Diganta is unique, in that he has run the race twice before but was not here last year. I asked him today what experiences he had running the other races, and, what brought him back after a years absence.
Christopher arrives on his bike and executes a neat bag drop maneuver. Once his bike is parked, he goes to his table to prepare.
Pranjal is doing some last minute work on his feet, as most runners do.
Pavol is selecting some vitamin supplements. Most runners take these, because of the unimaginable stress their bodies go through day in day out.
Things move at a very relaxed pace at this time. Between fixing feet, having a snack, preparing shoes, there is not much else to do.
Suprabha keeps her area immaculate. She appears so delicate, but keep in mind this is the 12th summer that she has run the 3100.
Stutisheel's family is coming today.
Smarana pulls up his socks. It is just 2 minutes to the start. Rupanatar is calling out the precious minutes as they dwindle away.
Pranab applies some sun screen. The day will be bright and warm but not hot and humid.
Abichal is putting good old Vaseline on his feet.
Grahak is popping a handful of supplements.
Christopher is applying a little flag to his plastic bin. I have to look very close, to see what it is. He shows me, that the flag is made up of small hearts. I did not ask who has sent this to him. He is extremely pleased to have it there.
The counter for the morning has arrived and she is checking out who will be her runners.
Zelko is preparing the snack table. The runners eat a lot, and people who drop by have been known to nibble.
Rupantar calls the runners to the start.
Michael is checking the counting book to see if all the counting shifts are full for the day.
It is so simple and so quick. One moment there is silence and then the word, "go," is called out.
One short step forward, on a long day, at a very very long race.
Today they are running uphill. Into the dawn sun on the longest day of the year. The sun will rest late in the evening but none of these champions will leave the course until the night is long gone dark
Vajra is very interested in a new drink that has been donated to the race. He is checking out the ingredients. I believe he is adding his own special touch to the drink as he pours small cups.... adding a little love as well to make it sweet.
The job of counting is not always easy. Over the hours it is easy to make a mistake. One that could cost a runner a very precious lap.
Most often they come by in easy to count numbers.....like one.
But sometimes in can get a bit hectic when they come by together.
Diganta is just 28 years old but has already completed this race twice before, in 2005 and 2006. Last year he did not come and yet he has returned. He tells me that prior to his first 3100 mile race, the longest event he had entered was the 700 mile race in 2004 when he was just 25. He tells me, that he had problems in that race, and was only able to run 611 miles.
He said that his problem in that race was with his arch, which came down, giving him a lot of pain. When 2005 came, he gave in his application for the race with a photograph and he says frankly, "I did not expect to be chosen." He tells me, that much more experienced runners than himself had applied, and so he did not think it likely that he would be chosen to run.
He says, he spent much of the winter of 2004-5, not training. "I was behind my computer." Yet despite this, in April, he received a call inviting him to come. He says, "I was shocked, I was quite afraid, there was just 2 1/2 months to prepare. You could not prepare for a serious marathon in this amount of time."
He says fellow Austrian runner Smarana encouraged and helped him. "I would ask questions." Smarana had already run the event 4 times by then. As for his first experience with the race, he says, " it was very tough, especially the beginning 2 weeks."
He tells me, and laughs as he says, "I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience." Yet that year when he finished in 50 days and 13 hours, Sri Chinmoy told all the runners there, that if they could come back next year, they should.
Gladly he returned he says, hoping to transcend his achievement from 2005. Despite his best intentions however he had problems early on. He says he even lost 12 hours when he had to leave the course. It was allowed that year however and called a grace day. His knee however, was a real problem and Pradhan, part of the race medical team, was concerned for him.
He tells me that losing even a small amount of time on the course is extremely crucial. Time is such a valuable commodity that even the loss of a few seconds here and there, adds up, over the weeks and miles. Still he felt that the previous year's race had given him a base of strength. He felt genuinely inspired, that despite the adverse odds, that he could still transcend himself. In the beginning, he just started walking faster, and before long, he found himself running once again. In what was a feat of incomparable determination, he ran 70 miles on his last day and transcended his previous effort by 2 hours.
When he finished, he tells me that Sri Chinmoy was there and sat beside him. And, much to his surprise gave him the Spiritual name Diganta, at that very moment. It means, "The God Dreamer of the Horizon of the Beyond."
Fellow Austrian Smarana joins us as we run the course. I ask him what qualities does Diganta have that make him a good 3100 mile runner. He takes my question seriously and tells me, "he has the right spiritual attitude." Which for many, is the clue to solving all of life's problems.
When he returned to Vienna however the knee problem continued. Despite trying many kinds of therapies he just could not solve the problem of pain. What was particularly frustrating for him was that no Doctor was able to give him a proper explanation of what exactly his problem was. They kept telling him it would get better with rest, but it just did not help.
With Sri Chinmoy's passing last fall, he reexamined his commitment to the race and what direction he wanted his life to go. The first thing he felt about his knee, was that if the Doctor's could find nothing wrong, then, "it has to work." After Christmas, he gradually increased his mileage in preparation for this race.
He tells me that he, like all the runners, miss the presence of their Guru on the course. He said, that since he had so so many experiences, in his 2 previous races, he has a lifetime of inspiration to tap into. As for whether or not he will transcend himself in this race, he says, "I don't think of days to come, just finish today."
One of Sri Chinmoy's race prayers, is given to the runners each morning. Today's is from June 21 last year.
The flames of my
climbing and climbing
to reach the
by Sri Chinmoy June 21st 2007