July 16: Beyond Our Imagination

“Tarit told me yesterday, you have gone through 1800 miles.  He could have said any number he wanted.  You are running along and the days have gone by and you see the numbers 1800 on the board.  You just feel the same tiredness.  There could have been any numbers at all.  They just don’t mean anything at all.  I just glance at the board occasionally.”

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“For me I just have to wrap myself up in my own world.  I don’t even listen to anything. (MP3 player) I find that I have to associate,  Just focus on what I am doing.  To maintain my form and a nice easy running pace.  That is what gets the job done for me.”

“Where others here like to distract themselves.  Which for me doesn’t seem to work.  Dissociation is to have distraction of some sort.  Talking to someone and listening to music.  Whereas association which I tend to like is to just focus on the process of doing it.  Using cue words and mantras and that sort of thing.”

“This time of the morning I use….short and quick…. short and quick….short and quick. You just say it in time with your steps.”  He then says it out loud a few times and his words match the sound of his foot steps.”

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“Other times of the day it might be …..smooth and focused…….smooth and focused.  Especially in the evening I tend to use that one a lot.  I take a deep breath and I imagine that there is a ball deep down in my bladder area, and I am blowing it up.  So I do deep breathing and as I breathe out I say ….smooth and focused.  I use that a few times every lap.  These are very highly rehearsed.  It is like a form of self hypnosis.  That is what always seems to work for me.”

“I have got music but maybe I am missing out.  But I like my own thoughts and it seems to be getting the job done.”

Just about 500 miles ago which in race time was about 8 days, the Scottish record books were now clear and open for him to leave his own fresh marks.  The great Scottish/Canadian runner Al Howie had set some extraordinary times all the way up to 1300 miles.  His record time of 16 days and 19 hours set in 1991 at the Self Transcendence race here in New York.

william-sky

William has spent the last 31 days of his life here doing nothing else other than focus on running.  He has been preparing himself for the better part of the past 20 years to be the best ultra runner he can be.  He may as well over the next 21 days also demonstrate that he is the best 60 year old ultra runner in the world.  He still has a very long distance left to go.  1300 miles more and just 3 weeks in which to do it.

As I jog beside him I am as much aware of his gentle and thoughtful words as I am to the sound his light steps make along the sidewalk.  A sound that he has heard and has attuned himself to, much more than conversations and car horns.  Each light step carrying him on without any of the distractions that ensnare all of us each and every day.

And so because he has devoted himself wholeheartedly to the impossible of running 3100 miles, it grows just a little closer each day, with each new mile, and each new lap.  Which as of midnight last night was 3291 times so far around a High School in Queens New York.

sri-chinmoy-al-howie

Question asked of Sri Chinmoy: How does running fit in with your teaching?

But even on the outer plane our capacity is constantly expanding. Right now 1,300 miles is our longest race. To run 1,300 miles in 18 days is almost beyond our imagination. We feel that is our ultimate capacity. But previously we felt that 1,000 miles was the limit. Who thought of a 1,300-mile race five years ago? At that time people would have thought I was a crazy man if I had suggested that. But now you see that this crazy man was right because people are doing it. Somebody just has to start. We always have to go ahead because life means progress.

For full answer:

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy answers, part 29, Agni Press, 2001

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July 15: Measureless Miles

“The rain is outside.  Happiness is inside.  They do not mix.  I love rain very much.  I call rain my friend, and when it comes I am very happy.”

“I understand that other runners do not like rain very much.  But rain doesn’t ask us when it comes.  Therefore I am very happy when it comes.  I cheer it.”

“I take rain as a part of the Supreme.  Rain, sun, and wind are all manifestations of the Supreme, and I try and take it with gratitude.  Our minds can think about it in a bad way.  But my heart feels that I am one with the rain.  Rain is also a symbol of purity.  So when it comes I feel more pure.  Outwardly it is difficult.  Inwardly I have a good feeling.”  Yuri Trostenyuk

Photo by Sarvadhara

Photo by Sarvadhara

On a night when the rain fell heavy and rich out of the sky Yuri completed 2000 miles on the very wet earth below.  He posed briefly for Sarvadhara to take a picture and then went on to cover an additional 5 more miles.

I know how I feel when it is raining, or it is cold, or I am tired and faced with the prospects of going out for a run.  Like many, I can easily make friends with procrastination and give in and give up.  Just like that.

None of the 14 runners ever have that option available to them at any time. No matter how hot it might be, no matter how heavy the rain comes down out of the sky, and no matter what creature of doubt or hesitation or the mistress of lethargy itself persistently tries to make their acquaintance. They all must be pushed aside in order to move on.

This board has been has been witness to many sweet victories over the years.  Not just a yellow backdrop to the greatness of champions who have completed the distance, but also to observe the small quiet triumphs that can take place long before the race is even over.

It is a constant presence.  There when pain or dark doubt have been turned away or when joy and peace have made their presence felt.  Observed the inner battles, both large and small. The joys both luminous and profound.  All the pilgrims pass it by but none stay by it long. Yet still its presence makes no permanent mark and yet passing by it means and counts for  much.

In the first year of the race, and over many other years, the great Ted Corbitt used to come out to visit the race.  As a pioneer of American distance running and a dear friend to Sri Chinmoy the founder of the race, this was a place where he could quietly and lovingly observe his ultra distance sport taking place at the absolute summit of his imagination and his dreams. He loved to come and quietly watch.

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At an age when he could just as easily walk up and enjoy ultra races from a distance, he instead continued to compete.  Compete at an extraordinary high level at an age when just about anybody would have questioned his sanity for doing so.

On one occasion when Sri Chinmoy heard that Ted was here visiting the race, he came over so that he could meet with his dear friend.  He asked Ted why he had not competed in the 6 and 10 day races in the Spring.  Apparently Ted mentioned that he was simply unable to run anymore and was only able to walk.  Sri Chinmoy, so it has been remembered said to him.

This is not something you are doing for yourself.  This is something you are doing for the world.

Ted Corbitt, at age 81 competed at our 6 day race at Wards Island in 2000 and walked 240 miles.  The following year in 2001 he returned again and walked 303 miles, 63 miles further.  Then when he was 84 in 2003 he did 68 miles in a 24 hour race, placing 17th out of 35 competitors.

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Ted Corbitt, Ted Corbitt, Ted!
Runner-world revolution-head.
O softness-runner-saint,
Measureless miles your legs did paint.
A brave champion is found
In Heavenly Silence-Sound.

Sri Chinmoy, Run and become, become and run [songbook], , 1982

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July 14: Something Amazing

“The course is what we make of it.  It is always there.  Everybody makes of it what their current need and current capacity is suggesting to them.  And this is for everybody, whether they are spiritually minded or spiritually hearted or not.  They are still getting something.”…Teekshanam

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“People who live nearby come out during the day, either in the morning or in the evening for a jog.  They always circle the course but maybe in a different direction than we do.  They may not talk too much, but they kind of know what is going on and they really appreciate what is going on.  They don’t stop you and they don’t engage you in a conversation.”

Teekshanam describes that when on occasion he has found himself talking to these local people they are always incredibly respectful.  “They don’t want to disturb what is happening.  They know that we are doing something amazing.”

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He has found himself at many unexpected times alternately being cheered up by these strangers or just shown a true sense of appreciation for what he is doing,  He says this is not a kind of loud cheer leading kind of support but a more subtle and heart felt connection.  “They are moved they are touched.  It is a deep feeling inside them that they are very delicately expressing.”

“Yesterday I saw a man who was jogging very nicely.  For some reason I looked at his feet.  I wanted to ask him something about his shoes.  So I waved to him and he stopped.  I had seen him many times before.  But at that moment when I waved to him and wanted to talk to him.  He immediately stopped.”

“I couldn’t believe the amount of respect and the amount of appreciation he was showing.  I realized in that very short encounter that all this time, he was coming to jog here and keep silence.  But he was also very deeply aware of something big that was happening here.  He was totally respectful.”

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“I realized that yes, there are all these people around who seem to be minding their own business, but in some corner of their heart they are totally attuned.  To something that is bigger than any individual runner or any individual performance.”

“So I realized that within this silence that reigns here while people run here that there is a lot of inner oneness, that has already taken place.  It comes forward sometimes when it needs to come forward.  But it is always there.  There is real oneness between the local people who come to the course and the runners.  Even though there is no exchange of words.  So I immediately felt home.”

“Sometimes you feel, O I am by myself doing some laps here.  But in fact you have this whole army of people who observe you every day and support you every day, and who come here every day.  You don’t know them by name.  I may not even notice them by face.  But they are there offering their support.  It was a simple thing but made me feel that people are totally supportive of what we are doing.”

 

Photo of Sri Chinmoy Decathlon Champion Pondicherry

Photo of Sri Chinmoy Decathlon Champion Pondicherry

Sincerity
Changed his past
Slowly and steadily.

Determination
Is changing his present
Powerfully and convincingly.

Faith
Will change his future
Amazingly and permanently.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 39, Agni Press, 1982

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July 13: My Favorite Place

“It is my favorite place.” By all outer appearances there is nothing about this simple sidewalk, that goes around a school and a park that would ever make it onto any travelers must see lists.    Visitors to New York, like Suprabha, could easily find more beautiful and more interesting sites than this.

It is place that is simply so ordinary that on the surface there is nothing about it that would catch your eye.  Yet despite this, it still has a powerful and compelling way of capturing your heart.  Then when it has done this,  it is somehow able to open up limitless vistas of possibility within you.  Not something any other half mile rectangle of concrete could possibly do.

Suprabha

There is certainly nobody who is more connected and invested to this place quite like Surprabha.  She lives in DC and has a gift shop there and only occasionally visits Queens.  Yet so much of her life, both inner and outer has taken place right here over the past 14 summers.   It is quite natural, and no stretch of the imagination to assume then, that a part of her will always be connected to it.

There are some who might make a strong claim that this place is also theirs.  Let anyone claim it as their own, their very own.  There is more than enough hard concrete and golden dreams of Transcendence  here to satisfy everybody who wishes to be a part of it.

Yet Suprabha has certainly spent more time, and run more miles, and journeyed far far beyond the hard 43,000 miles that she has run here over those long hot 14 summers, starting in 1996.

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On this quiet Sunday morning we stroll casually around the loop.  The clock is not running, and no one is counting her laps.  Instead it is just a brief visit to her favorite place. She points out some of the sites that she enjoyed the most.  “This stretch I love.  You come around the curve until you see the buses.  In the evening it is so peaceful.”

It was in 1986 that she ran her first really long race of 200 miles.  It was at a time, just 2 years after women were allowed to compete in the Olympic marathon.  “Sri Chinmoy really introduced it for us.  He actually encouraged a small team of girls.  His vision was to bring women into the running picture I think.”

I mention that Ray had said that it was not impossible to imagine that a girl could be an overall winner here.  “Look at Dipali, she is often second overall.  She is amazing and she has the women’s world record.  I think women have qualities that lend themselves to super long distance.  Like patience and perseverance.”

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“I feel extremely lucky to have participated in all the races.  It gives me joy to come back and see them (the runners in this years race) go around.”

“When I run any time of the year here, when I come to New York I really do try and bring back some of the things that happened here.”  We are coming along by the Grand Central and she mentions that Sri Chinmoy visited the race so often, “he probably stopped at every foot around the course.”

“We are so lucky.  He was here so many times.”

She says that even after his passing in 2007 and she went on to run the race another 2 years, she still felt his presence.  “Everything is still happening the way it always was.  There is still so much oneness.  There is still so much love.   There are still so many ways to participate, to offer something, and to receive something.  It is still all being generated from the same source.”

Click to Play Interview:

Suprabha

Paradise is the place
Where my heart wants to grow.
Paradise is the place
Where my mind wants to know.
Paradise is the place
Where my soul wants to sow–Sow the seed of perfection.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 62, Agni Press, 1983

suprabha-and-ckg

Photo by Jowan

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July 12: Such A Gift

“I think he is highly motivated by knowing how many people are inspired by him taking on this, really unimaginable task.  This event is something that people can’t understand.  There is no way to even mentally imagine it.”…..Casey friend of Ray

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“People can imagine a 100 miles if they try hard.  Other runners can at least.  3100 miles…….there is just no way.”

“Ray has done occasional posts about his experience here and I know he feels just as inspired and pushed by those people who are following him and encouraging him and are with him in spirit.”

“I know he wants this, and he is learning so much about himself here.”

There is a constant flow of stories and inspiration and experiences that moves and emanates from this little block and then out into the world.  Each day, in so many ways each of the runners has something powerful happen to them.  Whether it be delight or pain. no matter the experience it all then shapes and reforms the very essence of their lives.  Pictures, blogs, and text can only capture a few drops at best of this ever expanding sea of Transcendence.

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There is an image I have of swimming in a vast deep ocean.  One in which you cannot possibly grasp the beauty of its immensity and then be told that it has just got even vaster and more beautiful.  Spending time with Casey this morning, and having her share some of her heart felt experiences here was just like that.

Casey has her brother to thank, if you call it that, for having the name Casey instead of Katherine.

On the other hand, from her friend Ray Krolewicz she has just received something even more precious and significant than a name change.  By being inspired by him, and coming up from her home in North Carolina to this little oasis in Queens to visit him at the race, she has suddenly found herself smack dab in the middle of the world of self transcendence.

casey

It started who knows exactly when.  But from the time she arrived on the course late in the afternoon yesterday.  She then proceeded to walk with Ray around the block for the next 5 hours, something happened.

“I think watching all these people so dedicated to one task.  With so much focus and enduring so much pain and fatigue and low moments.  Is a huge thing.  For me seeing them day after day conquer themselves.  Conquer the self doubt, and with joy, and happiness, and kindness towards each other.  And kindness towards strangers who just show up.”

“That is an amazing thing. That is inspiring.  It is such a gift to be able to be here and see it.  I am so honored that you have let me come.”

ckg-and-ray

Gift of sight:

Universal beauty.

Gift of night:

Universal peace.

Gift of humanity:

Universal sorrow.

Gift of divinity:

Universal smile.

Sri Chinmoy, Three Hundred Sixty-Five Father’s Day Prayers, Agni Press, 1974

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July 11: A New Goal

“It is a point you achieve and then you go for a new goal.  The goal is ahead, far ahead.  It was something to celebrate and to smile for.  It was a nice achievement but I have something more to do.”

Yesterday Jayasalini achieved something historic for herself when she reached the half way point in the 3100 mile race.  A tremendous achievement since it was a longer distance over a greater period of time that she had ever run before.

“Definitely it is a golden opportunity to feel the presence of God inside.  To feel that it is all around you and that everything is so pure and divine.  Some moments that you have here are hard to describe.  They are just so beautiful.  It is definitely a golden opportunity to please the higher part of you.  And you feel that this is the right thing to do.  At this very moment and you do your best.”

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Her world for these past 26 days, as is that of each of the 14 runners, is completely different from that of yours and mine.  So diametrically detached from the familiar world that we all inhabit.  So remote from all our physical reference points that even as we look and applaud and appreciate we see only a glowing fragment.

Though it helps us to see and identify with it as best we can.   We all can stand and cheer and help for hours but then you go home while they still continue on. Hour after hour, and day after day.

jayasalini-wide

Your work may be difficult so you take a break.  You get bored so read a book or watch tv.  We all have a complex world of distractions and temptations at almost every moment trying to snatch and grab our attention.  While Jaysalini has absolutely nothing in front of her but a hard concrete sidewalk.  That and the absolute dedication and commitment that she will not stop her long hard journey, which she began 26 days ago for anything other than the finish line.

It is so simple and so pure what the runners are striving for here.  Any other undertaking in comparison that gathers our attention, or energy, or commitment seems complex, futile, and in some ways meaningless.  Because if you can see in even some small way that what the goal here is actually perfection itself, than how can we not applaud and be inspired by what they are doing. Seek out  our own glowing embers of inspiration that also burn within each of us.

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For even in our darkest slumber, even when the crush of the world seems to bind us tight, our unflagging perfection goal continues to beckons us to move on.  Beckons us to run on our own inner path that has no barriers, has no limitations, and will one day show us a sweet victory just by taking even one step more.

 

Each day
I have a new goal,
And this goal
Lives beyond the horizon.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 30, Agni Press, 2002

ckg)

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July 10: Self Transcendence Is Eternal

“In this race the weather is everything.  This morning was one of the best days we have had, with low humidity and absolutely everyone is flying around the course.  This is the 26th day of the race and we have had only 2 hot days and I wouldn’t even say they were hot.  I wouldn’t classify them as really hot since we haven’t reached 100.  Which we consider really hot weather.”

“We still have a long way to go but now is the time to really get some miles in.  Right now you can store some miles up and when the real hot weather comes you can back off.  And everyone seems to be doing that.”

This was a little comment that Rupantar, the race director made this morning on the fly.

rupantar

Rupantar has been the Marathon team’s director for a long time.  He is here already at the course before the sun has peeped over the horizon and long before any of the runners have even pried their aching slumbering bones from bed.  He along with Vajra and Misha gets the camp ready.  When that is done he then he jumps into his car, which will now have to pass for a taxi and pick up the 3 girls and Stutisheel. The rest of the time it performs the unqualified yet valiant service of a delivery van.  Something the Toyota car company would not have thought possible.

Then as the dwindling minutes gradually evaporate he picks up laundry, unloads water and starts making a list of shopping to do for the day.  And yes, check the counting book to see if anyone is going to show up to count laps.  Then with just a little less than 2 minutes before 6am,  he cries out the same thing in the same pitch as he does every day.  “Everybody to the start.  We are starting on time.”  Said in just the way your mother probably spoke to you when she woke you up to go to school.

For the last 26 days and 18 years he has done this same job.  The absolute necessary skills go well beyond your imagination and probably the capacity of most CEO’s as well.  For there is before him a rolling sea of endless tasks. All that must be done like clockwork each day. Also let us not forget the things that suddenly rise up like storm clouds.  Then there is just the little bits and pieces.

Which means he always has to be positive, and find a way to  fix broken things and broken hopes.  There is always movement, and in the endless dance of life here there is simply no time for worrying or doubt or indecision. It requires Rupantar to always be enthusiastic, optimistic, and encouraging.  Abilities that don’t come too often by themselves and most definitely not in the extraordinary collection that he seems to have.

rupantar

The tide of the race is just so powerful that Rupantar, like all who are part of this race can’t stick in their heels in the sand for long if ever.  The fast flowing movement of Self Transcendence simply does not allow it. His sub story if you will, along with those of the other race directors is amazing.  Just out of view of the glaring spotlight that shines upon the 14 runners, but at the same time facilitating the miracle of Self Transcendence that all the world can see and be inspired by.

He says, “Self Transcendence is eternal. You mention the word and there is no end to it.  This race is a manifestation of that, because something you achieve today becomes your starting point tomorrow.  You achieve something and say, O that is great, but then the next day you have to go beyond that.  That is what this race does.  You run 70 miles in one day and for most people that is a week’s worth. But in this race that is just the starting point for tomorrow.  Every day they come out here they have to go beyond themselves.

“Everyone runs within themselves.  It is all the capacity that each runner has and tries to manifest it during the race.  Everything is kind of exhilarated.  You have all kinds of difficulties but you have to find the solution for them.”

The runners, all 14 of them are the the real story here each summer.  They are the living breathing glowing embodiment of self transcendence.  But Rupantar, and all the many others who work and devote themselves to this event are also most precious players.   Who if they did not all devote themselves to this glowing vision of perfection as they so willing do, than there would just be an empty sidewalk here.

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Photo by Bhashwar………………… Rupantar running with Sri Chinmoy 1979

 

Rupantar: Is physical fitness absolutely necessary for progress?

Sri Chinmoy: Some of the spiritual Masters of the hoary past did not believe in physical fitness. But on our path physical fitness is of paramount importance; it is an absolute necessity.

The physical does not operate alone. The body, vital, mind, heart and soul go together. Let us say you are walking or running soulfully. Each time you draw in a breath you feel freshness and newness. At the same time, your soul is dreaming a new vision and your heart is also participating, watching to see if somebody is in front of you or just behind you. And the vital is full of enthusiasm. So you can see how physical exercise done in a soulful frame of mind can help the whole being.

*click link to read the rest of the answer*

Sri Chinmoy, You Are Your Life’s Progress-Joy-Drum, Agni Press, 1993

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July 9: Every Experience

In all the years the 3100 has been taking place here in New York it has never ceased to amaze, astound, and thrill, both athletes and the general public alike.  Words like impossible and unbelievable are regularly and futilely used to describe, in one hopeless fashion or another, just what it is that happens here every day for 52 continuous days.

No matter what adjectives you pull out of the dictionary to describe what it is and what truly happens, they simply don’t work.  Or perhaps better expressed, they only tell a small portion of what the experience of the Self Transcendence 3100 is.

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It is perhaps the very nature of self transcendence itself that it only reveals itself fully in an inner way.  Something our  mind cannot really comprehend and yet we recognize it just the same.  But where science has made great strides in deconstructing and analyzing the physical world, learning and developing our own inner reality is a task that only we can take for ourselves.

Our knowledge of sport and athletics changed dramatically after the second world war.  The world had changed so dramatically and people were interested in seeing how much they could accomplish using all the new enthusiasm for life that was spreading around the world.

Running saw many dramatic events take place that changed peoples ideas about fitness and physiology completely.  The impossible 4 minute mile was broken by Roger Bannister, and a coach in New Zealand name Arthur Lydiard recognized that athletes could do more training than they had ever thought possible.  By doing so they could perform as elite athletes like never before.

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In Britain a young runner named Ron Hill, born in 1938, was part of a generation of runners who were willing to try for themselves running distances and times that had never been dreamed of not too many years earlier.

He understood, early on in his competitive running life, that training as much as he could was necessary in order to be the best that he could be.  What Ron Hill’s career shows is a long list of achievements.  He appeared in 3 Olympics, accomplished 3 world records.  Won the Boston marathon in 1970 shattering the course record by 3 minutes along the way.  Would race in 100 countries by the time he was 70 and ran 115 marathons in his life.  The last being Boston in 1996.

But why the life of Ron Hill is not just a foot note is what he is still doing now,  just a few months shy of his 76th birthday.   Tarit tells me this morning the story.  “He started the streak in 1964 of running every day.”  The distance has to be a minimum of at least one mile.

Ron-Hill

“Ron is a lovely guy and he is now 75 years young.  I have got to know him quite well over the last few years.  His streak was almost broken on 2 occasions.  The classic one was when he had a car crash.  It was quite a serious one.  He broke a couple of ribs and did something to his collar bone.”

“His first thought was not, O I have had a car crash but that I have already done my run this morning and that is sorted.”  The next day he is in the hospital and his wife comes to visit and believes that his streak has been unceremoniously terminated.  He is after all lying in a hospital bed with pins in place and bandages wrapped around him.  When his wife went home.  He had a chat with the nurses and said, “Can you help me out of bed.  I am going to walk around the corridors for 40 minutes.”

He told Tarit that those laps in the hospital was the hardest distance he ever completed.

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I ask Tarit the question, of what difference he sees between what Ron Hill continues to do and what the runners here are attempting.  “The guys here are doing an event.  They are motivated.  There is a start and there is a finish.  When it is your every day training, well Ron ran at a very high level, for a lot of that time.  In later years even with no competition coming up, he was more or less a recreational runner.  It is just so easy to skip a day.  To keep that streak going shows a tremendous inner capacity.  To have the motivation, to have a goal, and to stick with it.”

Come this December Ron Hill will have run every day for the past 50.  I ask Tarit if he will ever stop, “Nope.”  So he will run all the way to heaven.

Click to Play Interview:

tarit 2

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Ron Hill Quote:

I think that there are a lot of times when people try to create artificial boundaries between who they are in their private professional intellectual and spiritual lives. Those artificial boundaries don’t need to exist. We bring all of that to every experience whether we allow it to come through or not.”

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July 8: Food For The Soul

Each and every day the 14 runners at the 3100 mile race collectively accumulate on average  830 miles.  As of midnight last night, the end of day 23, when Pranjal was the last one to leave the course, the lights went out, and he pedaled home, they had run 19,105 miles.

Lots of things both big and small have to be perfectly in place, for this all to happen. Laps have to be counted, clothes have to be cleaned, and bodies have to be patched up, and coaxed and prodded to keep going.  All the little details and all the bits and pieces of an event like this are crucial.  Very little is left to chance.

But certainly the most important thing the runners need besides strength, determination, and a cheerful spirit, is food.

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Lots of food.  Nutritious, digestible, energizing, and packing enough calories to get them each through those long hard 60 mile days, and then back out at dawn the next day to do it all again.

And it can’t just be anything off the shelve or out of the back of the kitchen.  Runners like Sarvagata who is currently leading the race has run 1615 miles.  His body, as is those of everyone else, has now become an incredibly balanced  high performance marvel of nature.  Nobody can say for sure, but probably what each runner is doing on this brutal relentless course is not what the human body is scientifically capable of doing .  Yet somehow for the past 18 summers they miraculously still endure, enjoy, and go on.

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Nirjarini has been the main cook for a lot of those years.  This summer will mark her 11th time as the master chef of the race. A job she relishes and one that just inspires her in so many ways to come back again and again.

A chef for just 14 diners would be a simple job in any other setting than this one.  This one in which the 14 diners are never seated.  Instead they are constantly mobile and often nibbling, eating, and digesting thousands of necessary calories each day for 52 days.  This very exclusive clientele may be the most finicky, delicate, and yet satisfying patrons as you would find in any hungry corner of the country.

When I enter the kitchen this morning, Nirjarini is carefully cutting up some pink sweet desert.  “It is a raw cake.”

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“The raw thing started about 7 or 8 years ago.”  I ask her if the tastes and appetites of the runners is different now then it was.  “At first it was more like junk food.  They were into brownies and pudding and a lot of sugar and then it changed to the opposite.  This year I really feel that it has become a balance.  No extremes any more.  This year a little bit of everything.”

Pranjal has maintained a traditional diet, heavy on sugar, for many years.  “He is the easiest to feed.  And he knows what he needs.  And he can digest pretty much anything,”

“I feel in the race because it is so long, and the weather conditions are very difficult.  So they get extremely sensitive. So what they can have and what they can digest changes a lot. So we adjust to help them go through a hot day or a rainy day, or whatever is coming up.”

Nirjarini 2008

Nirjarini 2008

“Some have better digestive systems.  They are somehow easier than others.  We want to support them so that they can run well.  That is why I really try and cater to them.”

“I really love this race.   I am happy every day.”  It is now literally almost half way, and she says that she is so absorbed in what she is doing that she looses track of time.  “The race is like a different dimension.  I am not thinking too much about what day it is,  how many days left, or how much we have done.  Somehow I am in that feeling of ….Now!”

Harikanta is helping Nirjarini for the first time.  She has helped out at the 6 and 10 day races 3 times before.  “There is a difference.  I am very very happy in both kitchens. But here you only have 14 people but you really have to remember.  What to do for them.  What they like, what they don’t like.”  She admits to accidentally putting some tomato into one of Stutisheel’s sandwiches yesterday.

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She says, “I would be upset if I found tomato in my sandwich when I don’t eat tomato.  You have to really be concentrated.  It is not as intense as the 6 and 10 day race.”

Her friend Jayasalini who is also from Moscow is doing the race for the first time.  She says at first her friends were concerned for her.  “It so hard and so are the weather conditions are also.”  But jayasalini was very inspired to come.  “She is a very strong person.  She is very dynamic, and strong and good with people.”

It was the physical things that concerned her friends in Moscow most.  “In the beginning she was going through some hard times and adjusting.  But now she seems to be very happy. For me it is really really amazing to see her and I love to do a lap or two with her.  Just to speak with her.  She told me I would be happy to see more familiar faces when I am running.  So I felt I should come.”

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Nirjarini adds, “I am very happy she is wonderful to have.  And she is fantastic too.” Nirjarini points to Hastakamala from Perth who at that moment is working some wonders with some Nutella.

“They are chocolate chip pancakes filled with Nutella.”  Hatakamala says this is her first time working full time in a Self-Transcendence race kitchen.  Previous to now she had only helped out she says for about 2 hours once in a race in Flushing Meadow.

“Nirjarini asked me to come.  She said that you are the one.  I said, no, no, no.” She laughs as she recalls this earlier conversation that took place back in April.  Time has passed and she believes that it was the right choice.  “I think she was right.”

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“It is really great to be here.  And it is so true what she is saying about time.”  Meaning she too is really enjoying being in the moment.  In her ordinary life she says she thinks, “How much time before I come back to New York.  But here it is very different.”

She is a runner and for her the race is, “incredible.  On Sunday I was running for about 4 hours.  It was getting hot and when I stopped I felt a bit dizzy, all the things that would be 10 fold for them.  It is a real honor cooking for them.  We have a great team.  Everyone is beautiful.”

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Click to Play Interview:

Cooks

The body’s food
Is matter-made.
The soul’s food
Is spirit-made.
Gratitude-life,
Gratitude-heart for God
Is food for the soul.
Perfection-cry
Is food for the soul.
Heart’s awakening
Is food for the soul.

Sri Chinmoy, Transcendence-Perfection, Agni Press, 1975

Sri-Chinmoy-Febrauary-1998

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July 7: Surpass Ourselves

There are lots of good reasons why we love to watch and play sports.  Humans have been engaging in competition from the moment we could throw a rock or kick a ball.  There is a natural instinct in all of us to challenge ourselves to be as good as we can be, and also from an inner view, becoming all that we are within.

Those who we think of as naturally gifted and abundantly talented are admired and often described as being superior athletes.  But to excel means mostly that they have practiced and trained and prepared to perform as well as they have.

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Sri Chinmoy says.

Why do we watch sports?
To receive inspiration, enthusiasm,
Joy and courage.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 15, Agni Press, 1999

At this momentous time of year there is an unusual confluence of many of the great sports all happening simultaneously.  Football, tennis, cycling, just name it.  Even if you are not an enthusiast there is probably some sport, some team, at least one athlete, or competition that will catch your eye sometime this month.  It is an extraordinary time to enjoy sports and be inspired by them.  To realize even for a moment what our bodies and spirits can individually and collectively accomplish.

Sometimes there are moments in sport that are truly historic.  In late September of 1941, Ted Williams was attempting to get his hitting average up to .400 for the entire season. A rare and spectacular thing.  Going into his final 2 games, a double header in Philadelphia, his average was .397.  A number that would have gotten him .400.  Because at the end of the season it would have been averaged upwards.  But that was not how he wanted to measure himself.

“If I’m going to be a .400 hitter, I want more than my toenails on the line.”

ted-williams

Before these games he said: “I kept thinking about the thousands of swings I had taken to prepare myself,” Williams said years later. “I had practiced and practiced. I kept saying to myself, ‘You are ready.’ I went to the ballpark the next day more eager to hit than I had ever been.”

In those 2 games he not only played all the innings, but he also managed to hit fairly 6 out of 8 times at bat.  This meant he finished the season with an average of .406.  Something the then 23 year old ball player, as well as no one else in all of professional baseball, has ever managed to repeat in 73 years.

“It was something that required a kind of nonstop consistency,” Williams said on the 50th anniversary in 1991. “I never thought of it as going 2 for 5 every day, but that’s what it adds up to. I had to maintain my focus throughout. Although I never imagined that all these years later, no one else would do it again.

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Long after the World Cup, the tour De France, and Wimbledon have finished 14 runners will be still diligently circling this block in Queens.  This morning around 10am one runner, Sarvagata became the first to pass 1550 miles, the momentous half way point.  As he came up the course to the scoreboard the picture above was how he looked.

For just a moment he paused.  “There are a lot of nice numbers, inspiring.  Today 1550 is shining even brighter than 3100.  Because now it is there on the wall.” Then he continued on his way to reach a goal still a long long way off.

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Question:  What is the purpose of competitive sports?

Sri Chinmoy: Our aim is not to become the world’s best athlete. Our aim is to keep the body fit, to develop dynamism and to give the vital innocent joy. In competitive sports, our primary aim should be not to surpass others but constantly to surpass ourselves. In the outer life, when we run with our friends, we are seeing who is actually the best. And we cannot properly evaluate our own capacity unless we have some standard of comparison. But we compete not for the sake of defeating others, but in order to bring forward our own capacity. Our best capacity comes forward only when there are other people around us. They inspire us to bring forward our utmost capacity, and we inspire them to bring forward their utmost capacity. This is why we have competitive sports.

If we can learn to participate in competitive sports devotedly, then we will get real joy and make real spiritual progress. But if we compete egotistically, then we are bound to suffer both inwardly and outwardly. In that case, even if we stand first, we will not obtain blessings from the Supreme, and if we do not stand first we will curse ourselves.

Sri Chinmoy, The Body: Humanity’s Fortress, Agni Press, 1974

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