Christopher, does not show up this morning at all, and I don't know why. He left early yesterday, only running 14 miles. For what ever reason, most did not have good days yesterday. On a day as dark as this it would be hard to expect any better today.
Opening the refrigerator every morning, will always involve an unpleasant surprise. As if the skies are not offering up enough, the fridge will often empty out numerous cool damp offerings, to the gutter below.
Smarana has come early, in the relative comfort of the van he applies a leaf to his foot. He ran 60 miles yesterday, and is now just 5 miles ahead of Petr who ran 64.
The runners are slow to come to the line. It is raining hard. Abichal ran less than 50 miles yesterday, his worst in 17 days. Yet he is first to step up to the line.
Ananada Lahari is so late in arriving this morning, he has to start alone, after the other runners have already set off up the street. He is in no rush to give chase. He pauses, prays, and moves with quiet deliberation. He tells me that it is the first time that he is late. He says he woke an hour early this morning, and took a shower. Taking a dangerous chance, he reset his alarm, and tried to take a few additional minutes of rest.
Of the weather, and his being late he seems not bothered at all. Of the rain he says, "When I am strong it is really nice. I am not strong now, but I still like the rain." He muses for a while about the difference between finishing with a quick time or a slow one. He says, "slow runners have a tougher race, some have 10 days extra to run." Then as he reflects on this he seems to reach for a higher and deeper understanding of the overall experience. "Everything is God's grace, fast or slow." With this he smiles with satisfaction.
I ask him, about any particular tough days he may have had over the past 38 days. He looks back, and not obviously not too far and says, "oh oh." I can see that his mind is recalling a difficult day. "I could hardly move," he says of one day in particular, but brightens immediately, "I want to stay happy." Of even the toughest patches he feels pressing forward will always bring a victory within and without. "Once you move, it gets better."
Pavol ran 51 miles yesterday. This is his best mileage in a week. He just might complete 2000 miles by Friday night.
Stutisheel is as upbeat and cheerful as I have ever seen him. He told me at the beginning of the race, he wanted to be cheerful and he seems to be living up to this lofty goal. He says he is not bothered by the rain, and it is only the heat which causes real trouble for him. Last year he ran his personal best, which was 50 days and 12 hours. He projects, that at his current pace, he will finish in 49 days and change.
He says, "I have no injuries, I am quite fresh." His bright enthusiasm, on a day which even nature itself seems swollen with gloom, is startling. "I woke up this morning and said 39 days, wow." He describes his cheerfulness as coming from deep within. "From an inner point of view I am more joyful. No stress."
It is easy to see, that this positive attitude, is translating into something real and tangible, like good and consistent numbers on the board. But you can't help but be impressed, that in addition, he seems to be gathering and accepting a great inner experience as well. He says, "even on hard days, I feel a love of the race and admiration of the runners. This is a wonderful place, it is a wonderful time, and these are wonderful people."
He tells me little stories about his fellow runners. Of Smarana, he describes, how he had a problem with the width of the shoes he was buying. That 4e was not wide enough for his foot. With a little creative cutting, he transformed the shoe into a 6e.
He says that many of the runners had, not so great days, yesterday. But he is in admiration of Pranab, who seemed to be in a happy groove. He ran more than anybody with 70 plus miles. He feels that being in tune with the race for him means there are few if any obstacles.
As well, he feels, that there is a special protection and grace here on the course. A bad car accident took place on the corner of 168th st., but here on this little concrete loop, all remained calm and safe. He feels confident that the inner presence of his teacher Sri Chinmoy is even more powerful here now this year, than ever before. He demonstrates by closing his eyes and he takes a soft breath. "Inside it is more intense, there is more response from the heart, and from prayer."
He tells me that in Russia, they were considering holding their own long race, and he laughs at this notion. "It can happen no other place but here," he says, "Here it is a temple." He feels that all the many people who have run around the course over many years have made it sacred. That their prayers and consciousness still permeates every inch of the loop. So that no matter where you step, that spot has been made sacred.
He talks about the Buddha at Kamakura in Japan as one of the most peaceful places on earth. Of the course he says, "it is one of the most energetic places on earth and yet it is still a temple." He says the energy here is dynamic, and yet still soulful. He says it is available to one and all, you just have to understand how to tap into it. He tells me that Petr made an important observation to him about the race here. He said, "it is not about pushing, it's about surrendering."
It is not a surprise, to come across something amphibious, on such a damp day. It is nice however, to see that a little frog, who came by the race this morning, is not only green with enthusiasm, but sings very well too.
Arpan has made a special visit to the race this morning, on this his 56th birthday. Today, he doing what he has done every year, for the past 30 years. Running the same number of years as his age. As I catch up with him, and he is running quite fast, he has already run 30 laps out of a total of 103. He has been at it since a little past 4:30 this morning, and does not seem to be bothered by the weather at all. He tells me he awoke at midnight, heard the rain and thunder, and looked forward to the run ahead of him.
It is hard not to be impressed with his fitness, which seems to have hardly diminished at all, over the decades. He has been consistent and disciplined, it seems since he took up running seriously in his 20's. As to why he has devoted so much to the sport, he says, "Guru inspired us to run."
He feels that all of Sri Chinmoy's achievements that took place in the inner world could be expressed and experienced on the outer plane by running. That progress and transcendence are qualities one has within themselves, but that outwardly, running is a manifestation of that.
He tells me that his practice of running his age every year started slowly, and he did not recognize that it would be come a yearly ritual until he was 30. He said, that in the previous 4 years he was training for marathons any way, so running that far came naturally. But when he was 30, he was seriously interested in triathlons. That year, he was not feeling particularly well, so thought he would just bike 30 miles at midnight.
When he finished after 2 hours, he was not satisfied by his effort and thought he should at least run a couple of laps any way. Those few running laps accumulated until he eventually had completed running 30 miles as well. He said, it was a unique experience, he had with nature that night, that made the difference.
He saw that the moon, was also doing laps around the earth. The earth too in fact, was doing laps around the solar system, and so on. He says, "If the moon had a mind it would freak out." That if one thought about such repetitive activity for eternity, it would be impossible to proceed. That night he said to himself, "let me feel oneness with the universal energy." From this he recognized the importance of surrendering to his heart and not his mind.
He says for him, in which running is second nature, that doing this feat on his birthday allows him to really experience his soul's day to the utmost. Stutisheel reminded me, just a little earlier, that just 4 years ago, Arpan had run this 3100 mile race himself. On his birthday in 2004, Sri Chinmoy blessed Arpan in the morning, when he came to the race, and expressed his gratitude to Arpan, that he was running. When I tell Arpan this, he smiles with delight. He says that being here at this place, at this race, and on this special day, and feeling his Guru still present in his heart, makes him grateful, that he is on earth.
The mind has only one road:
The heart has many roads:
Excerpt from Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 13 by Sri Chinmoy.