Day 42…Enthusiasm Is Strength Indomitable (July 27 )

This morning was just about as spectacular as it gets at the 3100 mile race.  A set of tables groaned with an incredible assortment of goodies, a little machine was blowing an endless stream of bubbles up into the hot morning air, and yes Parvati and the Enthusiasm Awakeners were celebrating another anniversary of this understated but hugely significant group of girl singers.

It is really the simplest of things to drag yourself out of bed and stand with a bunch of other girls in matching t shirts and go through a hand clapping repertoire of songs that lasts about 40 minutes.  It is quite something else to do this with energy and joy and absolute commitment for more than a decade.  I am in awe and admiration for this little miracle that has played out for so long and so beautifully here at the race.

“July 27 marks the anniversary when Guru gave Parvati’s singing group the name Enthusiasm Awakeners. That’s today and we are celebrating here at the 3100 with lots of prasad,”said Paree this morning.

“We used to sing here at the 3100 starting in 2006.”  Innocently enough  Parvati chose the race as a venue to honor Sri Chinmoy’s 75th birthday that year by singing 75 songs a day for 19 days.

Parvati said, When I mentioned this upcoming project to Sri Chinmoy, he was delighted but also wondered how many singing group members would actually come — and how many would ‘make friends with the goddess of sleep’. To our delight, Sri Chinmoy would often drive by our group singing and later in the summer began to stop and teach us a brand new song.

Paree smiles and her hand reaches out towards the end of the block as she describes the daily arrival of Sri Chinmoy’s little red car.

“It started out as this limited project and then became a tradition.  There is such a special relationship between this group of girls singing and the runners.  It is so sweet.  We come out to support them by singing Guru’s songs, offering Guru’s songs which is what we can do.”

On their part some of the runners perform little skits.  “It is just adorable.  It is such a cute relationship.  It feeds everybody.  It feeds everybody on every level.”

“The runners enjoy it.  The singers enjoy it.”  Paree says the membership is simply open to any girl who wants to come.  “She has made it extremely easy for anyone.”

“It is so fun.  Somehow it is easy to wake up in the morning.”

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Day 41…To Achieve Happiness (July 26 )

I don’t exactly know, just how many times a day, I am struck by the realization of just how difficult a task the 8 runners at the 3100 actually have.   It comes almost like a flash of light or the sound of a big gong being struck a particularly powerful resonating blow.  It seems to be tied generally when I start to feel a little weary or a little sorry for myself.  Boom/ Flash, your task is nothing when compared to theirs.

I am genuinely in awe of all the runners of course but somehow Vasu was designed without complexity, with maximum sweetness, and a kind singular focus on transcending himself here like it is nearly impossible to believe.  Which is of course his 8th year in a row.

Asked why he loves the race, “you don’t know why you love it.  For everything.  For good consciousness, good people, you do the right things, and everything is good.”

2 days ago Vasu had one of his worst days ever with just 49 miles.   Yesterday he improved to 59 miles, and if I am correct at the speed we are running at this morning his total for day 41 will be very high indeed.  He is passing everybody and I am huffing and puffing like an old steam engine.

“A week ago I could not run.  I don’t know why, maybe heat, maybe my mind, maybe something else.” 2 days ago however Dr.Kausal came and started working with Vasu to help increase his speed.  Between a very painful massage and some remedies clearly something has worked.

“Yesterday in the evening I started to run a little bit faster.  Today, this morning I am very grateful for his help.  I hope everything will be good.”

“I am trying to feel more gratitude, and peace, and purity, and discipline.”  Vasu hopes to continue some of his spiritual practices when he goes home.  He wants to continue to make progress.

“I think it is good not just for me, but it is also good for the world, and humanity.  Here is a very special place.  I think it works for all the world.”

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Day 40…Time To Be Happy (July 25)

“I even had my jacket on this morning.  I love it when I freeze in  the New York summer.”  The weather here at the race has always been the most unpredictable force that the runners have to find some way to manage.   Days of heat and days of humidity and days of rain are the 3 foes of every summer time race here. You can’t beat them but somehow instead must resolve to work out a relationship of compromise and acceptance. Coax out of a hard day as many laps as you can and hope they add up to 109.

Today only 3 runners made it past 60.  Unusual unless you consider the devastating affect the weather has had over the past several days.  An inevitable price must be paid.  So Ushika, who wore a coat this morning says, “definitely the outer circumstances have brought more joy to my running.”

“Each and every day is different.  Each day has a  new challenge and a new joy.  There is always something new coming up.  Meanwhile I am always looking forward to see what is coming up, even if it is a challenge.”

“You crack one issue and then the next one pops up.  It is a nice game.”

“I just had an experience yesterday.  Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined, that I would think at one point that this race is too short.  But yesterday my mind was thinking that it is too short.  I want more.”

Ushika says he doesn’t fully understand but the experience was clear.  “I had a desire for more.  To dive deeper into the matter.  Dive deeper into the race.   Dive deeper into myself.  To discover more sooner. I got a taste for it and now I want more besides all the challenges.”

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Day 39… I Become Everything (July 24)

Sanjay this morning told me about this interesting reaction he received when he showed his movie at the Road Runners club in Manhattan a few nights ago.  “There is a connection between the 3100 and the Road Runners club,” he says.

“So after a screening to a packed house in New York city I did a Question and Answer but I noticed that 2 kids from the audience sneaked out.”   What had happened was the 2 boys were so inspired by the movie they simply decided to come immediately out to the race and see it for themselves.

When Sanjay came back to the race himself they had just gotten there.  “They just couldn’t believe that this kind of race even existed, and they had to see it for themselves.”

Sanjay says the boys were ecstatic and spent more than an hour talking with runners and helpers. “It was an awakening.”  He felt the boys were introduced to a whole new dimension of their own spiritual possibilities.  “It was really fascinating.”

Sanjay says that for many people watching the movie they have never before seen a true Spiritual Master like Sri Chinmoy.  This experience of hearing a Master’s voice and seeing a Master in action as in 3100 Run and Become could affect people on a very deep level.  It was beyond my control but I saw the possibility that viewers of the movie could make a connection to Sri Chinmoy.”

“In 2007 in the summer I had the chance to drive Sri Chinmoy to Philadelphia where he was invited to lift some of the world’s strongest men.  Who were in a competition there.  They were gigantic.”

Sanjay says that as soon as Sri Chinmoy started warming up they started gathering around.  “You could hear the sounds of the weights crashing.”  He says as the warmup progressed Sri Chinmoy lifted effortlessly.  “They understood just how heavy these weights actually were.”

“They were appreciative of the weights that Sri Chinmoy was actually lifting.  Never giving up.”

In total Sri Chinmoy lifted 5948 pounds in the space of half an hour. “Today was one of the highlights of my weightlifting career“, he reflected after the event. “These great strongmen have inspired countless people on earth, and I am so happy I could offer them my most sincere appreciation from the inmost depths of my heart.“

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Day 38… Today’s Inner Progress (July 23 )

41 years ago Arpan came up with a great idea to celebrate his birthday.   One which he planned to perpetuate every year.  He called it an ageathon and the formula was simply to run the same number of miles as your age on that day no matter what.

As an athletic and very fit 26 year old looking at running 26 miles was not a big ask.  Remarkably 4 decades on and the tradition has continued but with some minor slight bending of the rules.  Still athletic he plans to do the amount at a 24 hour race on the weekend.

This morning on his special day he came early to the 3100 to start his day with something close to his heart, and it is by the way a race he entered on 2 occasions.  “I am enjoying the race and being here on my special day.”

“The good thing about this race, whether running it or helping is that everybody can participate.”  Arpan describes a sense of oneness that exists between all those who immerse themselves into the powerful orbit of the race.  “There is a sense of family.  There is a sense of helping each other.  This race really embodies that, both in spirit and in action.”

“There is a mental and spiritual aspect to the race, that you have to really embody.  It is kind of like a meditation where there is a calming of the mind.  Instead, try and feel the joy that comes from the heart.  That will help you face challenges.”

Arpan says we always have to overcome doubts but turning inward towards our own heart gives us the power to overcome them.  “Sri Chinmoy wanted people to be happy here.  You can do that.  I have tried it.”

“Sri Chinmoy loved this race.  He was here every day when he was in town.  He would wave to the runners and then the car would stop and he would hand out prasad to the runners.”

He then tells a story about how we was running the race in 2004 and Sri Chinmoy came by while he was running with Stutisheel.  When he went to get his prasad, “Sri Chinmoy wished me happy birthday.  It is your birthday today.  I am very proud of you.  He said a few other things and he was very sweet.”

“After Sri Chinmoy drove off Stutisheel had tears in his eyes and said, What else could you want on your birthday?”

As it turns out he had a harmless desire to also have some clouds and some possible thunder and lightning.  “Within a lap there were these clouds coming over us and I heard thunder and lightning in the distance.   It didn’t even rain.  It was just like a prayer being answered, and we both started laughing.”

“There are really a lot of ways you can really be happy here and get joy.  It is really an amazing experience that you can’t forget.  It is a very powerful meditation and spiritual lesson for life.”

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Day 37…My Inner Faith (July 22)

When you have so many days of extreme running packed so tightly back to back it is almost impossible to sift through all the days and remember one in particular.   I have a feeling, that despite everything that yet might happen to Smarana here at the race, that July 21st will stand out as a beacon to his self transcendence journey.

It was the hottest day by far and the humidity was so thick it was choking.  The handball tournament was going on with its shifting crowds of rowdy fans and yet Smarana maneuvered through it all and managed to be one of the only 3 runners to make at least 60 miles.

Smarana agrees that the last 2 days were difficult, “You can see it in my miles.”

“It was so humid and sticky.  It was really tough.  2 days ago it was like running against a wall, you had to push.  On the other side you had to play smart.   Because if you push too hard, you might have to pay the price.”

“Yesterday it was much better also I think I had a different energy signature.  Then it is easier to run.  If you have weak energy, it is difficult to run.  But if you have strong energy than the outer circumstances do not affect you as much.”

Smarana says he has no control of this, “I wish I could.  I keep searching for the switches but they keep hiding.  It is not you flipping the switches it just happens.  Sometimes it is just grace.  You don’t know why or how.  You haven’t changed anything.”

“It feels like a downpour of grace.  The heavens open.  There is a torrential downpour and you just accept it gladly, without questioning.”

Smarana starts the day with 880 miles more to go.  “This inner confidence is really amazing.  With this strength you can overcome everything.  If you have this inner strength then the outer difficulties will just go away.”

“I have really learned a lot from everybody.”  He says in particular the consistency of Nirbhasa and Harita he has found inspiring.  “I have seen that they also have had problems and issues, but somehow they just continue to deliver.  This was very inspiring and helped me a lot.”

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Day 36… Inner Running (July 21)

Every year at this time a city wide handball tournament is held in the park and it draws an enthusiastic and often boisterous crowds.  People interested in the trajectory of hard blue rubber ball smacked against a concrete wall, and understandably not so interested in the shuffling sweating warriors circling round them.

The aftermath of all day snacking, barbecuing, and trash making is a bit shocking.  The tournament usually goes quite late and if there is an attempt to clean up it is minimal and best which is of course not up to Vajra’s standard of cleanliness for the sacred course of the 3100 mile race.

But does the extra load bother him?  “Not at all.  Necessity knows no frustration for me.”

“The mere fact that you can have people running for 18 hours a day for 52 days is a phenomenal enough situation for any person to consider something as very unusual.  It is something for a spiritual person, who would recognize it as something that goes beyond.  It takes you to an inner realm where you can only feel it better than you can express it outwardly.”

“Whatever is inwardly spiritually illumining does not need anything outwardly to justify it or express it.  It just is.  You pick up on it just through your heart.”

“When you identify with heart to heart situations there is very little that you need to understand in terms of words.  It just is.”

“It is not only what you do but the spirit in which you do it.  If you do it for the purpose of glorifying some divine nature that is within you and that is within all of us then that thing becomes a very special thing.  It has its own way of manifesting itself to the outer world to those who are receptive enough to feel it.  Those people will receive something from it.”

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Day 35…Accomplishing The Impossible (July 20)

There is a certain kind of shocking wake up call I get every time I look at the live streaming Race Webcam.  The portion of my day spent on the sidewalk with the runners is usually just under 6 hours.  After which it is carrying 3 bags of cameras home and then trying to make sense of it all.

It feels like it takes me countless hours but the truth is, I can count them.  The moment I turned on the race camera this evening an additional 6 hours later I was shaken once again into the reality, that compared to the 8 runners, most of us on the sidelines have it pretty easy.

Todor, my interview subject from this morning walks into frame and is smiling.  It is not the hellish weather that makes him smile.  It is in the mid steamy 90’s and his shirt is stuck to his back.

It is not even likely the 43 miles he has done since 6 this morning.  He is happy because he is doing exactly the thing he was meant to do and in this moment he is heroically doing his very best.

“Really amazing 35 days.   The previous longest run for me was 6 days.  This race is really self transcendence for me.  It is difficult for me to understand on paper it is easy.  For me it is more than just mileage.  All of us here must overcome our difficulties.  We have to just go ahead.”

“I try not to look at the difficulties, just try and overcome them.  I just try and find a solution.  The important thing is to proceed forward.”

I feel oneness with the people.”  Todor says he has received support from around the world and feels this makes him stronger.  “It motivates me much more, and keeps me going forward.”

Talking about his fellow runners he marvels that everyone is traveling at different speeds but all share the same orbit of the course.  “It is like one solar system.”  Each of the moving bodies supports the action of all the rest. “The feeling of harmony helps all the runners.”

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Day 34…Love The Whole World (July 19)

“Yes it also made me happy, because there were trees and elephants in the joke.  It is always nice.”

Just a few minutes earlier Ashprihanal had told a joke to the Enthusiasm Awakeners.  His partner in the joke telling was Salil who happily played the straight man.

“Salil, How is it we do not see all the elephants hiding up in the trees?”

“I am not sure.   Why don’t we see the elephants hiding in the trees?”

“Because they are very very good at it.”

Ashprihanal, as an exchange student from Finland in the US had a chance to hike and appreciate nature like very few.  He hiked both the Pacific Coast trail and the Appalachian trail.  As you imagine those places you can almost smell the coolness of the deep piny woods and the inviting fresh cool lakes just a half more mile further down the soft mossy trail.

Which is to say these images compare not at all to the hard cruel concrete he has navigated in a never ending loop for the past 33 days.  Yet when asked about this he points with delight at the Japanese Maple that Sri Chinmoy planted many years ago.

There are tiny patches of flowers near the camp that he also notices and then there are of course the trees that he ever so gently pats most laps as he runs by.  But then again enjoying nature was not exactly in the description of the race nor is it now in this his 15th hot summer in Queens.

“It is how we look at things.”

I wondered how he appreciated the heavy thunderstorms the other day. “The lightning kind of wakes you up.  So something new is happening instead of the regular routine.  A short thunderstorm can feel like a change.”

“But if it rains all day then it is never nice.”

“There are some problems I had before and also some totally new ones.  There has been some limping but otherwise it has been quite good.”

When asked if being in first place helps.  “It is all in the frame of the mind.  It doesn’t matter which place you are in.  If your frame of mind is heavy then it doesn’t matter where you are.  So I don’t think it has to do so much with where you are.  Then how your mind is and how you feel.  That is most important.”

As we are running, which is already uncomfortably quick for me.   Ananda-Lahari speeds by.  With a smile of delight he says, “he is showing us the way to the Golden Shore.”

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Day 33…Accomplish The Impossible (July 18)

*Apologies to all for the sudden disappearance of Perfection Journey.  Due to an errant server issue it went temporarily off the rails.  Only due to the extraordinary efforts of technical support at Vasudeva was the blog guided back onto the tracks and we hope back up to its top speed towards its destination*

Conditions yesterday were abysmal.  It was hot, humid, and then in the evening the great soaked dark sponge of the night sky unloaded a downpour and illuminated its hellish creation with lightning.  Yet somehow 6 of the 8 runners still made the daily distance of 110 laps. The one who made the most of them all was a 39 year old runner from Ireland, Nirbhasa Magee, running for the 3rd time made 123 laps.

I remember talking to his brother Sadanand the first time he ran and was puzzled that his family were so utterly convinced he would accomplish it.   Even though his multi day background was limited.  Whether he draws from a very deep well of confidence or his ability is packed in somehow beyond the dimensions of his slight frame, it is now most likely he will transcend himself in his 3rd race here once again.

He has been skillfully assisted by Yahva and his brother Sadanand.  There may be a formula to measure efficiency of time and if it was ever necessary to do so this Doctor of particle physics could probably do it.

“The crew are extremely helpful.  I did have some crew at the last race.  I guess as well my speed is up compared to 2 years ago.  My weight is a lot better.”  Nirbhasa says he is 3 kilos heavier than his previous race and feels that is all muscle mass and helps with his added strength and endurance.  Most useful in the 2nd half of the race.

“Those are the outer reasons, inwardly this is the race I am supposed to be running this year. Every time you run the race you definitely feel as though you are connected to something here.”

He feels that whenever we pray and meditate whenever we go out into the world it is hard to keep that inner connection.  “But here you almost follow your plan.  You do the miles that have been laid out for you.  Your job is to show up in the morning and follow the plan somehow.”

“Inwardly your heart and soul wants to do a certain task today.  You just have to show up and do that.”

With 2100 miles completed he has now another 1000 miles yet to do.  “It is always good when you realize that you have so much done.  At the same time you have to be very very careful not to think about how much you have left.  I still have a huge distance.”

“The strategy now is almost the same as it was on day one.  Take every day one at a time.  Show up every day as a new day.  Treat every day with newness and enthusiasm.  Just try and do your best for that particular day.”

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