From Inside

“I was curious as to what motivated these people to walk these great distances.”  On a very hot Saturday afternoon I come across a man, who almost looks as though he is in some kind of trance.  Martin McNiff is not spaced out however he is in fact very much tuned into the steamy world of activity circulating around him.  He looks at the board with its impressive jumbled mountain of numbers and he is in awe.

“I feel that it is more than a physical thing, it is a spiritual thing that drives these people.  I feel that they are in touch with a higher power, and that is where they get their energy, and they are able to do that.”  He had heard about the race from his son.  He lives a fair distance off in the near but far reaches of Long Island but was drawn to come and see it for himself.

He reads an article about the race, posted on the fence, written by the Wall Street Journal.  It is a thoughtful informative piece but doesn’t go very far in exploring the deeper aspects of the motivation driving the runners forward or what the atmosphere is like just being there, and standing on the sidewalk.

I ask if he feels any unique inner experience by being here.  “Without a doubt I feel it.  It is more than being physically fit.  I feel they are being driven.   That it is greater than just being physically fit.”  He believes that some of that same energy inspired him to come by today.  “I believe in the spiritual.  It is a different source of power.  I believe we are all beneficiaries of a higher power.”

He has been an admirer of the founder of the race, Sri Chinmoy, for many years.  He is not surprised that such an event still takes place in his name.  He was particularly inspired by all the spectacular lifting events that Sri Chinmoy regularly participated in.  “I remember him from many years ago from the physical end of it.  I was an athlete myself.  I was always intrigued with the physical strength that this man had.  I remember reading about him.”

He recalls some of the lifts that Sri Chinmoy used to do on a regular basis by lifting large groups of people and heavy objects resting on large platforms.  “He wasn’t muscular.  He didn’t look like an Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He didn’t train in gyms, but he was able to get this strength from his spiritual, from inside.  He was able to do this.  It always fascinated me to read about this.”

“His feeling is still going.”  He gazes with such respect as the sweaty runners continue to pass by.  He wonders why more of the world is not aware of this miracle taking place on a hot hard Queens sidewalk.  He shakes his head and eventually leaves the course.  He says he will come back soon.

Martin McNiff Interview

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I Reside Inside His Heart Home

Today may well turn out to be the hottest day yet.  The air is dense, and if there is any kind of a breeze about it has no power at all.  It is able to push nothing and refresh no one.  Yet everyone’s energy still seems high and it is perhaps because, if there is any real movement here, it is the quick disappearance of time itself.  With the clock now perched precariously on day 42, if the end is not in sight for everyone, it certainly has to be for most.  By tomorrow it will just take 10 fingers to count down the remaining days.

To add to the already dramatically challenging conditions a work crew showed up this morning and proceeded to swiftly tear up the sidewalk along part of the course.  Like earlier in the week, the runners were obliged to move out onto the roadway which they prefer anyway.  The asphalt  just feels softer.  They move with haste and the job is done quickly.  But there is noise and there is dust and it makes everyone feel just a little topsy turvy.  The truth is that it would take a lot more than this to upset the equilibrium of the runners.

Yesterday there was a tremendous thundershower in the evening.  Pranjal says it was the longest hardest rain of the race, and yet it was over and done in little more than a half hour.  He never even took out his umbrella or had to change shoes.  The road is never easy and there still might yet be more joyous surprises and devilish torments that will spring onto the path of those who run here.

My Lord’s Compassion Eye

is my heart-home.

Poem of the day written by Sri Chinmoy July 24th 2007

Poem of the Day

First time runner Dharbhasana has just 11 days to compete the 700 miles he has yet to do.  He has completed 2400, which is a tremendous achievement but in his current condition the math calculations of time and distance are working overwhelmingly against him.

His running recently has been on again off again.  “After running 2 days ago.  I think I did a little too much too soon, and ended up going back to a limpy walk all day yesterday.”

“Now today again, out of my Lord’s compassion eye. I reside inside his heart home, that I am able to have a little running experience again today.  I am just taking absolute baby steps.  I am going to stick with that most of the day.  Easy does it.  Nice and relaxed and patient.”

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Makes Everybody Stronger

The little things in life, that we so often take for granted, sometimes seem not so little when your life revolves entirely around a half mile block.  There is no privacy, there are no luxuries, there is little if any rest, and the schedule itself is a cruel master.  There is no dropping by the local shopping mall, no slow lunches, no diversions of any kind.  A niggling pain can gather itself, step by step, into a torment of unimaginable proportions.  You are probably always going to be tired, and you are always going to feel pain somewhere in your body, and yet you always have to keep moving, no matter what.

Yesterday I noticed that Pushkar was wearing his special shirt.  Some of his friends in Switzerland had sent to him the year before.  At the time when he received it, it was a tremendous boost to his spirits.  He felt the love, support, and oneness of his friends back home and it made a difference.  He has been running now for 40 straight days.  He has averaged 61 miles a day in that time.  The only people he has seen in all this time are his fellow runners and the small number of people who come by the race to help out and to cheer them on.

Sometimes the little things can go a long long way.  We all know the power of a simple sincere smile.  How much can be achieved with a kind word.  How some patience can achieve infinitely more than frustration.  Today Pushkar received a little gift from back home.  When he saw the small pile of clothes on his table he lit up like a child when his birthday cake is brought out.

Once again he receives a new shirt signed by his friends.  It seems to have suffered a little in the wash but it has all the names of his friends plus his own.  He has a pair of Swiss National football team shorts and a Swiss hat.  He smiles, he yodels, he is for now on top of the world.  This little gift has more value for him than gold.  For him, who has still 648 miles more to run and just 12 days to do it.  His steps today will be lighter and his smile brighter. The still long journey ahead, at least for now, will not seem quite so far.

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Living A Dream

This morning Atmavir shows me the place where he had written in the fresh concrete 2 days ago.  In comparison to other acts of  sidewalk art it is pretty tiny and inconspicuous.  You literally have to be right above it to catch that he has scratched there ‘3100 race’.

He tells me that when the concrete was being poured he had the inspiration to leave some small, more permanent reminder to the world, of what a great and significant event took place on this little loop.

All who have run here would probably think of this place as sacred ground, though most of the neighborhood surrounding it, or those who dash by all day long most likely give it no thought at all.  When he asked the workers permission to write something, they didn’t give him much attention.

They really had no idea what was going on, who he was, or what these runners who were constantly going by were really doing.  The man he asked didn’t say no and he didn’t say yes, and in a couple of hours he was gone.  By that time the concrete was pretty hard so Atmavir was just able to make this small brief mark there in a place that wasn’t covered.

A big bronze plaque mounted somewhere near by might give passersby something more to consider but truth to tell our eyes really can’t see it.  There are no spires of Notre Dame, no minarets of the Taj Mahal, it is just a pretty ordinary sidewalk, in which miracles have taken place every summer for 13 years.

There is every reason to believe that some way somehow the race will continue into the future.  Nobody is really thinking about it too much.  The people who are putting it on are getting older and the next generation of race directors hasn’t exactly showed up just yet and asked for the stop watches.  The philosophy around here, just like it is for the runners is, one lap at a time.   For the race organizers, it is, each year as it comes.

It occurs to me that the memories of little girls like Shakti are the best repository of the true life experience that is this race.  Just imagine how she will look back at her summer here with Dad and what he did here when he ran the race for the first time in 2010.

Yesterday on his 39th day of running he figuratively died from the frustration of not being able to run.  Now, on day 40, after an adjustment he has been reborn and finds himself able to run once again.  Hope springs eternal and self-transcendence is marked in bold bright letters in the heart and in the life of this young man from New Zealand.   It is also in all the others who find victory in adversity and joy and transcendence  in a place which a pilgrimage to a bright, brighter, brightest inner reality is all that really matters.

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This Race Is Real Life

He starts the day with just 600 more miles to go.  Still an epic distance but now minuscule, in comparison to the 2500 miles he has already run over the past 38 days.  It will likely take Galya less than 10 days more to reach the golden shore of his efforts.  Many things can happen in that time and certainly the searing recent weather is unlikely to offer him any short cuts or hand outs in the next week, that is for sure.

Never has the completion of running 3100 miles ever been served up on a golden platter.  It is always a hard fought journey no matter your talent or capacity.  Galya, who  possess great quantities of both of these qualities  is for the moment in a tie for second place with Pranjal.  He has been strong and consistent these past 38 days.

There are moments when he seems to run with effortless ecstasy, but also there has been for him great swaths of struggle, pain, and fatigue, which he takes without complaint.  From an outer perspective this race has never ever been described as easy.  Soft and gentle adjectives just don’t fit into the vocabulary of race adjectives.

This year will be remembered as the hot one.  The days and nights both simmering with unbearable heat and humidity.   But the past 13 summers have also offered up their own unique buffets of joy and woe.  Last year, in his first 3100, Galya had a memorable cool and wet race here.

More importantly, on this the 39th day of running here Galya, will, by some coincidence of fate, turn 39 years old today as well.  A year ago, when he was also running here he had perhaps the worst day of running in his life, which happened oddly on the 38th day of the race.  The day was cool and rainy and he was quite sick.

When asked if he wanted to see a Doctor, he replied, “If a runner went to a Doctor every time he felt bad, he would never be on the course.

He has received much support and encouragement all during the race and particularly today which is his birthday.  The love and affection that his fellow runners have for him today is heart warming.  This little family of 11 members shares something that no one else can be fully part of.  They have all gone through all the same pain and joy of the road.  It is a place in which in some unique way they are all in tune with one another.  They collectively are able to feel and share the highs, and are aware when the polar opposite occurs.  At that time they are also able try to help others when the inevitable dip of consciousness and energy tumbles.  Looking out for one another as only a family can.   They see if, and how, they can help one another.

Today, at least for now it is just a pure and sweet celebration.  As one they move slowly forward from the line.  They sing the birthday song and they express love and oneness like only this little divine family can.  And yes, then they slowly drift apart but never in spirit.

The Birthday Song

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I Will Enjoy Today

This is the 4th year that Atmavir has found himself celebrating his birthday at the 3100 mile race.  For him it is birthday number 32, and though most of us could scarce think of doing what he is doing on such a day, it is safe to say he would rather be no other place than where he is right now.

There is certainly no gift that we can offer to him that would be adequate to match the courage and sacrifice that he has offered here over 4 long summers.  This year the way has been extraordinarily difficult for this young man, who is actually the youngest of all who run here. If there was one gift that I am certain he would love to receive and that is a smooth swift run into the finish line, which is still 655 miles away.

“I will enjoy today.  Yesterday I was fighting like anything.” The past few weeks have been in many ways a roller coaster ride for Atmavir.  One of the most talented runners on the block he has had periods when he has been able to turn on the jets and just fly.  On others, when he has felt the sun steal his strength he has been reduced to walking and trying to ponder the lesson of this frustrating experience.

His birthday came early for him.  He said he leaves his cell phone on when he rests and through the night text messages were coming through from friends and family back in the Czech republic.   He is wearing a green party hat as we run and the friendly greetings continue as passers by spontaneously offer best wishes.  One even came from a garbage collector just across the street.

He is quite serious about his determination in running hard yesterday.  He says he made an oath that he would run 60 miles or die trying.  The fact that he is still around today is a testament to his gutsy effort.  He ended the day with more than 61.  He tells me that he put more energy into yesterday than he had in the previous 34 days.  “I put tremendous energy yesterday.  I put everything.”

He says that he started his day by going to the Aspiration Ground which is close by before coming here.  “I was really grateful for that.  It is a golden opportunity that I have a chance to go to the Aspiration ground on my birthday.  For that I am really grateful.  I am really happy that I can celebrate my birthday here, among these great people.”

Atmavir Interview

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I Feel Better

On day 19, which was more than 2 weeks ago, Asprihanal ran 71 miles in a single day.  Since then he has been going through, what some might call a dry spell of 17 days.  At least until yesterday, when he cracked off the kind of mileage he is best known for.

Despite heat, humidity, and everything else that can slow a fast Finn down, on Sunday he ran 71 miles again. He is now on the home stretch of his long race and looks to be kicking it in over the last 700 miles.  Today, once again, he is fresh and animated, perhaps because at this rate he can be done in just 10 days.

Others are still searching for the magic elixir, some curative concoction that will restore them to top form or maybe some remedy that will evaporate the impossible piles of miles that need to be surmounted with just 15 days left to go.

Another runner today who is full of energy and enthusiasm is Purna-Samarpan.  Yesterday he was given a recording created by Antara-Prabhat.  It is called Ich Fuhl Mich Besser (I Feel Better).  Through the magic of modern technology and its amazing portability the vocal track is actually Purna-Samarpan’s own voice with a little backup vocal by Antara-Prabhat.

The creation of the song came about serendipitously because it just happened to be an expression printed on a T shirt that Antara-Prabhat wore to the race one day.  He actually wore it on a number of occasions and each time Purna-Samarpan would help him with pronouncing it properly.  From learning to say it correctly the inspiration bird overheard, and the next thing you know, the idea came forward to create a song.

Most if not all the runners have heard the track and been energized and inspired by it.  The race is not all solemnity and introspection.  Certainly the morning tends to be the quietest time of the day for the runners as they shake off a very brief night of sleep and perhaps still linger in their even prefer morning meditations.  As the day wears on they sometimes seek inspiration in all kind of things.  From reading messages of encouragement sent in, listening to talking books, and music of all shapes and sizes.  It is hard to say what is most important of all the things they take in over the day.  From water, to food, to encouragement, to even some ice wrapped in cloth around the neck.  They never have a chance to say much but they certainly look and listen, and always hope they too can feel much better.

Ich Fühl Mich Besser

Purna-Samarpan explains song

*Thanks to all for so many fine and inspired comments.  That you too can identify with this great undertaking is also a great achievement*

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It Is A Big Lesson

I am really happy

When I take this

World as mine.

– Sri Chinmoy

Poem of the day July 18 2007

It seems this morning as if I have never been away.  That pulling myself out of bed on these hot mornings is all that I have ever done all summer long.  Waking up slowly as I jogged over to the start and been continually inspired by all the bright faces of the runners who would seem physically, to have no possible reason to be so enthused at all.

It is a routine that has become impossibly easy to adapt to and also I am continually surprised at how much I am energized by it.  I sometimes wonder, that if it were possible, could I continue to go on and repeat this schedule for a much longer period than 52 days.  That is, if the runners just never stopped at all.  My little ritual is infinitesimal in comparison to what the runners have to put up with.

There are occasionally some long hours for me but it is a comfortable fit, feeling as though I am in some small way part of this great event.   The race is its own world and it has been easy for me to enter it from the doorway that has opened in front of me.

There are many of you as well I know who have found yourself dropping in from afar and feeling a unique oneness to it as well.  Not that you have come physically close, and showed up with ice cream and new shoes, but that in some way your hearts have opened up to this world of Self-Transcendence and you have felt a oneness that defies your physical proximity.

If any of you are inspired, I would be happy to see your comments added to this post, about how the race has touched and inspired you.  Made even some small difference in your lives or in how you look at the world.

“For me I seem to feel that this world is quite often ruled by mind instead of heart.  The mind has a tendency to take things, and gymnastically move things about and separate them.  Each in its own compartmental space. But when you live in the heart, that is a whole another story.  When you look at your brother and you look at your sister, and you just feel, heh.  He is part of me I am part of him.  And the whole world is like that.  When you have unity, there is happiness.  There is joy.  Everyone seems to feel and be in the same one family.”

Vajra reads and comments on the Poem of the Day

Vajra Comments

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Carried Through It All

For 7 days I lived in a different world.  For 7 days I was in a place without oppressive heat, without pain, nor with discomfort of any kind.  It was a place where my clothes were always clean and showers could be taken at any time of the day.  The alarm clock never rang and I never heard any words spoken about suffering and hardship.

For 7 days I became part and parcel of the greater world as we all know it and moved about in drowsy silken comfort.  It was an almost dreamlike state and yet there were many times when I could still feel the powerful reach and pull of the 3100.

In the mornings I would run on this path that was created from an abandoned rail way line.  It lead for miles out of a small Canadian town where I was staying.  For most of the way it ran beneath cool trees, and the air, though sometimes hot was never heavy.  The path was made from gravel and was so inviting you could almost imagine running barefoot upon it.   I am sure there are many places in this world of ours equally as beautiful.  Paths that can compel one to follow and see which grand vista opens up in front of you around each new unexplored shady corner.

There were also many times when the call of the race was just so powerful that I could almost still feel the hard concrete under my feet even though I ran along on a soft path.  Now of course I am back home.  Back to the place which has a reality and divinity far more inviting and far more beautiful and fulfilling than where I was for those brief 7 days.

For me the escape was a unique opportunity to appreciate even more the self transcendence race and respect the efforts and sacrifice of the 11.  How many would not prefer to run under these cool green trees along a gentle path.  To enjoy tranquility over hardship, to accept relaxation over fatigue, to be able to rest easy instead of having an endless hard road of constant unyielding movement in front of you.

The race is so richly unique in what is.  An almost impossible struggle to reach a goal that can only be fully experienced within and almost never comprehended externally.  A divine opportunity to make a pilgrimage to a destination beyond our sight and certainly beyond our mind, yet somehow reachable only by our heart’s oneness.  You may never know if or when you will even arrive, and certainly no magic gate swings open even if and when you complete the distance.  It is a profound life journey in which so few are equipped and brave enough to take and yet they still do.

It is in this incomprehensible act of running 18 hours a day for 3100 miles that the runners here defy human logic and defy all the sane precepts of life.  The only way they can do this is simply because they have consciously chosen not to listen to the mind’s common sense at all.

A more powerful inner voice commands and they are somehow able to listen and to obey. It is within them just as it is within us as well.

My Lord do you ever think of me?

What else do I do?

What else can I do?

“It is beautiful,” Dharbhasana has just recited the poem of the day.  “I guess it shows that creator and creation are the same thing.  That we are not separate from the ultimate reality.  We are always being cared for and concerned for.  It is apparent in this race at times when you think you are struggling.  You still continue and carry on and know, that you are being carried through it all.  The Supreme’s concern and compassion, care, love, and blessings, are there all the time, constant and continual.”

Prayer of the Day

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God’s Will

To Surrender to God’s will

is to become God’s all.

Written by Sri Chinmoy July 9th 2007

This morning I asked Pranjal to read the poem of the day.  Like all the poems Sri Chinmoy wrote the summer of 2007 to inspire the runners, they are short, simple, and direct.  On occasion I have asked some of the runners to interpret what it means to them and perhaps how they feel about it.  It can sometimes lead to enlightening responses but most often the runners are just too tired to do much more than recite it.   Their life energy, frankly, is better  channeled into much more pressing necessities, like staying upright and moving forward, than to delving into the esoteric.

Out of curiosity I asked Pranjal about the poem’s meaning.  When I ask him if he is surrendering to God’s will he said, “you have to.” My next question was intrusive and prying.  Are you succeeding?  “I don’t know.  It is hard to say. I really don’t know if I am succeeding.”

Pranjal has run the world’s longest race already 5 times.  In this his 6th time here he is currently just 10 miles out of first place and has not seemed to have had a bad day since the start.  He never complains, never feels sorry for himself, comes before everybody else and stays until the last possible time has elapsed to squeeze in as many laps as he possibly can.  He never calls for attention to himself and simply focuses on pushing out his laps day in day out.  His life here at the 3100 mile race is reduced to the most minimal and simple of life’s elements: running, eating, and sleeping.

For the rest of the planet we are faced with a myriad of choices practically at every moment.  The selections in front of us don’t often require great moral or ethical debate but sometimes they do.  Selecting lunch or picking out clothes will never create any inner dilemma with any great karmic consequences.  But there are times when we are faced with choices that are either right or wrong.  How we choose, and what we ultimately do, or don’t do, can have enormous consequences in our lives. Sri Chinmoy once wrote, “if we do not fulfill God’s Will, then we enter into ignorance and we delay our progress.”

For all those who have answered the inner call to come and run here you have to salute their courage to face up to this task and then ultimately bear the enormous burden for such a long time.  There may be nothing more physically challenging in life to do than to try and run 3100 miles around a hot hard Queens block.  Their decisions to do this and then to carry on, and complete the journey may also be the sweetest blessing on their lives that they will ever receive.  If earth cannot recognize or appreciate them, than certainly the highest realms of delight will treasure their sacrifice and life’s selfless offering to Self-transcendence.

Pranjal and Poem of the Day

*there will be no new reports here for the next 7 days…apologies to all*

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