Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Goal is Won

Barbara Sorrell is just about to finish her first multi day race. For someone who has never run more than 24 hours she will complete a very impressive 319 miles. As I greet her, on one of her final laps she has been joined by old friend Agnes. It is a sweetly emotional moment. There are tears in Barbara's eyes, caused by the arrival of her dear friend, by seeing her long journey draw to a close, because today is her birthday, or for any number of just plain good reasons. Barbara tells me, "I must have done something right this is the only day its hurt."

Agnes is a very experienced distance runner who is proud to mention that she was listed this year as an age group, 'performance of the year." Agnes has never run this far. She is all admiration of Barbara, and what she has accomplished here. "She shows me it can be done." And then before they run out of sight, she adds, "I'm gonna do it some day."
The energy and excitement on the course in these final minutes makes up for any of the dark nights, and wet days, when it was hard to tie on your shoes, little alone run another mile. There are still aches and pains but now this world of sleepless day and night is about to slip into the world of thought and dream. To whisper, and invite all, to come back. Perhaps the siren call is so sweet and strong, that others might come as well.

The amazing Madhupran will finish the race with 829 miles. For the man who did not come to compete, he was safely in first place, by a margin of 128 miles. For a man who did not come to compete, he ran the third best 10 day race of all time. I will not speak much to Madhupran on this final day. He was running from within. In all the noise and excitement, he moves forward, calm and certain. He tells me, "I run the last lap with Guru."

And lest we forget just how remarkable the international family was at Flushing Meadow, this is the Slovaks finishing the race together, with a little help from Japan and Russia. Our Japanese friend Katsuhiro is wearing both a Japanese scarf on his head and the crown from the statue of liberty. When I ask why he is wearing these things, he says simply, "because I am happy."

Mark Dorion is running fast, very fast for his last mile. His wife has just handed him a glass of water as he pounds out a sub 8 minute mile. This of course being preceded, by 318 miles, done not quite so fast. His kids have enjoyed watching their Dad over the last couple of days.

Mark will tell me later, that 4 years ago, when he first ran here he completed 318 miles . The spirit of Self Transcendence was just so strong however that he did not want to run a personal worst this year. So he pushed himself in order for this not too happen. He ran, not only 319, to beat this number, he also kept running along the course until all the time was used up. He wanted to go for the complete 10 days.

He tells me that a few days ago he was running with Dipali and she told him that she was thinking of Guru. He tells me, "I knew what she meant."

The Landrys come up to me and it was quite evident, that the sunny smiling folks I had met last year, have re emerged from their very focused effort. They tell me, "mission accomplished." Donald's total will put him in 8th place in the men's race with 564 miles. Marion will be 9th in the women's race with 521 miles. What's more she has just set 3 Canadian records, in 72 hours, 6 days, and 10 day categories. They tell me that their happiness last year came from surpassing all the goals that they had set for themselves in the 6 day. They felt afterwards that they could do more. So this year they came to achieve much bigger goals. They say, "surpassing it was fun." They say, as they have mentioned before, that because all the people who helped at the race worked so hard, they wanted to give their best effort as well.

I meet Rasta who is proudly wearing his Slovak hockey shirt for his last few miles. He has given an incredible performance. At the finish line he will complete 590 miles for 6th place. On his 7th day he ran an phenomenal 76 miles and today he will complete 58. He is walking and clearly not enjoying it much. "Once you stop running, everything goes closer, " For much of the race he ran and ran smoothly and strong. This walking is a new phase for him. I ask him what his mileage was in last years race and he tells me that he ran 481 miles then. I am puzzled for a moment. I ask him, that if he is going to complete 590 miles this year, will that not mean that he has transcended his best effort by a large margin. He smiles as this sinks in, "It definitely is, I guess."

The Czech girls head out for one last lap together. Ivana in the middle will come second in the women's race with 634 miles and Lenka on the left will be third with 614 miles. A difference in distance of just 20 miles. A picture like this demonstrates just how much the spirit of oneness and camaraderie can be felt and appreciated on the course. They tell me that the race was beyond their imagination.

Vladamir from the Ukraine will come in 3rd in this race with 660 miles. He has worked hard and gone through a lot and now he is smiling. He tells me that his best day was the 7th in which he ran 77 miles. He says, "I felt like I could run forever." He also was happy in that he could meditate as he ran. He does not want to talk to much about himself. He points to Pratishruti on his left from Russia. He tells me that next year will be her 10 Self Transcendence race at the age of 65.

A very happy group of Russian boy runners posses at the finish line.

The score board shows the numbers, but it can not tell all the brave stories of self transcendence, that went into making those number possible.


Sam Soccoli has run 259 miles in his first big race. His wife Emma has been his number one fan and support crew for the past 6 days. I ask about his race, and he says, like lots have already said, "the weather, the weather, the weather." He is however very happy with his effort, and that he came, no matter what the conditions may have been. He has very likely set the American record for his age group.

John Geesler has won the 6 day with a total of 433 miles. He tells me that for quite a while during the race he was having problems with his shoes. As soon as that was sorted out he tells me from then on, "I got stronger as the race went on."

Fred Riemer has finished with 246 miles. He tells me that he feels light in a good kind of way. He feels so good he says," I don't feel tired, I feel like I could go on." In the movement and flow of people I loose track of him and then he comes up to me one more time to share a precious thought. "We have done it, we have done it together."

The Slovak Council General has shown up to support the many Slovak runners here. I ask him what he thinks of it all. To be frank he says, "Its crazy." Then he laughs at this, he is clearly caught up in the enthusiasm and energy of the race, and adds with a smile, "It is incredible." I ask him about the Czech runners and what his thoughts are about them. He tells me, "we are still all one family." His name is Igor Pokojny and as I ask him to spell it he mentions that the name means 'calm." He has a list of finishers and very happily shows me the name of girls champion, Kaneenika, with 667 miles. He winks, "I am proud that she won."

Kaneenika is sitting with 6 day champion Dipali, who not only placed first in the women's race but was first overall with 467 miles.

The food as always was tremendous. The final meal of lasagna has to feed a lot of hungry folks, and not just runners.

Amiya tells me, "I fulfilled all my goals."

Ulrich Frank is the Deputy Council General from Austria. There were 8 Austrians in the race and he says, "they were all good."



Fred Davis said he did what he wanted to in this race which as it turned out was 504 miles. He tells me that the only time he feels he really runs is at the races.

Gary Cross who directs his own 6 day race in Arizona completed 240 miles. He describes the conditions as harder than he thought they would be. He says that he walked most of the race and that it is great to be at the end.



Dipali with Achim Heukemes and Dagmar Grossheim.

The stuff starts to appear. The belongings, and bits and pieces of peoples lives still scattered here and there need to be gathered up.

Bipin and his crew are taking down the camp, almost before the final runner has crossed the finish line. This is a happy sad time for him. He tells me, that it was at the start, and now at the finish of the race, that he misses the presence of Sri Chinmoy.

Roman, who ran 208 miles is packing up his car and heading over to the Bronx for a Yankee game.
Race director Rupantar who never seems to sleep, buys a wide variety of junk food, always seems incredibly upbeat and gets the job done.


New Zealand and Japan, side by side.



Ujjwala Mettrick is just 22, and has come to the race from New Zealand. She is the youngest competitor in the race and like some of the other runners has never run further than a marathon. Over 6 days she ran 254 miles which is something like 10 marathons. I ask her what inspired her to take on something like this. She tells me that she had helped Dipali for a few years, "She is so good she made it look easy." She adds, "It was the hardest thing I have done in my life.......it was awesome."



Getting a lot of love and help along the way.


Sahishnu has put a lot of hours of effort into the race. He says, "I am happy, and I am proud of all the heroes who were inspired to continue on and do the race. People gave more and more."

Sushovita the food Queen Supreme who is always happy to feed people and reluctant to speak said before I took this picture, "can I cry now."

Sandhani another a race director and one of the tireless people who seem to live and breathe to serve the Self Transcendence races.

The ceremony goes on with music, pageantry, trophies and honors galore.

Outside the fence, and looking in fondly, and with much appreciation, is Leonid Jenkin. Tibor a Hungarian helper and runner himself has introduced us. Leonid says he has been enjoying and been inspired by this race since it came here. It has so inspired him, that he is now trying to run every day and hopes to enter the New York city marathon. He says watching these runners transcend themselves here has, "stimulate my mind, like pushing me. In my mind it's greatest people here."

Some inspiring words from Rupantar




And lest we forget, what happens to all the trophies and awards once they have been taken home. Toby and Amalia, kids of Mark Dorion and his wife Helen find that his trophy makes quite a nice toy.
Stepping back, a step or two from the race, it is easy to see that a miracle took place here, over the 10 and 6 days.
Of course it is about the miles, but it is also about what it took to achieve those laps and reach a destination called Transcendence. What mountains, that each had to climb over those many days to make it happen.

The efforts and service of the many volunteers impossible to calculate. The accumulation of memories and experiences, one can hope and pray will be sweet. That a new seed has been planted in all. In all who ran, in all who helped, and in all who saw promise here. A seed that will grow and bear fruit someday soon, with a journey of even greater, more divinely fulfilling transcendence.


Not beyond man's possibility

Is God-realisation.

Not beyond earth's possibility

Is earth-transformation.

Not beyond my possibility

Is my Himalayan self-transcendence.

By Sri Chinmoy

1 comment:

Martin Leitner said...

Hey Utpal :) Thanx for this most inspiring report of the race. Here in Graz (Austria) everyday we would print out the results. Just to check how our friends are doing. It's so thrilling to see, how these guys are fighting day by day. This morning I was woundering how the finish was, and the first thing I recieved after turning on my Mac was your email with the link to your blog... and now I'll go for a run myself :) Cheers Martin