10-Day Race: Staring into the Infinite

Cross-posted from

Not as in a flash of light, but like the dawning sun, I gradually came to realise I should embark on a journey into the unknown. A journey to discover myself and much of Grace.

Inspired by fellow students of Sri Chinmoy, this writer of yours has then been compelled from within to take part on the Self-Transcendence 10-Day Race.

That means actual 10 days of running, really. (of course you can rest, but otherwise you are running around the clock.)

The race goes on since the 1980's, but somehow it passed by me unnoticed in its essence for years. It is like as if I was not yet ready inwardly to grasp what does such a race and its experiences stand for. But there comes a time for everything, it is said.

The first preparation and also the first glimpse that made me believe I *might* be able to finish a 10 day race was a 47-mile race. In short, it made me aware that something inside me, maybe my soul, had more capacity than I had imagined. Actually, before that I used to count only on my body, vital and mind's capacities. This was a rebirth of sorts.

Months passed - I dreamt and woke up all about the race - and there I was, at the starting line on April 17th, noon. Staring into the infinite.

 

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photos by Uptal Marshall and Prabhakar Street

Day 1

The first day was smooth sailing. Nice sunny weather, many fresh runners speeding through the 1-mile loop. No problems, no serious pains. After a few hours I could already feel very happy as usual from a long run. Everything seems beautiful and good humour abounds.

The first night was also fine and I decided to sleep properly in my first race. Considering my past, I had no idea what would happen after many days if I was short on sleep.

The day ended at noon and I completed 57 miles easily, with little - if any - walking.

I had brought some poems for the race. I am assigning here one for each day. Poem for the day was:

"My forward march
Shall be tireless
And endless."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

 

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Day 2

Day 2 started at noon. I was feeling a little sore, but still okay to run. It was then that I had my first very nice experience.

Everytime you go through the lap, the counters shout your name and how many miles you have. So I got 60, 61, 62. After 62, the counters changed (new shift) and on the next lap they shouted "Patanga, 61!". I thought they were out of date, so I just waited for the next lap. "Patanga, 62". So I went to the race director, who was doing counting too, and mentioned it to him, the two missing laps. He said "the computer says 62". I was fine with that anyway, and told him not to bother. I was not there for the miles, but for the running.

However, I noticed in my mind there started some kind of revolt. Part of me would say it's okay, I don¥t need the laps, I just want to run. Another part would say they are wrong, they forgot, this and that. It is very easy for you to guess that one voice would give me peace of mind, and the other would make me sad and irritated. I just tried to convince the nasty mind that it was really ok, that it should not look into negative things. But it was a tug-of-war. Now and then it would bring the subject up, and I would try to clear it up: "I'm not here for the miles, I am here to be happy and live in the heart". But it would come up again and again.

After so much trying, maybe an hour later, I had the experience. It was not like I was still trying to convince my mind. It was more as if something higher and more powerful took over, and suddenly all my being resonated: "I am just so happy to be here. Thank you, Guru, thank you for accepting me as your disciple, thank you for letting me join this race, thank you for teaching me how to be more patient, humble and grateful. Thank you". And that was the end of that part of my mind. Surrendered to a higher light. Gone. One veil of ignorance was lifted from the mind.

Poem for the day was:

"God counts
Each and every
Gratitude-heartbeat
Of mine."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

During the day I also talked a bit with Padyatra Komac, from Slovakia. He told me how he got inspired to do this race (and he did it many, many times), and I would like to share it here.

There was a russian lady who came to do the 6 day race. Padyatra was helping at the race, counting. From the looks, she was not athletic at all, and to him she seemed to be suffering so much. She finished the race. Next year he was again counting laps for runners and was surprised to see her not only back, but back for the 10 day race - 4 days more! Padryatra realised that there something more that made her come back and do even more, that there was some hidden reality which he could not grasp just by watching the race. So on the next year, he came as a runner. Beautiful story.

The next experience on day 2 was going to bed at night, at about 11 pm. I was physically shattered, walking stifflegged, with pain all over. I could not move well inside my tent. I remember so vividly thinking "10 days is too much. I won¥t be able to finish it. I am not meant for this."

If you look at my thoughts, you can clearly see that they belong to a negative mind sphere. They are only trying to destroy, to take away joy. It was another layer of the mind which was coming to the fore - needless to say, to be transformed.

I just went to sleep and then on the next day I would see how I felt.

I got up and did some walking and running. I had quite a number of pains here and there. In particular I could feel the start of the shin splints on both legs, and a quite severe pain on the right knee. I could hardly walk at some points.

Day 2 ended at noon. I went for a little rest to see if things would get a little better.

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Day 3

Experienced runners told me that in 2-3 days the body gets adapted and we start to feel better. I was looking forward to this promised adaptation to finally take place!

In particular, I asked Usika - very expericenced austrian runner, who even won the 10 day race years ago - about my right knee. It became red and swollen on the side. He said that that kind of pain is not dangerous (it just hurts, but usually won¥t become an actual injury), and that it usually goes away on itself, after 2 or 3 days - like as if the muscle gets tired of pulling after so many days and then releases. I was in dismay. Should I have to withstand this pain that would hardly let me walk for 1 or 2 full days more? He suggested streching, which helped a little, but not much.

I had heard the voice before, but did not pay much attention. I had with me a homeopathic kit and thought of looking for something suitable. I found it. I took the remedy (Bryonia Alba in that case) and rested for some 5 minutes. As I started to walk back on course, I could feel it a little better. I even ran half of the lap. Next lap, I was not walking anymore! By the third lap, I was running free again! Of course there was still pain, but it was not so incapacitating.

And by the way, most pains never went away completely, in my case. They only reduce to different and variable levels. And, like them, they teach us never to stop, never to give up, no matter what!

Usika Muckenhummer and I became good friends during the race. He had so much experience to share with me, and we often shared a joke in moments of physical or emotional distress. I found it so interesting that my name Patanga means "A rishi who was part author of the Rig Veda", and that Usika means "a hermit from the Rig Veda"! It seems these two ancient characters met again in a new epic!

On the third night I already felt a little better. Next day, even though it seemed I would not be able to move after getting up, once I took a warm up lap, I was not so bad. It was also on this morning which I last felt the symptoms of some chronic problems I have been experiencing for quite a few years. On the next days they didn¥t come. It seems the race was curing the body.

Poem for the day was:

"Doubt and division
Are signs
Of inner insecurity.""
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

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Day 4

There was definitely some adaptation becoming established. At night, I could move again almost freely on my tent. In the morning, there was much less foot pain and swelling on walking, and even less after warming up.

The mind was very simple. It was almost impossible to look at the results board to see how people were doing. It was just a bunch of numbers, and hard to read. At the same time, there was an immense clarity. I could clearly see what was needed and what was not. I only had good and progressive thoughts. Doing maths, converting miles to km, etc, was just impossible. It was some kind of aestheticism - I could see beauty, but not add numbers. I could ony stay on the now and important.

I remember one evening being inside the kitchen. A woman runner was about to get something from the food table, but the cook came, took it out and started explaining something to her - like it was old, being replaced, etc. While the cook had her speech, the girl just looked at her and smiled like a little child who does not understand what misterious language she was talking. Once the cook finished doing what she needed, the runner just took what she wanted and went away smiling. She seemed to be simply in another space than the cook, and was oblivious of anything complex going on in the food table. Such a childlike state!

Poem for the day was:

"To love God in His own Way
We must go beyond desire-awards
And desire-rewards."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

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Day 5

Day 5 was a grand day. I was feeling much better physically, extremely happy and grateful, and just wonderful. Even better, the 6 day runners started their journey on this very day!

I finshed one lap just in time to see their start. As Sahishnu, the race director called each runner, they would run to the starting line. Now, after running four days, this had a special meaning for me. It was like seeing many divine adventurers reporting for duty on to an expedition into unknown lands of outer peril and inner treasures. I was so proud of them, and so happy too!

It was a great running day. Many fresh runners, new people to see and the beautiful sun made the day.

Of major problems (of course you get some every day), I had a left knee (started to come up soon after the right knee got better) that also was starting to impede me to run. Homeopathic Causticum seemed to improve it slowly and steadily. In a few hours I was running ok. And I really enjoyed running this and all following days.

This day I had a professional recovery massage by Mario from Colombia. I felt renewed!

Poem for the day was:

"Do not try to fulfil the desires
Of each and every human being -
You are bound to fail.
Just fulfil God¥s only desire -
Your own perfection."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

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Day 6

This too was a great day! I was running quite freely. I even changed to super light shoes with almost no cushioning. They just felt right. I even did some fast laps - like on a roller coaster, you go up slowly and then suddenly you go very fast and have lots of fun! That¥s how it felt to run on this day.

It was also on this day, as I looked to the gardens, the birds, squirrels, grass, the asphalt, the blue sky and the lake, that I really felt I was in heaven.

It felt like a beautiful and very pure garden, some kind of Elysium before the very gates of Heaven, overlooking the Golden Shore of the Beyond. Ah, that was something. And the experience is still inside me. I can remember it, feel it. "The kingdom of heaven is within you."

On the physical plane, I was swelling in general - feet, knees, ankles - but not really hurting.

Poem for the day was:

"God will come down
As your Saviour -
You just go on loving Him
All the time."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

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Day 7


Towards noon of day 6, I was developing some more severe variety of shin splint. I could not run, and walking only made it worse. I tried to walk one lap stiff legged, but it kept getting worse, and I even regretted doing the extra lap. There is no outer remedy to shin splints. I tried stretching, resting, homeopathic. It only got worse.

I decided to go and rest a little, since there was not much else to do. I entered my tent and started praying; "Guru, if you want me to run or walk, please make it better or take it away." And the prayer was changing as I would feel more oneness: "I do not know if I have done something wrong, if this is just an experience, but anyway I am grateful. I am grateful for being here, grateful for the pains, for everything. Please do whatever you like, and I will try to be happy with it." Then I tried to sleep for 15 minutes.

When I woke up, still in bed, I tried to see how the shin felt by moving my right foot. Ack. The pain was there still. I did not move much - I did not want to really test it completely. I just wanted to believe it was gone.

I came out of the tent into the course, all the time trying to avoiding moving the foot. Then, once on the track, it was inevitable. And the pain was almost the same. I started walking, which only increased it, as usual in shin splints. I tried all sorts of walking, but nothing worked well. At one point I got this inspiration to brave it - run on it, even if it was too painful. And it was really painful to run. But what happened is that, after a few metres, the gradually increasing pain started to decrease. After a few laps, I could run again! (But not walk). So that was quite good. I spend quite a while running even between my tent and the toilets, as walking was risky.

Later this afternoon also I was running quite fast. Very nice experience.

In the evening Smarana was telling us about the Mahabharata stories, and we had much fun running/walking/discussing ridiculously small details of the epic battles of yore.

Poem for the day was:

"Each time I fulfil God
In His own Way,
God says to me:
'You will never be able to know
How dearly I treasure you'."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

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Day 8

As I was getting stronger every day, in this evening I could run properly. So I ran and also walked more than usual in the nights.

I felt just so innocent. I went to bed at night and started laughing from something of the past. It was such an innocent laughter!

Also, the clothes used for running did not smell. I would use some shirts for more than two days and still they would not smell of sweat. There was some purification of the body, it seems.

Poem for the day was:

"The inner world
Needs
The fragrance of peace."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

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Day 9

Day 9 we had the ice cream truck coming to the course again. I invited so many runners as I had money with me. Shamita said she was looking for ice cream already that day, and Martin was doing his 600th lap right then, and he took it as "celebratory ice cream"! So nice it was to have the runners enjoying ice cream!

Physical problem of the day was feeling the knee loosen up - like as if it was going to give. I was slightly worried, but at this point of the race nothing seemed to make me really worried. Homeopathic Natrum Muriaticum came to help. Anyway, just keep running with the knee slightly bent.

Poem for the day was:

"Only fearless messengers
Of God
Can work for the betterment
Of the world."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

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Day 10

On day 10, the race changed. There was no tension, just happiness. Pizza for dinner and my best day all in all.

The hard part was realizing that the race will be over. I would gladly go on a few days more.

It was really beautiful to see my friend Nirbhasa doing 1000km (622 miles). I ran some fast laps at his pace in oneness. Lovely experience.

The difficulty was in the late evening. I had a short lived but extremely severe shin splint. It felt as if a very broad knife was inserted on the leg, along the shin, and you walk and run while it cuts further into you. I just went to bed after my hardest and most painful lap (I almost couldn't walk 20 metres to my tent - had to wait a few minutes before trying to walk these few steps more). Woke up really fine next day.


Poem for the day was:

"The heart enjoys long strides
In the spiritual life
All the time."
- Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service Trees, vol 50

 

Aftermath


finish---080.jpgBack home, I forget unimportant things in my day to day life. It is like a new simplicity and mental clarity has dawned. I worry less about unimportant matters and get more joy from each moment.

People often ask: "From where to where do you go?" But considering we run inside a 1-mile loop all the time and finish in the exact same place where we started, the most appropriate answer is "Deeper inside." And that is quite a journey.

I finished with 365 miles or 570km, good enough for last place. Next year I will try to use more intensity all-around.

Would I do it again? Absolutely, YES! It will be a hard wait until next April! One of the best experiences of my life.