenges here can come at any moment. You can be running really well, and an injury can happen.” Come what may she says all the experiences she has here are all real opportunities.
“To become the best people that we can. I think the best thing for my progress here is to be totally surrendered. Try to be in the moment. Try to be happy. Try to have faith that whatever happens has a greater purpose and significance.”
Suprabha talks about an experience with Ted Corbitt
“I believe it was 2002 and I had just won the 47 mile race.” About this same time Sri Chinmoy was hoping to expand the field for the 3100 mile race. “I felt something inner. It was an a-hah moment. So I applied.” Shift the calendar to the following year and there was no response. “I didn’t get any approval.”
At this point Stutisheel says, “I totally forgot about the race.” The following year however he received out of the blue an invitation to come and run in the 2004 race. “For me that was a WOW moment.”
“I was thrilled because I immediately felt that this was my ancient dream.” He immediately accepted the offer but confesses he knew very little of how to prepare himself for such a difficult undertaking.
In researching for what to do Stutisheel says the wisest advice he received was from Arpan suggesting that he not over train.
He says the first couple of years were the most difficult to adjust to all the demands of the race. He feels that by the time he had done the race 4 times he experienced real running and flight.”The first 2 years were quite a shock to my body.”
In 2004 his first race he had many tough days. But despite the difficulties he had a vision of himself crossing the finish line with his arms spread wide.”So from that I knew that I would finish. I just didn’t know when.”
Right from the beginning Sri Chinmoy was often present at the race. Whether it was giving prasad, or playing music, or even exercising. “It was amazing in so many ways. It was all for us. To believe that we can do it.”
The board at the start of Day 21
Annugata and Rupantar
Start Day 21
Andrea did 72 miles
He now has 1412 miles
He leads Wei Ming by 129 miles
Delivering the daily aphorism
Wei Ming did 63 miles
He now has 1283 miles
Renny who came to help translate
A powerful performance
Harita did 62 miles
She now has 1252 miles
Shoes off for morning break
Vasu did 60 miles
He now has 1227 miles
Coming off morning break
Takasumi did 59 miles
He now has 1196 miles
Ananda-Lahari did 67 miles
He now has 1151 miles
Vinaya with harmonica and dog
“Let me know when it is over or that it is snack time. Whichever comes first”
Believe in your impossible dreams,
You are bound to succeed.
“When God touches the earth anything is possible. To be sincere, I didn’t expect.” A week ago Andrea’s mileage had dipped below 70 miles a day when at the race in Salzburg he had regularly maintained an average of more than 70. But now for the past 6 days he is not only keeping comfortably above 7o he is also fractionally ahead of his pace from last year.
Andrea isn’t certain the reason for his slower days, possibly heat and humidity he thinks. “But now the weather is better for me. A little chilly I like it much more.”
“I can run in any weather conditions.” Yesterday it rained heavily in the evening but he had run well earlier and so was able to run 71 miles. “The rain slows you down definitely.”
Andrea is really surprised that his time for 1000 miles was 10 minutes faster than last year. “It comes from God, it doesn’t come from me. I try hard to do my best, but the result comes from God.”
He is getting encouragement from many places and from many people. “I am really happy when people are interested in what I am doing. Somehow I am happy because I try to run holding in my mind the spiritual dimensions of the race. It is not just about miles or performing.”
“This I also like but there is a deeper meaning. If people appreciate I am really happy.”
“I have learned a lot of things. I have tried to learn.” I had asked Vasu if he had gained anything from the physical troubles that he had been experiencing recently and which now seems to be resolved.
His dilemma had not gone unnoticed by his friends and admirers both near and far.
“I want to thank all my friends and all those who have written letters to encourage me. I would also like to thank those who came to the race and tried to encourage me.”
“The last 2 years I was unable to run the 3100 mile race. So many things I have forgotten and I had to learn again. Now once more I have to learn how to work with blisters. How to work with skin and with legs all this I had to learn again.”
Vasu then describes how miraculous and transformative it was for how his attitude to Wei Ming changed so dramatically. My first impression was that we were competitors. Now we have become good friends. I am happy with that.” In fact Wei Ming has given Vasu pairs of running sandals, the kind that he himself wears.
Vasu feels that as he realizes he is getting older he is willing to take advantage of any new thing that might help him complete the race.
When asked if he had gained something inwardly from the tough time he recently had gone through. “I understood that I need to be grateful. When we are grateful, gratitude enters us, enters our body, and takes away our pain.”
As a little boy Ananda-Lahari says, “I always used to like to run and jump around.” He adds that the first time he heard about orienteering in school he wanted to do it. “I started orienteering when I was six years old. I can say that it was almost my religion.”
He says that for the many years he enjoyed and competing in orienteering he had no interest at all in running road races.”I thought it was just boring. You will hurt yourself when you run on the road.”
“Then when I was 19 I was getting more and more lazy. I had lost my inspiration for running. I was still playing sports but it was just a joke.”
Ananda-Lahari says that by the time he was in his early 20’s everything changed. “Somehow I enjoyed running again. But it was real suffering. It was so difficult for me to run.”
He started at this point to practice meditating while living in Slovakia. He then spent a year in Scotland in order to learn English. “I was so impressed. This was my first touch with long distance running.” It was while crewing for Tarit at the Westhighland way race that the magnitude and significance of distance running hit home.
He had to run the final 10 km with Tarit. “It was getting dark so the runner had to be accompanied. I had to run with him but I couldn’t keep up. He was so fast. I was amazed. WOW. What is going on here?”
The next day they hiked a bit and Annanda-Lahari was shocked that he was able to go back to work the next day. “You have just run this 100 km and you are going to work ! This was my first touch with ultra distance running.”
“This is the place where I want to be. To do the whole thing. I have never felt like quitting. There are moments when you are tired. You feel that you have had enough. But this is part of the game.
“Actually there are ups and downs. There are times when I feel more elated and also times when I feel more down. On the outside I try my best to smile and be calm as much as possible.” I had asked Takasumi if he was as peaceful on the inside as he appears to be so often on his outer appearance.
“I am making the effort to achieve that.”
Today Takasumi looks and feels tired. “It is getting difficult.” Earlier in the race he had a number of physical issues that now seem to be resolved. “Now I feel exhaustion and tiredness have been accumulating. In that way the race is getting more challenging.”
Yesterday Takasumi had a good day with 61 miles. He starts day 17 with 957 miles and will by this evening pass 1000 miles.
“I don’t think about the next day I just go home with a feeling of accomplishment. Because no matter how tired I am at the end of the day You never know what the next day brings. The next day I may wake up refreshed and without tiredness. So I just try and stay with feeling of what I have accomplished each day.”