Before the 3100 mile race started, I spoke with the other Slovaks, but Ananda Lahari had yet to arrive. Today, the 11th day of the race, I ran the first hour, of a beautiful wednesday morning with him.
Dhanu gets the big picture on his camera phone
Stutisheel arrives, in even a better mood than normal. For the last 3 days he has been averaging 65 miles, a real jump in his mileage.
Grahak had the best day of everyone, by running 70 miles
Ananda Lahari sits next to his fellow Slovaks. He always appears quiet and thoughtful.
Valentine, from the Ukraine has counted at the race, quite a few times. She is all business when she arrives and moves her table to a better position. She is one of 2 counters and makes sure she has the right clip boards for her 7 runners.
A new addition today, are two atomic clocks, that are supposed to always keep correct time. She seems to be really enjoying being here in the morning. She says, "when you see they are progressing you are happy with them."
There was a very brief outcry, when some of the runners were unable to find their morning yogurts on the snack table. Race director Rupantar, came through with them, at the 11th hour. Nobody, it seems is interested in anything low fat. Smarana told me yesterday that he had lost 9 kilos in weight since the beginning of the race.
Abichal surprises everyone, including himself, by being the first one on the starting line. He is joking about pain this morning, and says, "How painful? You can only imagine it."
The runners start off, but Ananda Lahari is still getting organized. He has, what appears to be his dirty laundry bag in his hands.
He takes a gulp of water and then drops the bag. Before he leaves the start area, he has his own silent meditation.
I join in beside him, as he walks away from the start, at a smooth, but comfortable pace. I tell him, that when we talked on the first day of the race, he had told me then that he would like to run the race every year. He nods approvingly without hesitation. "I would like to run it every year." He tells me that this, is his 4th 3100, and that for him, it is a big challenge to get the free time to come here, and, "organize my life." But there is no place else, he would rather be.
I ask what compels him to be part of this most challenging of events, and he says, " I have an inner feeling that it is the right thing, that I am doing." We are walking at a comfortable pace, not the light jogging, and sometimes swifter running, that I have been exposed to on other mornings, when I have tried to chat with the other runners. I tell him that he should not walk on my account. That he should just go, as he normally would, and then I learn, that for the last 3 days, he has had painful shin splints.
Apparently this is happening to him, for the very first time, in all the times he has competed in the 3100 mile race. I ask him how he feels about this, and his calm expression tells the story first, "It does not disturb me at all. I am trying to do the best, it has to heal itself." He tells me that later on, after a few laps he will apply cabbage leaves and try to relieve the pain.
I ask him, how he first embarked on this great multi day adventure, and he tells me, that his first big race was the 700 in 1999. At the time he was only able to complete 580 miles in the 12 days. It was not a performance that would automatically indicate that he would become a consistent and durable 3100mile runner. But he tells me that he felt drawn to the race from the moment he learned that it existed.
After his 1999 race, he ran the odd 24 hour race. The longest distance he ever raced was 72 hours. In 2004 he was working in New York and had a chance to help here. He said, his feeling about actually committing himself to the race, had yet to form. He says, "there was not certainty from my side."
In February of the following year he says that he got his first strong feeling that he try, and be accepted, for the 2005 3100 mile race. He says, that when he was accepted, "I was really happy." And even though he struggled, he says, "this feeling of happiness carried me through the whole race." He adds, "I knew I was in the right place, right time, right thing."
He says that his training for the race was short but intense. He tells me that in 2005 Sri Chinmoy waved the cut off, to allow all the runners to finish. His time was 58 days plus.
For the following year, 2006, he increased his training numbers, but adds frankly, "they were not big numbers." He says that the 2005 race was what made him stronger for the 2006 race. In that year he was able to transcend his previous effort by almost 9 days. He ran 49 days. 14 hours.
He says, that in that year, he started off very poorly. After the first 10 days of not doing well he got inspired to start running much faster laps. He says, that his fastest, was around 4 minutes. He feels the speed not only seemed to heal, whatever it was that was holding him back, but also allowed him to transcend by a large margin his previous years total. He says, this technique helped him feel involved with nature and with the universe as a whole.
He has learned many valuable lessons here. He mentions that in 2005 when he had knee pain that, Eklanta, who was working in medical that year, awakened in him the true nature of pain. He says that we sometimes feel pain in one place, but in reality it is caused, and comes from, someplace altogether different. For him this proved, "that pain was not real." You will only be limited by it if you have a lack of concentration.
He says, that Sri Chinmoy for him, was and sill, is the true outer teacher and inner inspirer of this race. He says, that when Sri Chinmoy used to give prasad to the the runners he would ask them to smile, when they took it from him. He says that from this, he has learned, "whenever I have difficulties, I smile." In doing this, he feels it is also easier to go deeper within himself.
He tells me, " the race helps me listen to my inner voice and I believe it." He says that the race, is for him, a life of meditation in practice. He feels he has more faith in his capacity, and it makes him much more strong inwardly.
He tells me about his gratitude to Sri Chinmoy, for giving him the gift, of being not just part of the 3100 mile race, but being given the capacity to continue, to run this race. He is not sure how it affects the greater world around us, but feels, that something happens here, over the many miles that all the runners complete, that reaches far beyond this hard gritty sidewalk, and touches and inspires the world at large.