Day 24… Opened Many Doors (July 10)

There are many people over the years who have made significant contributions to the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team races.  Who have worked behind the scenes to make sure that all the runners are served in the best possible way and are able to have a positive experience. The team simply would not be able to function without the selfless service of many.  Vajra is just one of those such people.  His dedication and commitment to the multi day races is extraordinary.

Here at the 3100 mile race he has been one of the early set up people since the very first race.  Up before dawn and patroling the course and collecting trash in very large garbage bags.  He is always smiling, always gracious, and willing to do just about anything that needs to be done.  In particular over the last 3 plus weeks he has massaged Kobi every morning.

What’s more he has talked to Kobi at length and made suggestions and given him tips and advice, crucial to a runner who is now plunging into a whole new world of endurance running.

As we are talking this morning I can’t help but notice he is carrying a mechanical counter in his hand.  Vajra tells me that for the past few weeks he has been chanting a mantra and uses it to keep track. He never pauses idle in his inner quest for God.

“In those early days I realized that there was something about this path that answered what I wanted to do most.  Love, with all my heart, soul, and physical God.  I found I was able to do that on this path.” Vajra says that the love evolved into something even deeper and more fulfilling.  “I want to be able to do this throughout my spiritual life.”

Vajra describes how often we are required to do things that outwardly we may not at the time appreciate.  It is only later that we realize the positive affect these actions will yield surprising results.  “You will end up finding something that helps you in every way.”

He says being part of the races has, “opened up many doorways.   It has made me realize that for every challenge that has been presented to me.  I have overcome them and in turn become a better person.  It’s a big thing in this life.”

“Not only to be a better person but also to become what your creator wanted you to be.”

“I wake up in the morning with this tremendous inner urge to start the day.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  It makes you feel like your life has significance, and you are doing what you are here to do.  What the creator has asked you to do.  You can’t beat that.”

The Board at the start of Day 24 *please note totals may have not been update…….magic number is 1,370.8*

Alternate side parking

Empty tables

It is going to be hot

Continue reading “Day 24… Opened Many Doors (July 10)”

Day 23… As Simple As Possible (July 9)

There is a kind of silence and tranquility about William’s running.  Occasionally there might be a hard set to his jaw but his steps are always light and his pace almost precise and clock work efficient.   A veteran of many many ultra races he is a consummate endurance athlete.  No bravado, no hype, just get on the track and go for as long as you can.  After 22 days that of course is a significant total.

His mileage to date is 1288 miles.  A good number by any standard but still a little off the pace which is 1,311.  When you see him run, particularly late in evening when the track becomes his almost serene personal loop, there is little doubt he will gradually gather up all the missing miles and then some.

“We were hit with a heat wave earlier on and though I do heat training before I come out here.  It obviously doesn’t equate being hot for 18 hours a day.  I had to work my way through that.”  William also had a day of stomach upset that also set him back.

“I cope with everything and I am very philosophical.  My philosophy is to run as far as I can every day.  Despite the circumstances, whether it be physical or weather issues, or health.  Whatever I get I am happy with.  That is my philosophy so I might as well relax.  I am more relaxed than I was 4 years ago.”

“With experience you learn to look at the bigger picture.  The vast majority of time it is just about the next lap, this day, and nothing more.  That is the way I do it.”

“I have various athletic goals.  To finish in a certain position and obviously I would like to complete the distance within the time limit.  But to be honest I wouldn’t be devastated if I didn’t.  As long as I have done my best to achieve the greatest possible distance every day.”

“I try to make everything as simple as possible.  I used to have complex plans and mantras.  I still do use mantras occasionally.  Mostly I just boil it all down and focus on my breathing.  If my mind is drifting or I think I have a problem I always bring it back by focusing on my breathing.   That is the most important thing I am doing.”

“Most of the day I am just thinking about my breathing.”

William says it gives him peace and he appreciates the simplicity of it.  “It is always there.  I am not forcing any changes.  The breath is doing its own thing.  I just go along with it.”

“It is essential for me to have a crew supporting me.  4 years ago I tried to go without for the first 2 weeks, so I do know what it is like being unsupported.” He says that too much time is wasted if he doesn’t have the support of helpers.

“I do love the evenings. I love it after 8 or 9pm especially.  To me that is when I come alive, when it goes quiet here.  The crowds have all gone it is just me and the race.  To me that is my golden time, the evening.”

The condition of Yolanda’s feet was such that she went to a foot specialist to seek further treatment.  On her facebook page she released the following statement.  When the opportunity takes place I will ask for a further update.

The New York concrete got the best of my feet! I must stay off my feet for two weeks Thanks Dr Haskins & Dr. Karen Silver!!!

The Board at the start of Day 23 *Note the totals may not be accurate* The magic number is 1,311 miles

The early time

The morning chat

Continue reading “Day 23… As Simple As Possible (July 9)”

Day 22… My Dream (July 8)

There are many many moments during this long hard race that I will have a conversation that I find to be unbelievable.  I am perplexed that an exhausted runner, who is in pain says something so beautiful and so positive my mind has a difficult time of taking it all in.

At the same time, with even just a speck of my heart’s oneness with them, I know that what they are saying is true.  It is coming from a clear bright place deep within them.  They have just spoken a powerful and pure inspiration.

One that does not just touch me alone for it is an expression that is meant for the greater world as well.  A truth that spreads out and in some indefinable way and enters into the consciousness of  the outer world.  Conveying a clear message of promise and hope.  One that demonstrates to all of us, that we can all be better people and continue to perfect the world around us.

Today Kaneenika inspired me in just this way.  In pain, exhausted, and about 45 miles behind the pace, she is not just smiling she is beaming with happiness.

“I feel quite strong.  It is just that my feet are not strong enough to perform what I would like to perform.  Actually my pain is subsiding. That is good news.”

Kaneenika says that despite some physical issues she feels happy.   “I am definitely determined.  It is there all the time.”

“What I am observing is that my miles are not what they should be to finish the race.  But just the same I feel that the more the race is happening.  The more I want to continue.”

“Before the race Dipali was doing interviews.  She asked each runner what dream they had for this race.  I said my dream was to stay happy and to please my Guru.  I think that is a huge task.  So I have to stick to it.”

Kaneenika says that at times she may come up a little short of this goal.  Particularly when, “I am in so much pain and not doing the miles.  There are moments when I feel desperate.  But that is the moment when I ask for help from within…..from above.”

“I think every time I do this help comes.  It comes in different forms.  It is either somebody giving me a tip on how to do something.  Or I just find it inside me.”

The Board at the start of Day 22 *(Please note totals may not have been updated)  Magic number is 1,251 miles

Quiet Sunday morning

Yolanda takes her daily picture of the board

Continue reading “Day 22… My Dream (July 8)”

Day 21…Step By Step (July 7)

“Not easy in the morning but everything good, very good.”  There are many days when I wish I could emulate Vasu’s unblinking optimism and devotion.  Here now running for the past 20 days I have never heard one bad word or even a hint of a negative expression.

He starts the day having already run 1404 miles.  A distance that would have taken him all the way from his home in St Petersburg to Southern France.  Mornings though take a while for him to get going as he would like.

“The day is good, everything very good.  Something inside has to wake up and then push me a little bit.  Step by step I need to increase my speed.”

“In my case I try to pray and meditate in the morning and it gives me some energy to increase my speed.  In the morning it is not so easy.  But after the Enthusiasm Awakeners come and they sing.  It helps me a lot.  Steadily I increase my speed.  I do meditation that also helps me.”

Vasu says that his routine also includes reciting the daily prayer that is delivered to the course each day.  After which he listens to recordings of Sri Chinmoy’s music.  “When I listen to music my mind relaxes and I do not lose energy. I can run then step by step better and better.” He also visualizes his spiritual teacher singing within his heart.

“During the day I also try and speak with other runners.  We inspire each other to continue.”  This routine he continues he says almost all day.

When asked if every day is good.  Every day is a good day.  “God makes for us each day and we should be grateful to him for that day.”

The board at the start of Day 21 …. the magic number is 1192   (Note the totals may not be up to date)

Aharan setting out yogurt

Continue reading “Day 21…Step By Step (July 7)”

Day 20… Go For It (July 6)

“Yesterday I had a flickering battery which finally went dead.”  I saw Smarana mid morning yesterday and he was not looking good.  He decided that the best thing he could do under the circumstances was to simply go home and take a real break from the course.  5 hours off and he says, “it was nice actually.”

“I did it to get my body back into balance.  It was very hot and humid the last few days.  I just didn’t feel right.  I didn’t want to take any chances.”   Smarana describes a scenario of when not doing the right thing events can quickly escalate and your situation can spiral out of control.  “It is better to take care of it in the first place.  Become strong again and then go out again.”

Smarana describes that when he came back to the course he had a new perspective on all the other runners determination and drive.  “Everyone has issues but it was still very inspiring.”

He says that because he was walking he could clearly see how the other runners use the force that he can see here and they, “Just go for it.”

“Everybody has their lows and their highs, but you also have to keep this tension to keep yourself going.  It was very inspiring for me.”

“If you get too tense then you just break at some point.  You have to have this push and be able to relax at the same time.  You have to find a balance.”

Smarana says that though it is not unique to this race, but because of the race’s extreme length you can have a better perspective of it.  “Since this race is so long.  You have to keep it up for a long time.  When you come out here in the morning you have 18 hours.  You have to keep a tension not to let go.”

He feels that he personally takes this kind of motivation into his normal life even after the race.  It makes him feel more dynamic and striving.  Small problems are negligible then.”

The board at the start of Day 20.  The magic number now stands at 1,132 miles for those on track to complete the race

The camp early

Light showers move in quickly but only briefly this morning

Continue reading “Day 20… Go For It (July 6)”

Day 19… A Day With More Smiles (July 5)

“It has been a very difficult voyage here.” Here on the 19th day of the race Kobi’s voyage, despite the some time choppy waters has taken him much further than he has ever run before.  He starts day 19 with 1253 miles and for the record he is accumulating new Israeli distance standards all along the way.

“The race is very difficult because each day you are faced with a lot of unexpected accidents.  You need to manage that and you need to run a certain quota.  You can’t just go to sleep.”

“So for me there is some pressure because I need to work here.  I have a lot of internal expectations for myself.  I need to finish this race.  I see myself as a person who represents his country.  I can’t make mistakes and ruin my race.  So I need to be very cautious.”

“There is no other race like this.  I have done so many other multi day races.  This is not the same.  Each day stands on its own.”

Kobi realizes that he is well ahead of the necessary pace needed to complete the distance before the cut off.  “I have a little nest egg of miles that I have worked very hard for.”

When asked whether he takes pleasure in setting new national records he replies, “this is not the point here.”

“The point is each day, for better or worse has its own life.  The records don’t matter.  More importantly if you have a good lap….that’s it.  That’s amazing.  If you have a bad lap….that stinks.”

Records are not in his mind.  “Every day I go to sleep and I pray that I wake up and have a little less pain and a day with with more smiles.”

Kobi is also very grateful for his support crew which unfortunately can’t be with him all day.  “When they are here it is a ray of light.”

“When the Israelis come to support me that is amazing.  Some come who don’t even know me.  They come and hug me and they say kind words.  That is amazing.”  Kobi confesses that as much as he loves having this kind of support it also takes time away from his work of running.  “Each Israeli who comes here and gives me a hug and tells me they are concerned and want to help me that………I am lacking the words to describe my feeling.”

Kobi also said on another occasion, “I love to run.  How amazing life is here every day.”

The board at the start of Day 19

All quiet

A surprise visit from Daulot and Stota

Continue reading “Day 19… A Day With More Smiles (July 5)”

Day 18…Come Together As One

“Today I feel so much better about being here.  I own this course.”

“In the last few days I let a lot of things and excuses get in the way of my performance.  Something clicked last night.  I was still behind the pace but I wanted to make it to 1,000 miles.  I had 3 and 1/2 hours to do it.  I gave it my all.”

“You have to dig deep into your soul and give it everything.  Once you do that things will turn around for you.  That is what happened to me over the last part of the day. ”

Up until that moment Yolanda confesses that she let the heat and her soar feet act as excuses not to push harder.  “I gave myself so many excuses about how not to perform to my best.”

“You have to stay strong and you have to stay positive.  You have to feed yourself nothing but positive affirmations to keep yourself going.”

“I have blisters on both of my feet.  What I have done is learn to embrace the pain.  The pain is a part of you but it does not define you.  Once you recognize that the pain is there then you can come together as one.  Your pain and yourself.”

Yolanda describes how she has given an actual name to this pain that is constantly nagging at her.  “Every morning she gives me a hard time.  So what I do is to acknowledge her and then I turn her over to Jesus.”  She says that once she turns the pain over to a higher power she is able to really embrace her pain.

“So if you take your pain and yourself and come together as one.  You will get through the pain.”

The board at the start of Day 18

The quiet hours of July 4th

Yolanda arrives

William with a yogurt, apple sauce, and water

Continue reading “Day 18…Come Together As One”

Day 17… Every Day Is Grace (July 3)

“I don’t want to think of the days to come or the days that have passed.”  This morning as I am running with Sopan he is literally living almost entirely in the moment.  A state that most of us aspire for at least at some point in our days but one that rarely happens to most of us and in particular to inquisitive journalists.

“The way it works here is that you need to focus on every day.  You cannot think about yesterday or the day before.  It is not good to use the mind too much.” (laughs)

Sopan proceeds to describe the incredibly difficult conditions that the runners have all had to endure over much of the past week.  “Four days of back to back heat wave.  It was pretty intense.  You can only focus on the moment of being here.”

“Every day becomes grace.  You have no idea what will happen tomorrow.”

The board at the start of Day 17 (Please note it was not updated)

Paramartha readying the scoring tables

Yolanda’s table

Yolanda arrives

Continue reading “Day 17… Every Day Is Grace (July 3)”

Day 16… Help Each Other (July 2)

To call the 3100 mile race just an endurance competition would be an understatement.  Certainly each runner athlete is trying to achieve an almost impossible goal.  There is also the camaraderie and the bond that builds and exists between this very tight community of runners.  One which is all about support for one another and the collective good of the entire running family.

Ananda-Lahari tells me a story of how Vasu went out of his way the other day to encourage him when he was only able to walk.  He told Ananda-Lahari about one of his own difficult experiences from a few years earlier.  He had been promised a massage and that when he went for it another runner was being helped instead.

Disappointed at missing the massage he instead kept going but was so bothered he found himself developing knee pain.  Which ultimately put him into an even darker place.  Some friends heard about his difficulties and came to the race immediately with an mp3 player and suggested he listen to music and picture himself running on soft trails in some far off Alpine meadow.

Vasu realized that his problems had escalated because he had imposed them on himself.  By telling Ananda-Lahari his own story of woe he was hopeful that it would inspire him to find a way out of his own slump.  Ananda-Lahari said that it helped him immensely.  It was friendly and loving advice from someone who knew intimately how barriers can suddenly arise in front of us which are at least in some small way self imposed.

Ananda-Lahari saw this in this selfless act of kindness the perfect inspiration at a time when he needed it most.  It eventually changed everything for him.  Very soon he was running again.  This is not an unusual story from the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.   For it is a place of miracles and where true self giving is happening at every moment.

The Board at the start of Day 16

It will be another hot day

The good news is that later in the week the heat will taper off

Continue reading “Day 16… Help Each Other (July 2)”

Day 15… Soul’s Happiness (July 1)

Harita’s performance at the 3100 mile race last year was a great achievement, one that no doubt surprised her but not so much to those who could not help but see her tireless enthusiasm and energy over the course of the long hot summer.   For a first timer to complete the distance is a big deal.  But also for one who had so few multi day races on her resume it was even more astonishing.

She has been out on the road crossing America with the Peace Run but has taken a break and is home in New York for a couple of weeks. She has come out every morning to enjoy the race from the sidelines this time.

“It is a really special place and to be honest and cannot believe that I did this race, because it is just so unfathomable.  I don’t how you can have the capacity to run every day for 52 days.”

“I really did it because I had an inner calling that did not just develop overnight.  I had a feeling for many years that perhaps one day I would do it but I felt it was not going to happen until I really felt I would be happy doing it.  When that happened it would be the right time.”

Harita described that as years passed it occurred to her that she might never do the race and then, ” 2 years ago I had such an inner feeling that Sri Chinmoy would be happy if I did the race, and that my own soul would be happy.  It felt like it was the right time.  It was such an inspiration.  That’s what made me do it.”

I confess to Harita that I did not recall ever taking a picture of her when she was not seeming to enjoy herself.  “That happiness was coming from my soul.  That is the only way that I can explain it.  I guess I really learned a lot of things during the race.”

“One thing I learned is that we have these different parts of our being which we know.  But if the soul can be happy.  You might necessarily feel happy in your mind, your body might be suffering.  But the soul’s happiness overrides everything.”

“A lot of the time I didn’t feel consciously as though I were happy.  But when I look back at photos of myself from the race I look so happy.  That is amazing.”

“I really imagine that I will come back again next year.  Sri Chinmoy is the founder of this race and I can’t imagine that he would think that once was enough for me.”

The board at the start of Day 15

It is going to be a seriously hot day

It will remain hot all week

Sill early

Continue reading “Day 15… Soul’s Happiness (July 1)”