Day 26… This Very Moment ( July 11)

When Smarana went home last night he could rest easier than he had for some time.  Not only did he not just have a good day of 64 miles he also had pushed past the half way mark, a day and a half ahead of tonight’s deadline.  Being able to excel and succeed in this race was for 7 years straight an almost given.

Coming back from his long break 2 years ago things on the physical level at least did not go to plan.  Both in 2017 and in 2018 he was unable to make the distance and he had to gamely find joy in battling out for 52 days and yet was unable to cross the finish line.

This year the story appears to be something quite different. Smarana has re calibrated his attitude and perhaps as well his receptivity.  Incredibly strong outwardly to look at he now is showing an inner strength that is proving to be very successful.

I spoke with him as he was running with Todor.  I was curious just how much it helps to have a running companion.  “One plus one is more than two.”  He describes how each of their energies feeds off of each other.  “Every now and then you talk a little bit.  It is nice that somebody is there.  It feels like having an extra power bank.”

“I can draw a little bit from him and sometimes he can draw from me.  It is very nice.”

“This race has been quite different compared to all my other races.  I think I am getting there.  The first 7 races sometimes I pushed with brute force, and the last 2 races I tried to change my way of doing the race.  I tried to be more joyful, a little more surrendered.  To be in the flow and not have these mental goals.”

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“I see in the end you get your miles, but with much less stress.  You can see the world around you better.  You don’t have to have this tunnel vision.  I want to have more faith that everything will just work out, and be fine.  It is a nice feeling.”

Smarana says that he had a series of not so great days which reminded him a similar experience he had last year when he felt himself tumbling down a metaphorical rabbit hole, which he could not escape from. “I really crashed.”

When he felt things were not working out as he hoped he says he simply started changing things.  “It helped.   This was very important for my confidence.  I am not going down this rabbit hole.  So it helps me to run with someone and stay in the flow.”

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Day 25… Fixed On Your Goal (July 10)

Yesterday Todor had a good day, a really good day.   On his 24th straight day of running he was able to complete 120 laps of the course the most he has been able to do since day one.  For someone to be able to find new strength and speed after so many exhausting and challenging days is  a stark reminder to us all that the 3100 mile race is truly a place of miracles seen and unseen.

When asked about his performance he says in some aspects it is getting easier.  “My mind has become accustomed to the situation, but also there are some more difficult days.  Yesterday my morning was a little bit difficult for me more than usual.”  Todor was having a difficult conversation with his mind which was challenging him with the idea of how difficult it was to do all the mileage that still lay ahead of him.

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Smarana suggested that this was not a good approach.  “We should live day by day, which is much better. Don’t think about one or two thousand miles just accept today.”  The conflict between his mind and body he suggests is something that is unavoidable.

“Today I feel much better.  After some up and down days today I feel very good with good spirits as well.  I have been joking with the guys so today is one of the good days.”

“I am trying not to push myself.  To be smooth and try and flow around the track. To be smooth and avoid tension in the mind.  To keep my way of thinking positive.  To be more inside myself.  When I do that it is easier to do the daily mileage, to stay in a good mood.  It is all connected with the race.”

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Day 24… Inner Hunger (July 9)

There may be only 8 heroic runners in this years 3100 mile race, but the number who work long, hard, and selflessly to make it all work with clock like precision far exceeds that number.  I don’t know how spending 15 summers cooking for super ultra distance runners would look on her resume but I suspect Nirjharini  doesn’t really care. Her job here is secure.

She is as devoted to the event as it is quite possible to be.  Her skills as a cook in a restaurant in Oslo are noteworthy but her time in Queens, fine tuning the daily nutrition needs of these elite runners is remarkable.  “Every 2 hours we are sending food out to the runners.  They need to eat constantly.  Each runner needs 10,000 calories a day.  Otherwise they will lose weight.  Usually they lose weight but we try to keep it as little as possible.  Because they need the energy to run.  If they get too skinny, their muscles get smaller, and then they can’t run as well any more.”

“So we try and feed them well so they keep their energy and they are able to keep going.”

Nirjharini has a team of 4 girls helping her.  Mandra and Mirka were unfortunately on different schedules.

I ask Nayaja, who is also a long distance runner what similarities she sees in her job cooking and running.  ” It is self-transcendence in both cases.  You are always trying to transcend your capacity.  I do it when I am running and also when I am cooking.”  She says her day starts at 4am and continues till about 1pm.  “I like to start very early so that I can send something to the race before the runners start.”

“I was here 2 years ago helping in the kitchen.  So this is my 2nd time.” She has been in the Spring 6 day race but thinks the difference between the 2 events is huge.  “I can imagine the experience they are going through even though mine is much shorter. It is so hard but at the same time you get a lot of joy and light.”

Leila says that she is cooking here for the first time.  “I have heard about it but I have never been here during the race.  It is a really new experience for me.  For me it is a great experience to be of service.  To try and help the runners as best I can.  Also to learn to be more flexible as every day here is so different.  So you have to adapt to the changes.”

“It is a great experience to learn how to cook better and how to adapt better.”

Nirjharini says, “For me during the race time somehow disappears.  I am not thinking about the beginning or the end.  I am so much in the present.  I am not even thinking about this race ending, just today and now.”

“I love this race so much I could do it all year.  But for the sake of the runners there should come an end.”

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Day 23… Inner Cries and Inner Tears (July 8)

There are many people dedicated to the health and well being of the runners.  I had the good fortune on Sunday of being able to speak with Mario and Mitch, who are perhaps the backbone of medical at the 3100 but of course there are others as well.

Mario: “This is a spiritual race.  The people here are bringing more light to the rest of humanity with this race.  Being in this race is an honor. The runners represent all of humanity.”  He feels that by helping the runners keep going then all the world benefits with more light.  Any one who assists here is helping the runners bring more light into the world.

Mitch: “The runners are on a much much more different plane than almost all human beings.”  The race of course has been called the Mount Everest of distance races.  It is so an extraordinary event that whenever someone comes by they can see the light in the runners.  “They can’t believe it.  It is so mind boggling that anyone could run 60 plus miles a day for 52 days.”

“What I do is reagline the spine so that messages can come from the runner’s brain down to their core.  I helped one runner who was suffering from sciatica.  He is doing better now that I removed a pinched nerve.”

Mitch also says that all the runners will inevitably be in pain.  Suffering for them however is an option.  “The pain is always there.  It is a very strange .58 mile course.”

For him working on the runners he feels is a gift.  “I get motivated.  I get excited.  It is awe inspiring and also to be able to work with gifted healers like Mario.”

Mario:  “We ask the runners, do not quit this race.  Do as much as you can.”  When the runners are struggling he says, “we try and give the torch back to them.  It get the light, and you get the light, everybody gets the light, all humanity gets the light.   It is a blessing for me to be here, and get light from the runners.”

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Day 22… Bettering Yourself (July 7)

I have spent the better part of a day trying to find an adequate and meaningful way to describe Vajra.  When in a discussion with others about him there is almost always a universal nod of the head.   A thoughtful acknowledgement and understanding, that he is recognized to be as selfless, soulful, and dedicated as it just may be possible to package within a single human body.

Just to account for his absolute devotion to cleaning up litter around the 3100 mile course would set him apart.  But then he goes on to do an endless assortment of other jobs to help others, in the little and sometimes huge ways that make a difference.

He has counseled and adjusted hundreds of worried runners over the years, who felt their races were slipping away and then miraculously got them going again.  He has a saying that goes something like,  the course may hurt you but it also will heal you and make you strong.

“I remember this one particular time that Sri Chinmoy had a race and he had called all his students who were there at the time.  This was over on Wards Island and I had happened to have just run over there and got there in the nick of time to be there for that meditation.”

Vajra, who was living in Manhattan at the time found that from then on he would come on a regular basis.  “I had found my space, to be in medical.”  He remembers an occasion when he was working in the medical tent and Sri Chinmoy had come in and observed him at work.  There was no conversation but he felt there was an inner understanding that this was a path he should take.  “From that day on my duties were pretty much nailed.  I knew what I had to do.”

When it comes to taking time off or cutting back on his duties, “No, I don’t think any of those days have ever happened.” Vajra says that when he is serving as he does, it is for him constant enjoyment.  “I feel that I am not only fulfilling myself while also fulfilling something divine at the same time.”

“This has not only implications for me but also throughout the wider universe.  If I can go that far?”

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Day 21… Today’s Reality (July 6)

Whenever I try and talk about Ashprihanal, I somehow cannot help but get tripped up by the sheer volume of numbers associated with his accomplishments.  Even a casual glimpse at the number of races he has entered, wins, records, mileage, and the totality of a competitive career that appears little dimmed even as he has entered the 3100 mile race for the 15th time at age 48.

What is also incomprehensible is his manner of running.  Or perhaps it could be better described as more like flying in a low earth orbit.  If you watch for just a moment it might impress you as being awkward.  Gaze for just a little longer and you can see the endless poetry of his movements in which no verse is ever repeated.

Yesterday he had a very good day with 129 laps of the course which is a little over 70 miles.  Now you runners do your own math.  How many of you have ever had even one day of 70 miles?

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“Yesterday was good.  I finally got rid of my stomach problems.” Ashprihanal says that to put together back to back good days then everything has to be in sync for him.  “Sometimes it is one good day, one bad day, then one good day.  You don’t really know.”

He says that a big mileage day is not always a good day, “It can be a very tough day.  Or it can be a fairly easy day.  It is not the laps or the amount of mileage, it is the feeling.  The energy you have.  That is what matters the most.”

“Your frame of mind is often the most difficult also.”  Something, he laughs as he mentions the idea, he feels he has little control over.

We come close to the Enthusiasm Awakeners who are still singing.  “They are great.  My first half hour you are just starting to wake up.”  He says that their cheerful singing can often give him something to look forward to all day. “They come and it gives us enthusiasm and wakes us up.  It starts my day.”

“In 2006 Sri Chinmoy used to come by and wrote them new songs every morning, and then he continued into 2007.  It was nice.”

Ashprihanal says that to inspire himself he sometimes imagines Sri Chinmoy visiting the race and handing him a prasad treat.  Something he did very often over the years and particularly in 2007.

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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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