July 15: Stay Cheerful

When you are sitting comfortably back in your armchair it is actually pretty easy to claim to be some kind of expert on what is really happening at the 3100 mile race.  You might even be able to convince others but convincing yourself is another matter.

You can come every day, have endless conversations with each of the runners.   Run around and around the course so many times that you might just to begin to mistakenly believe  that you are one of them. But when you begin to become just a little too comfortable with that perception, the reality will always inevitably rear up in your path and confront you with the truth.  It comes for me usually the moment I get to go back to my comfortable home and they all have to continue on.

I am not a psychologist and I am unfortunately noticing of late that my running ability has seen better days.  There is a part of me though, deep inside that relates clearly and deeply to what these 10 incredible athletes are doing.  There is an inner experience here that I comfortably identify with and relate to on a spiritual level.  On the very mundane and practical reality, I just don’t understand some of the simple mechanics of it all.  A perfect example of this is simply how one can find perfect detachment with the results and be able to find an absolute acceptance within themselves, at not completing all 3100 miles.

How that it is really possible to just be here and run and not to be constantly tantalized and tormented by the numbers.  To somehow surrender completely to the inner experience, in which you really are detached from the demands and constraints of the outer world.  Instead you are somehow able to tune your being to the beck and call of your own subtle inner voice.

Atmavir is for me is a running enigma.  A vastly talented athlete he is here for the 5th year.  In each of the last 2 years he has led the race going through the first 8 days and then it seems something just evaporates with both his speed and power.  He looks, for lack of better words, like a high performance race car coasting around the track.  I asked him this morning what he thinks most people think when they look at him.  “They are probably wondering why I am not running,” he says.

Continue reading “July 15: Stay Cheerful”

July 14: Opportunity To Transform

Last night a rainbow boldly painted itself across the sky above the Self Transcendence race.  There are probably quite a few boring technical and scientific reasons of why and how it was formed, but still in the brief time it glowed up in the sky, it was magical.  For the runners it was particularly significant for it was for them a totally unexpected visit of nature’s beauty.  They have been every which way around the course over the past month now and yet this was something totally unique and new.  No one could recall every seeing something quite as spectacular as this ever on the course.

Moments earlier it had rained only briefly and there were a few flashes of lightning and then the air simply sweetened as a light breeze swept across the city.  For a time there was even a smaller second rainbow beside the bigger first one but the camera simply couldn’t pick it up.  I know how thrilled I was to see it all above me but I really can’t imagine just how great it must have been for those who have been going around and around for thousands of miles and to suddenly be blessed with this.

Was it an omen of bright  things to come or simply a little kiss from heaven upon those who are working with such intense purpose on the hard earth below.  Who knows.  But for a while certainly it brought a smile to every face.  For those who had been dragging along under the burden of a hot humid day, suddenly they could run again.  Atmavir, after this happened, ran as quickly and as lightly upon his feet as I had seen him do in weeks.

For those in their cars below on the Grand Central I will never know what they actually saw and felt.  But I hope that their day may have gotten just a little brighter as well.   If even for just a moment.  Beauty is sometimes a little elusive to find for most of us.  Yet for a while last night it splashed itself, bright and clear across a grey New York sky.  Freely available  to anyone, who simply only had to look up.

Continue reading “July 14: Opportunity To Transform”

July 13: Just A Dream

A few days ago an American baseball player named Derek Jeter reached a major milestone in his career.  This New York Yankee short stop managed to complete his 3,000th career hit as a professional baseball player.  This is an exceptional achievement for a player.   He will be only the 28th person to accomplish this feat in the history of the game.  I am not much of a fan of the sport but when ever I hear numbers like 3000 I am compelled to take notice.  It does sound a lot like 3100 miles after all.

He accomplished this in spectacular fashion in front of a stadium full of fans and probably millions more nation wide broadcast on TV, when he did it as well in his home park, Yankee stadium.  The hit itself was as spectacular as they come, a home run.  This all took place a little more than 10 miles away from the 3100 mile race.  A distance not far in physical terms but certainly an incalculable one on just about every other level of how we all perceive sports.  To me and to many others the Self Transcendence race just may be the most inspiring sporting event of all time.  There are not any dramatic theatrics but on an inner level it can engage and touch you in the deepest part of your being.

Surasa’s accomplishment here this year as well just may be the most impressive of all the runners.  In a quiet and almost understated way she is daily going about the incredibly difficult business of running 110-115 laps every day for the past month.

Women rarely get much recognition in sports, and certainly with the notable exception of Suprabha Beckjord, there is scarcely any female athlete over the age of 50 who has ever come near to accomplishing what Surasa seems most certainly on the brink of achieving.

Continue reading “July 13: Just A Dream”

July 12: Just Love It

In their first 14 days here each of the top 3 runners had, what you could easily call, good starts.  On day 15 each of them would pass beyond the 1,000 mile mark and then from this moment on something inexplicably changed for all of them.  Since then the level of effort and overall intensity has risen to an astonishing new height.  Igor is the man currently holding down the 3rd position but really barely a slight breeze separates one from the other.

On day 15 Igor entered the rarefied atmosphere of the 130 lap per day club and since then has shown no interest in easing back on what appears to be a full throttle drive to the finish line.  Which, at the start of day 31 is still 1000 miles away.  This means that each day he has been consistently running at least 70 miles a day.  It was hot yesterday and the humidity has crept over everyone with its relentless stifling weight.  In the mornings Igor most often arrives looking tired and drained.  Once the day starts however he just seems able to go and go.  He tells me that it is in the night time that he feels most awake and alive.

He is not comfortable with his English and this just adds to the quietness and stillness that seems to constantly envelop him.  With some translation help from Stutisheel he explains, “there are times when I feel very good inside and I don’t want to speak to anybody.  Just be in myself.”  I ask him if this is one of those occasions, and he tells me that he is still waking up.  This appears to be a time when a little joking makes him feel more alert.

Continue reading “July 12: Just Love It”

July 11: Just Beyond

It is a place where anything can happen.  The moment you get even the tiniest bit complacent than of course that is precisely the moment you will find yourself being suprised.  Taking any aspect of the race for granted is never recommended at any time, not even up until the very last lap on the last day.  There are never certainties,  not for the runners nor as well for those of us keen observers of all its ebbs and flows.  I like to think that a miracle can happen here in a heartbeat, that in an instant the sleeping giant will awake or the champion can potentially tumble off his peak.

Today however I saw something when I picked up the morning lap sheet that was almost incomprehensible.  I discovered that Sarvagata had run 147 laps yesterday which is the most anyone has done in a day, not only for the race this year, but perhaps even going back a few years.  In human speak he ran 80.63 miles which is 17 more than he had done the day before and 3 laps more than he had done on his previous best day.

right click to enlarge

It is always troublesome to try and examine the experiences that happen here by attempting to analyze the numbers.  But put into a broader perspective the kind of mileage he covered after being here steadily running already for 29 days is astounding.  I had spent quite a bit of time with him yesterday and not for a moment did he indicate he was about to blow the doors of the barn.  It was only after I stopped running with him and started puffing on the sidelines that I realized that he was running really fast for a multi day runner.  He is a quiet and serious guy at the best of times.  He feels a deep spiritual, if not mystical connection to the 3100 that defies any typical sport page breakdown.

This morning he tells me that yesterday he woke up in a very good mood and had a number in his mind.  He felt that he could accomplish 150 laps by the end of the day.  He seems more than a little disappointed now as he discuses the previous days events.  “I was very close actually.”  He then describes how he believes the reason that he was unable to accomplish this tremendous goal was simply because at some point during the day he got into a bad mood.  Sunday of course there are many pedestrians moving here and there along the course and at some point he got frustrated by traffic of human bodies.  “This blocked everything.”

“It usually happens if you are in a wrong consciousness.  Then the right consciousness can’t come through.”  This is a place where every feeling, either good or bad can be amplified out of their usual proportions, by all the stress and intensity of the race.  Unless you happen to be a saint than it is difficult to stay in good mood even for an entire day little alone accomplish this thing without interruption for 2 months.  When asked if he will try again today, he answers, “I don’t know.”

A moment later I ask Stutisheel what running 147 laps actually means.  “Well frankly speaking, it is hard as well for me to understand what that number means.  Because it is just beyond.”  He tells me that this kind of level of running the race hadn’t seen since Madhupran set the course record here in 2005.  “It is extra, extra, extra, extraordinary.  Although Sarvagata is quite a silent runner.  I do admire his style, his everything.  He is doing a great thing. These things are possible only from extra blessings from above, and of course receptivity of some runners.”

click to play interview


Continue reading “July 11: Just Beyond”

July 10: This Is How Grace Works

This morning after I left the race I went for a run nearby in a local park.  Quite by accident I happened to pick up a fragment of conversation that 2 runners were having as they passed by me going in the opposite direction.  What I heard one of them say was, “If I could kill my enemies, the whole world would have more peace.” For some reason those few words crept into a little corner of my mind and just refused to vacate the premises.

The first reasonable thought that occurred to me was that the man was probably joking, and by some grand stretch of the imagination, and put into some more benign context, might actually have been just a small part of a grander and funnier narrative.  In isolation of course it wasn’t, it was just spooky.   It would be hard to imagine, no matter the scenario, that the man if he were to carry this out have any satisfaction whatsoever let alone there being more tranquility on a global level.

What occurred to me after digesting these observations was that for most of us, it is the tiny things that cause us and others to suffer the most frequent pain.  An unkind word aimlessly launched and yet it still finds its trajectory inevitably striking anothers heart.  A careless act that tumbles domino like into a series of cascading calamities.  Or even one of our own negative thoughts that somehow gets imbedded into the fabric of our own fertile imaginations and simply festers and stealth-fully expands.

For Stutisheel however yesterday the tiniest thing that was causing him to suffer unimaginably, was a speck of grit that most of us could probably not see even if you put it right in front of you.  Once it was removed from his eye however, he suddenly felt as though the weight of the world had been taken off his shoulders.   He says, “that for 3 days I was crying and crying.”  When I ask if this was figuratively or literally.  “By the 3rd day it was both.”

Continue reading “July 10: This Is How Grace Works”

July 9: It Should Be Possible

Every time I try and write a little story about the 3100 mile race I hope to open up the door to some new aspect of the event.  On one level it can be seen as being monotonously repetitive and that nothing new rarely happens.  Fortunately I have observed that it is in the runners themselves that new lights are constantly being switched on and illuminations are being revealed all the time here.  Something which is incredibly significant and personal to each one individually but also something that can move and inspire me as well.

On Friday a local news channel was here and one of the runners told me some of the questions they asked.  Frankly they are probably exactly the same ones that I would use if I only came here only once.  “Why do you do it?  How many pairs of shoes do you wear?  Do you get bored?”  If you are just looking at the Self Transcendence race for just a few minutes as part of endless news cycle there is probably very little else that you can possibly absorb before the conveyor belt shifts your attention to the next new fragment of  fact.

Fortunately the more time you can spend here the more you can begin to see how the runners are being transformed and how they are literally blossoming under the relentless pressure of the event.  In order to even just take part they are each inevitably forced to go within to find the strength and resolve to go forever onwards.  They have no choice.  For us sideline cheerleaders it is always easier to relate to the happy successful moments.  The ones in which it is clear that somebody is doing well and has passed beyond some barrier.

This morning it was clear that Purna Samarpan had clearly had pushed into a new realm in which the actual goal of reaching 3100 miles, after 2 unsuccessful attempts, was for the first time looking attainable.  Yesterday, with just 7 minutes left on the clock before midnight a time in which the course would be closed down for the day he made it to 1500 miles.  He says that in the morning he had talked to Pradeep and told him that he was going to reach 1500 miles.  Pradeep than suggested, “you also might reach it.”  At that moment he would have to run 65 miles or 118 laps in order to do so.  Something he had not been able to do since his very first day at the race, 27 days ago.

Continue reading “July 9: It Should Be Possible”

June 30: Do All That I Can

Things have been getting hotter here for the past few days and it is not the weather.  There is a new and exciting level of intensity that has been slowly building amongst the top 3 runners.  You can clearly see it on their lap sheets, with each day bearing a staggering new total.  It is also something expressed in just the raw speed of which some are running, and never seeming to stop for barely a breath.  In each a fire has been lit.  Whether it pushes them to a tremendous new standard of performance or simply causes them to implode like the side of a tired volcano, the next few days will surely tell the tale.

Now to be clear, this does not include Pranjal the unofficial flag bearer for consistency.  As of last night he was pushed out of second place and is now currently in 3rd.  He lives and thrives in his own unique world.  Consistent, and superbly disciplined.  He is almost unaffected by all the to and fro that happens around and about him.  He remains poised and content and listens to a tempo all his own.  One that is unflinching in its absolute commitment to offer up all that he has each and ever day.

It is with Ashprihanal, Igor, and Sarvagata that the winds now suddenly blow hot and strong.  It is really a bit of a mystery that just suddenly appeared, spinning around and around in plain sight.  It is not obvious what it really is or how it started just that it exists for now like a galloping firestorm and 3 runners have sparks flying off their heels.

To illustrate visually how this is playing out you only have to look at each of their laps over the past few days.  Ashprihanal has increased every day for the past 3 days.  His numbers went from 132, to 136, and then to 137.  This means that yesterday Ashprinal ran a phenomenal 75 miles.  Igor also increased from 125, to 127, to 133.  Yesterday he ran almost 73 miles and moved decisively into the second spot by running 11 laps more than Pranjal.

Sarvagata, the man currently in 4th also increased from 128, to 134, to 136 laps.  This means that he ran just one lap less than Ashprihanal yesterday and if he somehow keeps it up, he will most likely pass Pranjal and take 3rd in 2 days time.

It is a race of such incredible length that anything can happen.  Perhaps by now everyone has simply kicked off the last of winter’s dust.  Their muscles are warmed up and particularly the 2 new runners, Igor and Sarvagata, simply want to push the envelop, see what their engines can really handle.  What ever it is that is actually going on it certainly appears as though somehow all of them have found themselves caught in the swirling mix of self fulfilling excellence that hasn’t  been seen here on this scale for some time.

To be frank this is purely a hypothesis from a side line observer.  But it would appear that the pot is being stirred, and each of the 3 has plunged their spoons into the mix all the way.  For Ashprihanal, he knows that at least for now he has a cushion of 41 miles.  Not one that can provide comfort for long, and definitely not if he has any kind of a bad spell or slips out of top gear in any way.  He is after all the wile veteran who stayed just ahead of another Ukrainian champion Galya last year by just 30 miles at the finish. For him this kind of thing is a motivation to really open up and fly.

For the Igor and Sarvagata, this is why they came.  To run a race and leave nothing behind.  They both have hungered a long time to be a part of this total commitment to the experience of Self Transcendence, and they are now showing that they have taken off the training wheels and have become what they have sought.

Apologies, please note that there will be no new reports for the next 7 Days

Continue reading “June 30: Do All That I Can”

June 29: A Dream of the Supreme for Humanity

Quite often great moments in sports are captured by film crews and news reporters and are then shown on evening news programs or are splashed across sports sections of local news papers.  If you score a goal, win a match, or set a record at something there is a pretty good chance somebody will be there to capture it for posterity.  It will then fly out into the endless  electronic void.  Where countless eyes will be peering as it whizzes by into the great information wasteland.

The big noticeable news at the 3100 is of course when you at last cross the finish line, when the ultimate goal has been reached.  There are a few particularly talented runners here who have accomplished it many times before, and with luck and fortitude they will set new personal bests for themselves this time as well.  For the 3 new runners though records are being smashed almost constantly.  They are all soaring into brand new ethereal realms that up until now they have only been able to dream about.

Pradeep,  I knew this morning was going accomplish something really wonderful.  Just by running 11 more laps he would complete 1000 miles.  A number by itself of such shocking magnitude that it just might knock you out of your shoes at the thought of running that far.  Might, but you can’t let it do that because you have to leave room for 2100 miles more.

For me Pradeep is a runner of remarkable contradictions.  He doesn’t look tough, he doesn’t look strong, he never looks as though he is doing anything more difficult than taking a casual jog around the block.  All of those things that it appears not to be he is.  He never would have lasted a week here if he weren’t incredibly strong and resilient and prepared to take on the toughest battle of his life.  What obscures this strength is the fact that he is also sweet, kind, and humble.

Continue reading “June 29: A Dream of the Supreme for Humanity”

June 28: Every Day I Will Give Everything

I hoped to continue my detective work at the race this morning.  The burning question that continued to vex me, was how all the runners could somehow improve from Day 14  to Day 15 Sunday.  I had no plan on using any third degree questioning in my sleuthing, because after all something quite remarkable had taken place.  Still I found it puzzling that everybody’s laps had increased by a phenomenal average of 7 in just one day.

There first thing that surprised me when I asked about it this morning was that really none of the runners had even noticed.  For them it simply wasn’t very important and, also it was a long time ago, a little more than 24 hours.  Their collective responses seemed to be reduced to the patently obvious, we simply had a good day.  Which is the ultimate blessing in and of itself.

The runners never have much time or interest to digest indescribable statistical anomalies.  For even the best number crunchers this event will be soon quickly be buried under the constant deluge of data that pours into the record keeping books every day.  Sahishnu is as good as anyone at recalling noteworthy numbers and events but I suspect that for most people it will fade quickly into beautiful glowing obscurity.

I recorded my conversation with Pranjal this morning and as I listen to it again now, I notice how I take my time in explaining to him all the surprising data and how it all added up.  I thought maybe he might know how he was able to do 5 more laps.  He said, “I don’t know.  Perhaps it was a coincidence that so many people felt so good that day.” He adds, “my legs were lighter, I don’t know why.”

Then I laid out my theory about how the 4 runners who were going to make a thousand miles that day probably inspired everyone else.  “4 numbers is really something.  It is 1/3 of the race.”

Compared to most things in our current society the 3100 moves with a kind of snail like speed.  When you look even just a little bit closer though you can be surprised at how beautiful it all is and how moving and inspiring it is on many different levels.

Continue reading “June 28: Every Day I Will Give Everything”