Day 52… Closer To My Source (August 7)

“I am happy,” Kaneenika tells me this morning.

It is hard to imagine that it is even remotely possible for Kaneenika to be happy and yet she is.  She starts once again another hot and brutal day pounding along a Queens NYC sidewalk with 59 hard miles still ahead of her.  Yet in the whispering moments before midnight she will have reached her goal and run 3100 miles here once again.

I make a statement that I wonder how she will respond.  That the race asks of the runners more than they can imagine and yet gives back more than they could ever dream. “Yes, I think that is a very true statement, and I think this race proved it to me more than any race I have run before.”

“I have had hard races even before I started running the 3100, but maybe because this one is so long.  I really wanted to finish. This race was pretty hard.”

Kaneenika had told me that she had been working on staying happy and says that like in all things, “there is always room for improvement for everything in life.”

“What I have received from this is that I feel closer to my source.  With each step I feel as though I was getting closer and closer.  Yesterday it was so hot and humid, and I was trying to push so that I could finish.”

Sri Chinmoy ultra photo

“But there was a part of the day when I felt like there was nothing left in me.  So I felt that the Supreme was trying to show me that this race is not about the physical.  It is actually more than 100% the Supreme’s grace that we are able to do this race.”

Photo by Vaibhava

“This morning I had 106 laps to go.  I have just done 6 so there is just 100 more to go.  Today though I can really see the finish line.  Yesterday was really hard for me.  It wasn’t that I was doubting that I would make it but it was certainly hard for me to imagine it.  To run 2 more days in conditions like this, and really having to push.”

“It is all the Supreme’s grace.”

The Board at the Start of Day 52….*Note the totals may not be accurate…Magic number is 3,039*

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Day 51… You Have To Believe (August 6)

“It’s coming close to the end.”  I don’t think I have ever seen Sopan this happy in the past 51 days.  This morning however he has a great reason to be having such joy that it can bring additional light up into the sky.  He is just a few laps away from 3,000 miles and now less than 2 days from completing the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race.

It is never a foregone conclusion that this would happen nor is it ever so for even the most gifted of runners.  The race will always challenge you, and humble you, and nurture you in ways you could never dream.

It was 13 years ago as a young person of 25 that he set the record for the youngest runner to ever run the race.  In the great gap in between he has not always been granted the gift of completing the distance.

Photo by Vaibhava

Tomorrow however it will most certainly be his personal victory.  A victory over adversity which dogged his heels for many days and yet could not contain his will to succeed.  Or perhaps it is just the light within declaring that this summit of transcendence he has justly earned.  A goal he surrendered all of himself, to the higher force within, in order to attain.

When asked if he was ever worried, “you never know until the end. Anything can happen.  But you have to have faith in order to make it.  You cannot doubt yourself all the time and make it.”

Photo by Vaibhava

“You have to believe.  You have to believe that you can make it.  That is your very first step.”

“I have gotten physically stronger.  It is possible because as you grow spiritually stronger it also makes you physically stronger.  I had some difficulties about 10 days ago  and I felt that this made me stronger.”

“Even on the worst days everything just worked out.  That is the whole magic about the race.  It feels as though there is always a guiding and protecting force.  Things just work out one way or another.”

Photo by Vaibhava

Sopan is happy of course that the finish line is getting very close.  He hopes to try and continue and maintain the inner experience that he felt here this year.  He wants to build upon it.

He says disconnecting from the race is unavoidable.  “But the inner cry always remains. For me this race is all about the transformation of nature.  This remains, it doesn’t go away.”

When asked about Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the race, Sopan says, “I don’t feel his physical presence.  But I feel that he is spiritually present here.  His spiritual force is more alive than ever.  The spiritual force, the inner presence, for me is much more important than the physical.”

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Day 50… Took The Challenge (August 5)

“I am happy of course that soon it will be over.  This last week is so long. It feels like it will never end.”

On this the 50th day of the race Surasa is 157 miles from the finish line and has a full three days in which to do it.  But unfortunately the weather between now and Tuesday when she should finish could well be as hot, humid, and miserable as a New York summer can be.

“Each race is different for me.  I have had those in which there was a happy ending, in the last days and so on.  But this time, and maybe because the weather was so challenging.”  When I mention the grim forecast that lies ahead she says, “that is good.  We get everything until the end.”

“I have great helpers.  They help me each time I race.  Most of the time I have the same helpers, for many many years.  They know me and I know them.  It is perfect.  I have very good helpers.” Surasa says that to perform as well as she does she just couldn’t do the race without help.  “I need so many things.  Without helpers you lose so much time.”

Photo by Sri Chinmoy Ultra Photo

Surasa is encouraged when she receives letters from friends and supporters.  She really appreciates when people around the world send her best wishes and encouragement.  “When they are praying for me it touches me always, very very deeply. It helps me.  The concern I can feel.  That they make the effort to write.

“When I get messages I am always so grateful, that I have so many nice sisters and brothers around the world.”

Sri Chinmoy Ultra Photo

“This race was challenging because of the weather.  In the end I am so happy and only grateful that I have done it.  You know at the end that it was worth the struggle.  I am just happy that I took the challenge and I could do it.  So at the end there is always gratitude and gratitude.”

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Day 49… To Describe God (August 4)

The worlds beyond the worlds we see.   Today while closely watching Ushika before we were to do our interview, it occurred to me just how impossible it is to understand what the runners are really experiencing.  You can probe with questions, you can try and empathize.  Yet no matter how far the wings of your imagination spreads wide you can never really and truly understand.

My first question is a request for him to sum up his experience.  He tells me that the morning prayer on July 10th expressed it best for him.

You can see
You can
feel God. But
to describe God
is an impossible

Guru Sri Chinmoy
July 10th, 2007

“At one point the day after we got the prayer I thought that this exactly describes the race.  You can see the race, you can feel the race, but it is an impossible task to describe the race.  You can only live and do it.”

Over the past few weeks he has generously shared many of his experiences.  Talked about gratitude, grace, and patience.  Now he says one of the qualities he is working with is the quality of imagination.  “I was using it a lot.”

He says that Suprabha used to imagine that she was not running on concrete but that she was playing in a beautiful garden. “This has become for me very vivid and very powerful.”

There have been more than a few very hard days and on those occasions he says he has pictured the epic battle the Mahabharta and powerful poems written by Sri Chinmoy like the Absolute. He has seen himself in a divine chariot slicing through ignorance night.

3100 miles east from Salzburg

He says that recently during the lunar eclipse his condition was very poor which he describes as brutal.  “It was so hard so difficult.”  At the same time he imagined 2 chariots flying above him clearing the way.

At other times he describes the feeling of being attacked by the bubble gum monster.  He describes a force that made him feel lethargic and lacking motivation.  “It is exactly like in a cartoon when the character steps into a huge mass of sticky bubble gum.  Hands, feet, everything is bound and like in a cartoon every step is so difficult to move.”

Sri Chinmoy Ultraphoto

“In this case it came to my mind that my problem was probably coming from my own vital.  So I started chanting purity.  Imagining the Supreme’s presence there, and within a few steps it became much easier.  Within one lap the bubblegum monster was gone.”

Ushika who has just 148 more miles to go is planning on taking each day now as it comes.  “The finish line is calling.  But you can’t save any steps.  You have to run each one of them.  I am happily looking forward to the finish line.   But I have to stay here, in each lap, and in each moment.”

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Day 48… In God’s Hands (August 3)

“I knew that I was hopefully going to finish, but as Kobi said in his speech yesterday, until the last few days he didn’t really know for sure that he was going to finish.  That was really the same for me as well.”

As the race presses into its final days I wanted to give the runners a break and so have asked a race veteran Harita to tell me a little more about her experience here last year.

“Even if you are watching from the outside and say, O, this person is definitely going to finish.  But if you are actually running the race how do you really know you are going to finish?  Every moment is in God’s hands.”

Harita tells me that late in her race last year she received a message from William, someone whom she had never ever met before.  “He said to me in a message, I know exactly how you feel.  You will finish, so enjoy every moment, and live in every moment.  That is exactly what you have to do.”

Of course that is the ideal way of accepting all our life experiences but I ask Harita if there are any techniques that might help.  “For sure gratitude is probably the biggest, and happiness, and even just pretending to be happy.  Even if you don’t feel happy.  That is a huge trick.”

“Gratitude and happiness give you so much strength.  Just try and find things that you can be grateful for.”

“Kobi also mentioned yesterday the importance of realizing all the support and love from the community of people here.  You can connect more with the other runners and all the people who are here helping.  They are appreciating that you are here running and doing something so special.”

“You look forward so much to finishing.  But at the same time, you should try and value every moment of this incredible opportunity.”

Near the end I asked Harita about the experience of those runners who can’t manage to complete the distance.  “I have only done the race once, and by God’s grace I managed to finish it.  Which I can’t believe now that I am out here.  At the same time I have so much admiration for those people who don’t finish.”

She had just finished singing with the Enthusiasm-Awakeners and said that she was observing and admiring all the runners as they went by.  In particular she mentioned Smarana ,and admiring all the determination and integrity he was demonstrating.  “I thought that was something so inspiring for all humanity.”

The Board at the Start of Day 48…*Totals may not be accurate… The Magic Number is 2,801*

Camp early

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Day 47… Experience Every Moment (August 2)

“I think that in the beginning of the race I tried to do what I do best and that was to win this race.  When I came to realize that I could win the race but in doing so I would lose the experience.  I decided then that I needed to finish the race.  Then I changed my whole strategy.”

“After the first 1000 miles I changed everything.  From there on I worked by my book.  I did things according to my plan.”

Kobi had mentioned to me on several occasions that he was uncertain he could finish the race.  I ask him at what point he had gotten over that.  “If you had asked me 4 days ago I would have said, that now I have a 90% chance of finishing.”

“You can’t say that every day exists by itself, leave the moment, and know that you will finish.  If I leave the moment so that any moment I can end the race and not finish it.  You cannot be in 2 places at the same time.”

“If I come here with a position of killing myself in order to win it.  You will see me 2 days ahead of where I am now, but I would finish without powers.  I would just finish the race and remember nothing.”

Sri Chinmoy Ultra photos

Kobi says he has done many races where he told others that he just wanted to win but in so doing he didn’t have an inner experience and couldn’t remember anything about those races.


“To be here transcending cannot be just about doing something more.  It can’t be.  If it is just to run 1,000 miles three times more then it is worth nothing.  So I thought to myself, I want to do something else.  So when I decided to change after I had completed my first 1,000 miles.  Which I did in a record time of 13 days I decided I had to live differently.  Then came the change.”

Kobi had told me earlier that he felt that his whole experience here was about taking a pilgrimage.  He says for now he doesn’t want to analyze or break down what he has learned and felt here by describing it with words.

“I know that I will live with this experience not just for days to come but for years to come.  It is an amazing experience.” Kobi says that the usual thing for him would be to break it all done so that he can learn and improve upon himself.  “But another part of me says you need to leave it and experience every moment.”

Sri Chinmoy ultra photos

“Do not try and define it.  There are a lot of unexplored corners.  Slowly, I will let time take place.  There is a very big healing process that I need to work through.  It is an amazing experience.  I believe that for years to come I will be still into it.”

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Vasu’s Finish

Just after 10pm Vasu became the champion of this years Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race

He had one last long day of running

The course becomes a busy place most nights

Kobi’s team is just waiting until Thursday morning for his finish

Gradually well wishers started to arrive

The little things still had to be done

Decorations are put up

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Day 45… Game Of The Supreme (July 31)

From the very beginning of the race each morning when Vasu saw me running off to interview a runner he would always ask who it was that day.   Inevitably he would make a comment like, “O, good boy.”  This morning I thought I should ask another runner instead how they would describe him, as this morning I was interviewing him for the last time.

Smarana told me that Vasu was a perfect child of the Supreme, a perfect instrument, and that he had a vast Oneness-Dreamboat-Shore heart.  It was a description upon which I could not improve upon.

We have talked many times over the past 7 summers that he has run the race.  In a sometimes confusing and complex world Vasu is sweetness and simplicity incarnate, and I am humbled to be able to call him my brother friend.

My first question to him was done jokingly.  Did he have any plans for the day.  “I have no plan.  All plans have gone.”

The only thing he needs to do he says is to pray and meditate.  I need to be happy and I need to keep running to finish the race.  (62 miles)

“Everybody who finishes the race is the winner.  I think the race is a game of the Supreme, and we just play our roles.  It makes no difference if you win or you are second or last.  It is just a game that you need to play your own role.”

Photo by Spontaneous Beauty

I ask him what he would do if there was simply no finish line or ultimate distance.  Could he simply keep running indefinitely.  “I hope I could do it.  Sri Chinmoy loved this race, and when we do it I hope we can please the Supreme in his own way.  We try to all be in a good consciousness.  We try to run as one, as a family.”

“We are grateful to the Supreme and to all those who participate.”  Vasu says many people who have followed the race have been inspired to write letters.  “We get these letters and sometimes we cry and sometimes we smile.  They are able to make us runner faster and longer.”

“This means that this is not my victory.  It is a victory for everybody.  Because many many people are working in this game.  If by running here we are able to inspire others to go to to try new things and go to their limits. To do something in their own life.  To be a better citizen of the world.”

The Board at the Start of Day 45…*Note totals may not be accurate..Magic Number is 2,622 *

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