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Day Seven #2: Don’t Give Up

“The biggest challenge I thought, as I looked at the weather forecast is the weather.”  We are running together in the pitch darkness of the night.  The first tender hours of Sunday have barely begun and for the moment the conditions are still and almost perfect.  At this point Dipali has been running for a little more than 36 hours.  “It was freezing when we started, and when I came out at 3 am this morning it rained right up until about 2 in the afternoon, and I mean it rained.  I think we are doing pretty well,” she says, and laughs lightly.

The course change this year means it is no longer necessary for the runners to somehow navigate a loop that sometimes required great ingenuity on the parts of the crew and runners to make it work at all, and even though it rained heavily yesterday, no pontoon bridges or kayaks were necessary.

She tells me that she will run for 2 more laps and then take a break for a couple of hours.  “I have just done 40 miles since lunch time.  I didn’t take any break.  I just ran the straight 40 miles.  It is kind of what I do.  I don’t know if I can come out tomorrow morning and do another 40.  I already feel fatigued from the cold start and the rain.”  She had a bad flu just before the race and says she was concerned that she would even be able to do it.  “I was very weak, and decided to do it.”  She admits to still feeling some of the weakness of how the flu affected her.

I actually prefer this time of night, after 9 o’clock, when most of the runners go to bed.  And I actually indulge in the quietness.  Everybody has kind of gone, and there is just a handful of people.  I find it very peaceful and I stay out here to about 1am.  I probably won’t be resting for very long.  Maybe a couple of hours off the track and then I will be back out again.  That is just years of practice.”

“It is 20 years to the month, in May, that I did my first 7 day race,  1991 in Flushing Meadow.  I was pretty clueless.”  At the time she says the furthest she had run was 47 miles.  She was so enthusiastic that she says she blasted the first 100 miles.  This torrid pace however set her back so much she says that she could barely run for days afterward.

Dipali Cunningham now at age 52 is tremendously knowledgeable about distance running and has achieved numerous victories in her races and on occasion, has not only won the women’s division, but been the leader overall as well.  With all her success she ultimately gives credit to her late teacher Sri Chinmoy, who she feels taught her the inner lessons that she could apply not just on the road but in her life as well.  “The inner courage, the inner determination, and the wisdom.”  The race is incredibly difficult and she tries to always focus on the positive.  Use the opportunity of running to not only add up the miles but find the route that will as well lead to her own spiritual progress.

“I always say it is a surrender of the whole being.  It is a profound experience on every level.  She appreciates so much that when she started running these races 20 years ago there were just a handful of people in them.  Now she is amazed that there are more than 70 very enthusiastic runners out here in the race.  All of them she says, “finding their dreams and goals.”

“These people inspire me.  They are bringing me this newness freshness, that you don’t want to disappear in your own consciousness.”  She has after all done 32 multi day events in 20 years.  This year, in almost a complete change to her usual schedule, she ran a 24 hour race in Ottawa in the fall.  “I was really inspired to try it, and I had a great time.  I couldn’t believe how it was so different, and yet I feel that I can improve at it.  That next time I can do more.”

Then for a moment she recalls how Sri Chinmoy used to come to this same park and train, often in the middle of the night.  She imagines she says, that in her quiet moments she can still envision him out here on the course.  Even though it has been 30 years since the park last felt his footsteps, as he ran through the night.  “We can’t forget these things, they are immortal.”

Click to play interview


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Day Two: Just Being Here

20 miles into her first marathon she was not certain that she could even finish it.  If there was anything certain to Grete Waitz at that moment, on a cold October morning, was that most definitely she would never run a marathon again.  Yet she did in fact complete the race that day.  The second half of her race would turn out to be faster than her first.  She not only completed running her first New York city marathon in 1978,  she broke the world record as well by running 2:32:30.

Picture by Bhashwar

Her run that day in New York was unexpected to everyone including herself.  She was a top notch Norwegian middle distance runner who had competed in races no longer than 3km.  She had been invited to be a pace setter and add  international flavor to an event that was just becoming popular.  Sadly we lost this champion today at the age of 57.  She inspired not only women athletes but distance runners of all kinds.  She would go on to win the NYC marathon 9 times and was a friend to Sri Chinmoy and many of the activities he helped inspire.

Grete’s lesson that day in 1978 is familiar to all who run in multi day races.  Not just in Flushing Meadow but everywhere runners try to push back the limitations they believe that are in front of them and holding them back.  Few have the capacity to break world records but transcending oneself is another mater entirely.  It can and should be a life long task.  It is of course something that doesn’t necessarily give itself up freely.  It must be worked and strived for.

Grete Waitz once said, “For every finish line tape a runner breaks–complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras–there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.

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The Hardest Thing

bigalita-4We are all asked, at special moments in our lives, to reach deep within and to bring forth, something  more of ourselves.  We are continually journeying to new heights in life, whether they be just one step up or even to reach the top of our own personal Everest.

Our achievements may go unnoticed by the world at large but there is an innate awareness inside ourselves that always recognizes, that in all of our positive efforts, in each of our extraordinary acts of Self Transcendence, we are making ourselves better people.  There may be more to this as well.  Perhaps, in our self offering we are making this world of ours better as well.

pam-interviewAt noon today In Fushing Meadow Park 80 brave souls were able to sit and to rest for the first time in days.  On the superficial level the course of their lives was exactly the same.  They circled a weaving concrete path that ambulated here and there in and around Meadow lake.  Cars hurtling by on the Grand Central Parkway probably took little notice of the often scruffy characters parading along.  If the cars took the same course each day they may have begun to wonder at this spectacle repeating itself day in and day out.  When they drive by tomorrow it will be all long gone.

dipali-soulfulTheir journeys here are now over.  They will  rest and sleep more easily now.  The aches and pains accumulated over hundreds of miles of running will heal.  Some will be able to say with confidence that they have set new personal records in the world of multi day racing.   Two will be able to say much more.  Pam Reed will be able to say she has now achieved an American record.  Dipali Cunningham will be able to say she has achieved not only a new personal record but a world record as well.

Dipali tying the record

click to play movie

bigalita-268 year old Bigalita Egger had made an improbable journey here.  No real distance running background at all really.  Unless of course you count the puny 26 miles distance of a marathon.  She will return to the certainly sunnier climes of Culver City CA and know that over 10 days she ran 357 miles.  A distance most people she will meet will not erajeshri-and-kushaliven begin to comprehend.  She will know all to well the price she paid but more importantly this transcendent achievement will  be able to speak volumes to her mind and heart for the rest of her days on earth.

Kushali 421 miles

Rageshri 244

radi-and-daniellaRadi Milev say, “there were very many good runners.”  This 60 year old from Bulgaria was of course himself one of the finest.  With 629 miles over 10 days he was just 4miles out of 3rd place.  Yuri Trostenyuk in third place is 45 years old.  His daughter Daniella has been helping him the entire time and if there was an award for constant cheerfulness she may well have been elgible for first prize.  He says, “He is waiting for next year so that he can come again.”

Radi Milev interview

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brian-marshallBrian Marshall 54 from Johannesburg South Africa walked his way into a new record.  With 436 miles he has traveled more than 86 miles further than he has before.  He is amazed at the many changes that have taken place on the course over the 10 days he was on it.  He says, “the whole season has changed.” His wife Brenda has been his biggest supporter during the race.  He tells me,” I came here with negativity and I am leaving with positivity.”

Brian Marshalll interview

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andrey-somovarunAndrey Somov 343 first multi day

Andrey Andreyev 555 35 miles better than last year

Arun Bhardwaj 418 miles

One in a Billion

dipali-and-haritaDipali’s last few laps were not without some drama.  She was helped by several girls but Harita Davies has been her main supporter.  When Dipali tied her record I spoke with Harita and she says that Dipali told her that this race was “the hardest thing she has ever done.”  As a student of spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy she found strength and inspiration in the example of his own life of Self Transcendence.

Harita interview

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joe-and-cherylpete-and-wife69 year old Joe Cleary will be able to go back to Georgetown Ontario with 228 miles.  Which is about half the distance to Buffalo. Cheryl is thinking of running a 24 hour race in the fall.

67 year old Pete Stringer Osterville Ma ran 318 miles.

darrensarahDarren Worts 38, running his first 6 day race won it with 420 miles.  It is an emotional time for Darren and his whole family.  His dad can only say, “it was amazing.”

Sarah Barnett ran 684 miles.

Sarah Interview

Click to play interview

klauskaneenika168 year old Klaus Schultz Berlin Germany ran 320 miles for 10 days.

klaus Interview

Kaneenika Janakova 38 Bratislava Slovakia won the 10 day women with a personal best of 707

mark-dorionmark-and-kidsMark Dorion 49 El Paso Texas ran 353 and had surprise arrival of his wife and kids inspire him over the last few days.

Mark Dorion interview

click to play interview

elena-prateeshrutiigor-and-vladimirElena Sidorenkova in her first multi day ran 596 miles.   Pratishrutti Kisamoutdinova ran 482

Pratishruti & Elena interview

Vladimir Razumovsky ran 133 miles further than he has before…629     Igor Mudryk ran 179 miles further than he has before……..712

Igor & Vladimir interview

baridhiveacesiavVeaceslav Dodonu 33 Switzerland ran 253 miles in his first multi day

Veaceslav interview

Baridhi Yonchev 28 Bulgaria ran 276 miles in his first multi cay

Baridhi interview

andy-cablechanakhya-finishAndy Cable 43 Monroe Ct 262 miles. He says, “something more than running takes place here.”

Andy Cable interview

Chanakhya Jakovic 55 Jamaica NY, says,”he learned a lot and shared a lot.” Ran 270 miles

Chanakhya interview

michelmichel-and-tommyMichel Gouin 48, Drummondville Quebec ran 538 miles.  His support team was one of the finest.  It included his wife Chantelle and son Tommy who helped others all the time.

karnyatimike-brooksKarnayati Morison 62 Ottawa Canada ran 513 miles.

Mike Brooks raised $10,000 for Camp Sunshine by running 491 miles here.

misha-and-wife-lubatatjannaMykhaylo Ukrainskyl 36 Berdyansk Ukraine ran 540 miles 59 miles further than he has ever done.  His wife Luba helped not only him but the entire race by volunteering to cook.

Tatjana Jauk 38 Slovenia ran 470 miles.

vlastimilvidyutVlastimil Dvoracek 49 Nad Orlici Czech Republic ran 375 miles

Viddyut Balmer 28 San Francisco CA ran 324 miles.

canada-consulGeorges Boisse is a consul with the Canadian Consulate General.  He says seeing all the runners, ” I am carrying with me quite an experience, of courage and persisence.  Something I didn’t know existed.” His wife says, “What impresses me is their capacity to go beyond their limits. They are balanced and happy and share this happiness with us.”

George Boisse interview

click to play interview

pam-trophyPam Reed says, “It is amazing what we can do. I couldn’t believe that we could still do that.  The name of the race is so appropriate”

Pam Reed interview


Tim Kourounis a distance great

Tim Kourounis interview

For those of us who watched this story unfold from near or from afar, we can never know the highs and lows and the experiences in between that took place in the bodies, minds, and hearts of these champions.  They each will come away with an undeniable experience of Self Transcendence.  It may be new numbers that can be seen clearly on paper and then again maybe it will not.    Within each, a new inner plateau has been scaled, from which they can look back and see that they have transformed some small part of themselves or even their entire beings.  This wonderful world we all share together has become better because of this.


There was a time when I stumbled and stumbled,

But now I only climb and climb beyond

And far beyond my Goal’s endless Beyond,

And yet my Captain commands: “Go on, go on!”

Excerpt from My Flute by Sri Chinmoy.