Day 20… A Perfect Attitude (July 5)

“We are all here not just to do the 3100 miles.”

In all the usual sporting events there are winners and there are losers.  There are nearly always trophies and prizes but in the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race none of those things are lined up for you once you cross the finish line. (Note there is cake ) Nirbhasa went home last night at midnight with 1233 miles on the board and after completing yet another day of running 64 miles.

His motivation like that of all those who run here is based almost entirely on an experience that takes place within.  That cannot be seen or measured only felt and appreciated on a deeper personal level.

When asked how he felt about his experience here after nearly 3 weeks of continuous running.  “In one way it is kind of nice.  You have definitely done a substantial part of the race.  You basically cannot think about where you really are.  You have to treat every moment as the eternal now.”

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“If you start thinking, O I have come so far.  Then you start thinking about how far you still have to go.  That certainly takes a lot of the joy out of it.  You can say we are here to make inner progress.”  Nirbhasa says that part of his strategy is to try and not identify with his mind so much. Instead he tries to identify with something deeper inside himself.  “The only way to do that is to be in the moment, and be happy to be in the moment.”

He laughs as he describes that he is not in prison, marking down his days left to be served.  Though he confesses that there is a part of him that identifies with how nice it would be if he were home tucked into his bed.  “I am trying to go completely beyond that part of the mind, and enjoy being here.”

“The more that you can enjoy it, and the more that you can be here, then the more you can reduce that part of your mind that is reluctant to be here.  The more fulfilling experience you are going to have.”

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“It seems that naturally you just have deeper and deeper experiences every time you come back.  You are building on the races that you have done before.  You have deeper experiences, deeper awakenings.  You feel closer to God.  It is something that just happens naturally. I guess our role is to just stay in the moment and enjoy it.”

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Day 19… Universal Oneness (July 4)

For a very very long time America’s Independence day has been celebrated by the great citizenry of this country in diverse but generally unhurried ways.  Often ice cream, beach towels, and fire works are put to use, but diligent hard work is generally avoided at all costs.  That is unless you have forgotten some snack that needs to be picked up for the back yard barbecue.

Harita is still a couple of thousand miles away from using a beach towel or even taking a languid retreat in a hammock pitched under some shady trees.  What is on Harita’s mind and in her heart is to try and simply record another 114, or even better 116 laps of the course.  Her goal is still a long, long way off.  But each day that she sets off with the other 7 runners on their Self-Transcendence quest it draws closer.

Harita spent much of last summer with the Peace run as it meandered through nearly all the 48 mainland states.  It was the 3rd time that she has done it.  “It was an incredible, incredible opportunity.  Anywhere you run in the world with the Peace torch gives you so much hope for humanity.  Running with the Peace run draws out the goodness of everybody that you encounter and draws out your own goodness as well.”

“When you go out on the Peace Run you see that America is such a beautiful country full of incredible people. Every single day in every state you meet big hearts who so much hope for the future.  They are doing great things by virtue of their goodness.”

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Harita has had the good fortune to have visited all 50 states.  “They are all incredibly unique.  Coming from a small country like New Zealand.  My country is the size of one state.  It has variances but in America variances are huge.  Still you feel the spirit of America and I was thrilled when I went to Hawaii and went Alaska.  Places that are so far away.  You could still really feel this powerful spirit of newness and enthusiasm, hope, and big heartedness.”

photo by Arpan

“I recited 2 quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt this morning.  One was, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of dreams.  The other one, a woman is like a teabag you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

2 days ago she passed 1,000 miles.  “A 1,000 miles sounds like a lot.  In this race every day is just its own world.  I try not to really think about the next day, because it is overwhelming.  But when you reach 1,000 miles you think wow.  To drive 1,000 miles is a long way.  But it feels like something.”

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Day 18… Meditation in Motion (July 3)

For many years Swamiji would run the loop every day early in the morning.  Starting before the official 6 am start he would always go in the direction of the day and he would always look as though he was deep in prayer and meditation.

Not that he wouldn’t talk or carry on light conversation but it was clear that his vibrant presence was not just about early morning jogging. No one kept track of just how many miles he would do each day but it was not insignificant. His intentions were always deep, personal, and meaningful.

This morning he returned once again but this time in his bright colored robes and he was happy to talk about his love of the race.  “I lived in the neighborhood and it was through word of mouth that I heard about it.  That’s how I joined the race but it was a blessing to do it for me.”

Swamiji says that he would have preferred to have come and run this morning but his extensive travel schedule prevented it.  “I just got back last night so the tiredness is there.”  He is excited about a new pair of running shoes he just got. “I am ready to run I must.   It is a maximum spiritual experience in motion.  I can’t miss that. It is a very rare opportunity to do something like this.”

“I wish many more people could understand this.”  He knows that by time the race is over everyone involved in the event has been fashioned into a more spiritual mold.  “It is what’s driving them and moving them along.  This is really meditation in motion.”  He feels that there are benefits to be gained not just by the runners but for all those who identify and partake in even any small way with the race.

“I want to spend some time here and reap the benefit.  It recharges me to help me with all the work that I do around the world.  United Nations, conflict resolutions, spiritual harmony.  This is fuel to recharge me.”

“The Guru never dies.   He is always operating.  But we are human beings and we are so used to seeing a name and a form.  Which creation is all about.  We should see God in all his creation.  This is the purpose of life.   We can’t always remain living in the lower level.   We have to move up.  Because we are all consciousness and we have to rediscover that.  This race allows us to do that.”

“We want to go back to consciousness where we came from.”

Interview from 2013

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Day 17… Illumine You (July 2)

“It makes it easier when you are doing your miles.  It is a challenge when you are behind.  It is a race and there is a cut off at 52 days.  I am trying to do my best. When you are not doing your miles it is more difficult to be happy, and I want to be happy.”

The past 16 days have been mostly good ones for Ananda-Lahari.  Yesterday he ran 61 miles and within a couple of hours this morning he will be the 4th of the 8 runners to reach 1000 miles.  One of those no joke kind of numbers that catches your eye when you see it on the board and hopefully for Ananda-Lahari continues to build his confidence that this is the year he once again makes it all the way.

Ananda-Lahari is one of those relentless types who stays most nights until there simply is no more time left to run.  When asked the glaringly stupid question, if he is happy when the day is over.  “Yes I do.  When I get home I know the work is done.”

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When asked an additional poor question, whether or not he has a hard job his answer, “Probably.”

He feels that even if he was the only runner on the course he would be happy with that.  “We are not here to socialize.  We are here to run your miles.”

“This world is not only about the physical.  It is connected altogether.  Our mind, our spiritual heart, our vital energy, and our soul the boss.  It is not only to work on the physical level.  I guess the goal is to bring the soul forward so that the soul can take over.”

Our conversation stops briefly as we pass by the girls singing group Enthusiasm Awakeners.  “This is a precious moment when I go around the course.  I wanted to enjoy it.”

“I hope I have made some progress.  It is easy to be happy sitting on a sofa and drinking coca cola.  It is more difficult to be happy when you are being squeezed.” He takes his hands up and imitates the motion of wringing out a wet towel.  “There are different levels of happiness.”

“The first one isn’t real happiness.  We can be happy only for a while this way.  But in the long term if we make a sincere effort. We can transcend ourselves and transform ourselves into better people, then this will make us really happy.”

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Day 16… Life For The Better (July 1)

Yesterday Vasu had a good day, a very good day.  He ran 66 miles which is about his usual distance, but in the week preceding it the story was much different. He was being tormented by blisters and a sore Achilles.  He wasn’t exactly running but on the worst days he was still able to complete distances in the mid 50’s.

The counters are able to record Vasu’s laps and then tally up the mileage.  When there is time they can  then pick up plastic numbers backed by Velcro and stick the total on a board next to his name.  All the counting and putting up of numbers is important for the recording.  What statistics can’t show of course is the sheer courage,  strength and determination that allowed him to continue to march on through a world of pain and fatigue and still smile.

This morning his smile is clear and bright.  His dark days may not be over just yet but the worst of his problems have passed.  “I am very grateful that I can start to run a little faster. My blister is almost done.  Everything is good.”

Vasu laughs when I suggest that the start of his race was difficult.  In fact he was leading and running well for most of the first week.  “Everybody has some problems here.  It is life and we need to go through it.”

“When you have problems you can go deep inside, and it can help a lot.  But you must be happy when you go through it.”  He says he does not get sad when his daily results are not up to his usual standard.  “It is more important to be happy.”  Vasu feels that it is only by being happy that ultimately he can get miles and of course achieve his real purpose in coming here which is self transcendence.

He feels that the results of being happy and positive may not show up right away but most certainly will in the long run.  “To be happy is very important.”

“Every moment is a good moment.” Vasu then went through parts of his day and told me about some of the expected and unexpected things that took place to inspire him.  All of this helps not just continue on this seemingly endless journey in front of him but helps him run even faster.

” We try and inspire each other and go inside and bring forth our divine qualities.” Sometime today Vasu will complete the first 1000 miles of his epic journey to self transcendence.

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Day 15… Highest Self-Transcendence-Height (June 30)

Shin splints are an insidious ailment that have reeked misery and havoc on ultra runners quite possibly from the time early man tried to see just how far he could.   Ushika is deep into his 4th day of continual pain in his lower legs and though his mileage has suffered he has somehow allowed the pain to only bother his outer extremities and not his mood or mental outlook.

Between he and his helper Max, they have investigated every possible solution and remedy and are currently working with a kind of hinge device to relieve pressure.  It is a new experience for both of them and then again, when in the 3100 not about new challenges and experiences.

The two of them are an ideal team.  This was clearly evident last year and Max is once again working tirelessly to support Ushika.  Having him around Ushika says, “is the best solution I could dream of.”

Max is fully committed to his role.  He says he got a good feeling last year when he was first asked.  “I wanted to dive into this world so I saw my chance and took it.”  He says the race last year changed him.  “It changed my whole personality, my whole being, so I hope it gets changed again.”

Ushika says that he continues to work on his devotion in this years race.  “It is a life long process.  My goal is to try and speed it up here.”

As for his physical problems and how he is coping, “I could say that I am surprised myself.  I can see that it is all grace.  I don’t have any anxieties, or mental problems.”  Ushika is not sure how he would have coped if the problems had occurred last year but feels that this time he is better equipped to deal with it.

He feels that there is a great difference between the concept of devotion and to actually live it.  “To think of the process is totally useless but you have to go for it.  You have to try and cry and then let it come.”

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Day 14… Perfection’s Gate (June 29)

“It is so relaxing, I don’t have to worry about anything.  It is a different experience, but I am grateful for the experience.  I think any part you take in this race is a very blessingful experience.”

Kaneenika has come to the race this morning as she has for the past 2 weeks to fully take part in several new, and not insignificant roles for her.  Unlike the past 4 summers in which she was here running in the race itself. This morning she sings with the regular Enthusiasm Awakeners singing group and then she speaks with Harita as she runs.  Her past experience in many many multi day races is extensive .  So she is able to assist and encourage Harita in many ways.

“I am a runner, and I do miss the running part.  On the other hand, since I can’t do it, I am enjoying the other part.”

It has become obvious, over the past few days that a few runners have been having very challenging experiences.  As for what advice she would offer them, ” Sri Chinmoy advised us not to think about the next day,  the next lap, or even the next step.  You never know what will happen.”

“I remember a story from last year when I was having a hard time.  I was feeling that I must be a very lousy runner.  I was only able to drag myself around.  There was a man who used to come twice a day by the course and I thought he probably didn’t even notice us.  But obviously he did because when I was having my dilemma, doubting whether I should even be here or not.  He says to me, O great running.”

Kaneenika was shocked that he said this and looked around, as if he must have been speaking to someone else.  “So then I smiled at him and he added, nice smile too.  That gave me a real boost to continue.” She feels it was just another example of how the race is able to work its subtle magic on all those who take part.  That there is always more to what we can do and how much more we can transcend ourselves.

“What I used to do in my first 3100 mile race when things were really tough I would just laugh.”  Kaneenika points towards the other side of the course along beside the Grand Central service road.  “I was hoping that nobody would see me.  It was really helping me. I would just get energy, and be in a good mood and go on.”

“It is all about Self-Transcendence.”

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Day 13… To Believe (June 28)

“I am feeling very good and yesterday was a recharging day.”  Smarana is having a great race and he went home last night after having completed 763 miles over 12 days.

Most of us have a very casual and innocent idea about recharging.  It might include sleeping in, going to the beach, or meeting friends over coffee.  Smarana, does not, nor do any of the other runners, have no access or real interest in what most of us consider relaxation and frivolous time spent.  So in case you wonder what Smarana did to recharge,  he pedaled home on his bicycle at 11pm instead of midnight after running 55 miles.

He says he had been thinking about doing it for a few days and yesterday seemed to be the right time to do it.

“It is very very special to be out here and it is very very special to be here with all the other runners and the helpers.  There is a lofty point of view.  You feel lifted up and supported, and all the runners each has such special qualities.  The more you run with them the more you realize all the special capacities that they have, and their abilities.  You can learn so much from them.”

“Just the other day I was running with Todor, and he was asking, was there ever a time when all the runners finished.  It looks this time like everybody can finish.  It was so nice that he was thinking.”  What impressed Smarana was just how positive Todor was looking at running here.  Instead of focusing on the hardships he was inspiring himself with the best possible outcome for all his fellow runners.

“He has this mental calm and poise and oneness.  So that was very nice for me.  I feel very privileged to be here and to learn.  You are shifted from your normal day to day life and your normal perspective.  You are completely taken out of that.  You have a new playroom to experience things.  It is so nice.”

“It is an amazing opportunity here.  If you can see it like a playground here and have new experiences.  What has changed for me over the years is that in my first 7 races my approach sometimes, I have to say, is that I pushed with brute force.”

“But I really wanted to change and have a more joyful approach to the race. Naturally I have an intrinsic trait that says you push and you suffer.  It has taken me a while to transform and transcend it.” Smarana feels that his last 2 attempts at the race were opportunities to change his attitude and experience here.  He feels more flexible and more joyful.  He calls this approach a joyous way.

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Day 12… The Inner Journey (June 27)

It is possible to imagine that if Todor’s current life was edited down to something simpler and shorter you could easily picture that he had already achieved a great victory.  That in his 11 days of running here he has gone farther and longer than he has ever run before.

But of course this mini version of Self-Transcendence is not what is pushing todor to continue to run for 18 hours a day.  For Todor, like all the runners here have their sights set on a finish line that is still almost 2500 miles away.  There are many many more days of running left for everyone here. The goal is in sight for no one on this hot June day.  Maybe when the calendar peels away another 2 pages and it becomes  August.

“It is amazing how fast the race is going.  I have seen so many things.  It is really unbelievable.  I have already run many kilometers.  Yesterday I was glad when I reached 1,000 kilometers.  In this case I have improved my personal best which was 707 kilometers.  In this case I have transcended myself.”

“I hope I can extend this self transcendence much more and much deeper.  Step by step.  Rome was not built in a day.  At the same time I am trying not to think too much about it or be obsessed with it.  My body and mind have to adapt to the situation here.  I am trying not to push myself. Keep moving forward.” So far Todor’s adjustment to the tempo and rhythm of the race has been stellar.

“I want to be just glad and happy that I am here.  My goal is to just keep going.”

Todor has benefited greatly by have a good helper also named Todor.  “It is quite important not to be alone in such a competition.”  In all his previous races Todor did not have a helper.  “With a helper you can get help without losing any time.”

He goes over the amount of time it takes to grab a cup of water as just a few seconds when you are on your own.  But once a helper comes and offers you a cup while you continue to run you can save valuable  time, which becomes substantial over 5649 laps.

“It helps you a lot and also when my helper encourages me when I am feeling low.  There is a lot of pressure and you have to do so much mileage.  You have some ups and downs.  In the moment when you are at your lowest the helper can help you and overcome the situation faster. ”

“For me in the 3100 Self-Transcendence race it is a very important role to have a helper.  I am very glad that I have one.”

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Day 11… Your Destined Goal (June 26)

Ray Krolewicz has been visiting the race, on and off for the past few days.  His presence here comes directly out of his boundless enthusiasm for distance running and in no small way as well, his affection and love for the  3100 mile race itself.

Though he entered the race only once, in 2014, his infectious spirit seems to be in some inexplicable way woven into the very fabric of the race itself. He has been making trips here every summer for at least the past 6 years.   For the past few days he has been living out of his car and takes the discomfort as inconsequential when compared to what the 8 runners in the race have to endure on a daily basis.

When asked what his relationship is to the race he says, “affection.”

“Affection is always a 2 way street.  You cannot gain affection unless you are willing and successful at giving affection. ”

“I don’t think it is a hard event.  It takes focus.  It takes dedication to task.  But if you think about the joy of all day all you have to do is something you already love doing and that is running and being among friends, and being taken care of.”

“The food here is phenomenal.  So there is nothing but affection all the way around.”

Ray was going into the NYC 100 mile race the next day.  Something he was looking forward too.  But he says that the intensity of the 3100 mile race in every aspect sets it apart from any other race.

He reminisces about his conversations and relationships he was able to establish with all the runners in the unique atmosphere of the race.  “I think everything we do changes us inside.  But I think here in particular.  The intensity of it forces you think about different aspects of life.  The time commitment.  If I can put 52 days into this how about putting time into this or that other activity.”

“I was unsuccessful when I ran here.  I joke that I was beat by over 1000 miles.  (He ran 2014) That is the point.  Even something that would look like a failure in another aspect of your life.  If you gain from it, grow from it,  and accomplish some part of it, it is still better than when you started it.”

“Every race is a school. Every run is an experience that you can learn from.  You just need to keep your eyes open and your mind open.  You talk about mindfulness and Sri Chinmoy talked about it a lot.  So mindfulness opens us, no matter what your experience is.  Learning to enjoy what experiences the world has to offer, and what all the different people in the world can offer you as well.”

Part 2

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