It is a strange, yet wonderful experience, to come back to the race this morning. After being here for the start of the race, for 27 straight days, I had missed the last 7 days while visiting Canada. It feels like I have come home, and yet while everything looks so much the same, so much has changed as well.
I stand in front of the board and feel like I am suffering from a mild case of amnesia. In my absence the board has changed dramatically. Where the first digits, beside the runners names were ones, now they are mostly twos. More than half have surpassed 2,000 miles.
Also, a familiar summer visitor has returned to the 3100 mile course in my absence, and seems reluctant to leave. It is of course the stifling heat and humidity of a typical New York summer. There is a slight whisper of a breeze this morning but it provides little relief. The air feels thick as taffy, and what's more, today the temperature is supposed to hit 95, the hottest day yet for the runners.
I am greeted with lots of welcome backs. Perhaps the runners missed my camera flash going off in their faces, in the bright dawn hours. Or maybe they missed hearing the same old question repeated again and again, "How are you doing?"
This morning when asked if anything in particular happened over the last 7 days the question was answered with a universal remark that sounded a lot like, "I can't remember what happened yesterday little alone over 7 days.
There is of course some sad news, in that Sopan is no longer running the 3100. He had to leave for medical treatment, and will not be returning. Hopefully I can speak to him and find out more details.
As for the momentous things, that took place in the last 7 days, the runners collectively ran 6,497 miles, and my 90 year old mother, who is now living in a retirement home with my Dad, managed to get up every day and walk, with the aid of a walker, down her long hallway to the elevator 3 times a day.
The runners, on average, ran 812 miles a day, and I found hope in my golf game, cursed my useless backhand in tennis, and helped my father figure out the remote control of his tv.
I am really happy
when I take this
world as mine
Guru Sri Chinmoy
Suprabha ran 442 miles in the last 7 days and is in 10th place overall. She averaged 55 miles a day.
Stutisheel ran 527 miles over the last 7 days and is in 7th place.
Abichal tells me, "I have to accept whatever comes." He has averaged 58 miles a day in my absence but in the heat over the past 2 days his numbers are lower. We have run nearly a full lap in silence and I have waited for the right moment to open the conversation door. When coming around a corner we can see the moon, still sitting pale and heavy in the sky to the west. He says it was full last night, and that the effects of this will be felt for 2 days.
He struggles to describe some of the mysteries and intangibles of the race for me. "You have to have some kind of energy," he says. And though his remark is not specific in content, it still somehow describes for me fully, the miracle that goes into every lap of every day, for all the runners. The energy of spirit, of the mind, of the heart, and of the legs themselves. That when all this energy, is set collectively in motion, from all aspects of the being, than nothing stops them. Yet when one part is out of sync, than they move forward, like cars with a flat tire, babummmp, babummmp, babummmp.
He is happy in that he has just opened a care package, sent to him from Run and Become. The store has helped him out, many times over his years here at the 3100. They have donated some very useful things, like socks, a protein drink, and a new running shirt.
Pranjal ran 493 miles over the last 7 days averaging 61 miles. He says he does not remember much over the last week. As for yesterday, he says, "It was hot, this I remember, yup."
Smarana tells me, "I have had a couple of intense days." And though he has averaged 60 miles a day, he describes some days, when he struggled to make 80 laps. His ordeal is brought on by some severe blisters, he tells me. He is as experienced as any runner on the course, but this problem, no matter how much you have prepared, is particularly hard to beat. Most, if not all, have had to confront them, and when you have run more than 2,000 miles it is almost impossible not to have them. He says it is brought on in his case because, "I am walking a lot, and the blisters keep coming."
As for the heat, he says, "If you have good energy, the heat does not bother you." Overall, he is optimistic as he tackles the task of having less than one thousand miles more to run. He says, "I see sun at the end of the tunnel."
It is just past 6:30 as I start to run with Pranab. He has averaged 69 miles a day over the last week, and for the last 2 days has run the most miles of all the runners. He seems a bit out of sorts, as we head down the steamy sidewalk. "I am tired already," he says, "this is going to be a day." He mentions how much the heat and humidity bothered him yesterday. He says it went up to 34 celsius yesterday, and I contribute the less than cheery news, that it will be even hotter today. He describes how the heat also interrupts his sleeping. More of a problem is a nagging blister, that refuses to go away. He says, "It is horrible, not healing at all." But he adds, "I will find a way around it." The problem of his skin allergy however, seems to be almost completely healed now.
Last night his mother, Purabi, who is also a student of Sri Chinmoy, came to help him at the race. She has flown here from Slovakia, as she has done, the past 3 summers. She is quiet and supportive of her amazing son.
She tells me, that she and one of her daughters, both became disciples in 1993, when Sri Chinmoy gave a concert in her country. I ask her, if she ever envisioned this kind of outer dynamism and activity when she joined the path. She offers, that she probably thought her future with the group would be more inner and contemplative, but clearly she has embraced the dynamic aspects of her spiritual life, and has run marathons and ultra marathons herself.
She says that her son joined the group in 1995. When he started running long races she wasn't sure what role she should play. However when it came to the 3100, she says, "I realize this needs more than standing on the side." It was in 2005 that she decided to come and help out at the end of Pranab's race. It also coincided with her birthday in August. She says, that the experience of being here at the race, was for her, "the best time of my life. It goes beyond everything." She says that on her birthday that year, she happened to be doing a lap with Pranab, when Sri Chinmoy himself drove up and stopped the car. Of her son, he said, "I admire him like anything."
She smiles as she says this, and for a moment, the day feels as cool and as fresh as Springtime.