Harita Davies of Christchurch, New Zealand, describes her experiences as a participant in the Self-Transcendence Six Day Race, 2000, an event which she evocatively calls a shared miraculous dream-reality.
The race was around a 1-mile loop, and runners ate, slept and rested at trackside, attempting to accumulate as many miles as possible within the allotted timeframe. Other competitors amongst a field of 40 athletes included world record holder Dipali Cunningham from Australia, and, most uniquely, 81-year-old Ted Corbitt. In his prime Ted held US records for 40 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles and 24 hours. He is known as the"Father of long distance running in America", and every step he took in this race was a world record, as no one at his age had ever attempted such an event. Whenever I ran past Ted, any feelings of self pity were dissolved in a most humbling wave of gratitude and inspiration.
To run for six days is an endurance test, both physically and mentally. I found that to be able to keep running through physical exhaustion and pain requires tapping into an inner determination and willpower. I found that it was important for me to have inspiration points to focus my attention on, especially when I was particularly exhausted or in pain. The saying,"every treasure is guarded by dragons" is highly applicable to this kind of event, because the sense of inner joy and satisfaction to be experienced is beyond description.
My Sources of Inspiration
My main source of inspiration was the founder of the race, sixty-eight year old Sri Chinmoy, who has dedicated his life to the creative expression of the limitless potential of the human spirit. Sri Chinmoy himself is an artist, musician, author, meditation master and an athlete. He particularly encourages people to run, saying"Try to be a runner, and try all the time to surpass and go beyond all that is bothering you and standing in your way. Be a real runner so that ignorance, limitations and imperfections will all drop behind you in the race."
Sri Chinmoy frequently visited the racetrack to encourage and support the runners throughout the race, taking time out from his own rigorous exercise programme. His recent achievements in the weightlifting world made television broadcasts all over the world, especially his calf raise of 1,050 pounds and an overhead dumbbell lift of 650 pounds in each arm, totalling 1300 pounds! His philosophy of self-transcendence has been an inspiration to thousands of people in their search for inner fulfilment and happiness.
I experienced many different emotions throughout the race, ranging from helpless tears and exasperation to uncontrollable fits of laughter. Yet I always felt such clear-headedness, such simplicity in my mind. The track became my whole world. There was a bond between all of the runners, which was not formed by words; a quick acknowledgement or smile confirmed that we were all running together. I received much joy and strength from running with my friends. Gael Ballantyne, from Auckland, made me laugh with her sharpwitted, down-to-earth sense of humour. I always looked forward to seeing her. Niribili File, also from Auckland, was competing in the 10-day race. I could always count on Niribili to flash me a beaming smile. Dipali Cunningham was the winner of the 6-day race. I loved to run with her as she radiates an incredible life force, which seemed to energise me most powerfully. While running, I often felt the presence of ultrarunner Subarata Cunningham, who recently passed away. When she was alive she was always a tremendous inspiration to me. She lovingly and enthusiastically encouraged me and many other NewZealanders to run. Her inspiration is still very much alive in my heart. Whenever I thought of her, her sleeplessly heroic perseverance and determination seemed to enter into me. I am extremely grateful to have had such an inspiring role model as a friend.
Most runners had a full time helper. My helper, Simona, was an absolute saint. I cannot even begin to image what state I would have been in without her. She took care of the practical side of things, so that all I had to concentrate on was my running.
I ended up completing 337 miles, finishing third amongst the women. It is impossible for me to describe the experience. Now, when I look back, those six fleeting days seem like an entire lifetime. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in such an event. Any difficult experiences have faded from my mind. All I remember now is a beautiful little world where the most important thing is to be happy and to share your happiness with anyone you can; where everyone is going far beyond the limitations of the reasoning mind; and where everybody- runners, counters, spectators and helpers alike, all belong to one family, each one playing an equally significant role in creating a miraculous dreamâ€“reality. I cannot wait for the time when every day is like this.
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Subarata's Run of Faith
Why would anyone want to run 700 miles (1,126 km) in 13 days? Aucklander Subarata Cunningham explains why, and how, she did it...
Subarata Cunningham - Ultra-Marathoner
I've run marathons before, but the 700 mile race I ran in New York last year (1997) really put me to the test- especially as I had to finish it in 13 days.
The race is called the Sri Chinmoy Ultimate Ultras race and it's held every year at Wards Island Park in New York. I started the race with 24 others but only nine of us crossed the finish line. I was the only runner from New Zealand. The race was very hard and at times I ran so slowly I might as well have been walking, but I never thought about giving up. They would have had to carry me off before I'd have given up.
On the first day I fainted twice from fatigue, but I still managed to cover 112km. It was important to set a strong pace from the start, because anyone who didn't cover at least 565km in the first six days had to pull out- they would never have made the distance because it was only going to get harder the further we ran.
Over the next 12 days I averaged daily distances of 80 to 95km. And in my final running 'session', I ran for 28 hours and had only two one-hour breaks because I was running out of time.
Sometimes I could slip into a rhythm and just run for hours, but other times it was really tough going. I stayed positive by thinking about how good I would feel when I finished and about the positive impact this would have on my life. My mind didn't wander much, especially towards the end of the race, because I was just so tired. I thought about basic things, like how many more laps I needed to do before I could take the next break.
I kept my energy levels up by eating small amounts of food after every 1.6km lap but most of the time I wasn't really hungry. I never left the park and slept each night in a tent for two to three hours. Some days we were running in temperatures of up to 30 °C.
In those 13 days, I somehow managed to avoid getting any blisters or shin splints, but my feet killed me. They were very tender and swollen. We all cut the toes and heels off our shoes to reduce the pressure on our feet. After the race, all of the skin on my soles peeled off.
I became very close to the other runners. Those of us who ran for the duration were like a family. We ran together, encouraged each other and joked to lighten the situation.
So why did I run this race?
I wanted to discover what was inside me. I'm a student of Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual guide and teacher who has a following of about 5,000 people. His philosophy is that the spirit is limitless, and that, through self-transcendence, people can do anything they want to if they dare to have faith in themselves.
You rise above physical difficulties. The mind tries to stop you constantly- with Sri Chinmoy you reach down into a much deeper part of yourself to find inner strength. I've learned, and am now a teacher of Sri Chinmoy meditation and self-motivation.
I'm not a great runner but I've been doing it for 15 years and it's the perfect partner to meditation. Running clears your mind and so does meditation- you can run inwardly and outwardly towards a goal of inner peace.
I finished the race in 12 days, 21 hours and 20 minutes. I was totally exhausted, but I felt fantastic- very happy, peaceful and calm.
I may run the race again. Even though it's very physically tiring, there's something inside me that wants to do it again. Finishing it has made me feel very good about myself. There are no obstacles that can't be overcome, and nothing is impossible.
Written by Subarata Cunningham after completing the 700 miles in 1998.
On the completion of this race Subarata became New Zealand's second ranked ultra-distance runner, with her times and distance for the 700 mile race bettered only by New Zealand's immortal Sandra Barwick, a world record holder in the 700, 1000 and 1300 mile distance.