This will be Petr's last day at the race. From today on, his little green ball will no longer need to bounce up and down, for mile after mile. He will no longer need to get on his bicycle, in the early dawn hours, and zoom across the desolate streets of Queens, to come to this little concrete oval. In just a few hours more, in just 47 miles of running, Petr will have smashed his record on the course by 4 days, and set a new Czech record for the 3100 mile course.
Abichal had a magnificent day yesterday. Each day, like his 60 mile day yesterday, gives him breathing room on breaking his record.
Ananda Lahari also had a stellar day. If he keeps this up he will definitely make the cut off.
Pavol has been very regular in his mileage, but it is now impossible for him to finish 3100 miles. He has been upbeat and heroic throughout the past 48 days. It is just not clear when his battle will be over here.
Suprabha who defies age and distance is running her age for the past 2 days. She has 457 miles to go.
Many visitors come to the 3100 over the long course of the race. Few however show up, before 6 am, like Barbara Sorrel from Delmar NY, did this morning. She had to leave home at something like 2 in the morning to come here and drop by for just a few minutes. She is running a 12 hour race, a little later on here in Queens.
This is the face of a true champion. If only the camera could show the hearts of all these glorious and brave ones. We will know how many miles each has run here, but we will never know what battles that were waged within their inner landscape. And when their journey finally concludes, on that precious last lap. One that defies the limitations of earth and lifts them up, to new heights in heaven. Do we honor them enough, for the battle won, the victory achieved here. A valiant struggle, that serves not just them, but us as well.
Petr tells me, "I had good mileage, I enjoyed yesterday, especially last night." He is full of energy and enthusiasm this morning. If I had not seen it for myself, I would only think I was running with a morning jogger, not someone who has run almost continuously for 48 days.
Over the summer he tells me he has met many people and become friends with some of the regulars. Not just those who pass by, but even those who make use of the playground in the far corner of the course. Perhaps it was his bouncing rubber ball, but he tells me that he became friends with one of the hand ball players there named Redley. He says he calls him Lion King, perhaps because he seems to rule the handball court. He tells me how Redley's sister shoots baskets for hours and even plays with the boys there.
About this time, Paramesh Ananda, a local Swami comes by in the opposite direction on his daily run here on the course. Petr is in very much admiration for him and his discipline of training here. He also says he runs quite fast. He says that often when he is running in the same direction, they will in a good natured way, try and, "race the monk."
We talk about our meeting before the race in Ketan's cafe, which took place way back in June. He admits, that he was a bit scared at the time. He had run the race last year and was well acquainted with the ordeal he was setting himself up for. It seems however that once he got going he has done remarkably well. He has averaged 63 miles a day, and though it has not been pain free, he has had no major injuries or setbacks. His shinsplints, knee problems, and quadriceps, never were a factor.
What happens within, he says, is another matter, "Inner battles, during the day, you can't imagine." Of course you never feel alone when in this situation. He says, "when somebody is in trouble we help them." For him the main battle each day is to get to 111 laps by midnight. He says, this number is a mantra for all the runners here. He says to achieve this every day, "is a victory for Guru."
We have talked about the mind set of the runners at length. He says for him, "consciousness is the most important thing." He says that some people have no idea what is really going on here, when they pass by. That is, just people driving by in their cars. But even those, who do know a little more, and see the numbers on the board can't appreciate fully as well.
He talks about Smarana who will be finishing tomorrow. If you just looked at his daily totals it would not tell what he is going through to achieve that daily 111 lap total. All of those laps came from steady and relentless walking. He goes on to compliment all those who have shared the course with him, and been his brothers and friends.
For him bouncing his little green ball has been a key to his happiness. He is all gratitude to Pratishruti who gave him the idea. For him, it calms his mind and gives him joy. He tells me how, when others come and see him running and bouncing a simple thing like a ball, it gives them joy as well. He says, "If you are happy you can give to everybody. If you are just pushing, you give nothing, it is a team race. Nobody does this race alone." He describes a moment in the race when Pavol gave him a scolding about his attitude. He says the scolding was like a blessing. It was not meant in a hurtful way but rather one of encouragement and he took it that way. He says, "Pavol helped a lot, I was feeling sorry for myself."
He also gives credit to others who help inwardly. Not just by sending emails, and faxes, but also through their kind thoughts and prayers. He says that the shirt that Christopher received from his friends in Switzerland was like a piece of armor. Of all the helpers and singers he is universally grateful. He says of Sahishnu, who is one of the evening race directors, that when he sees him coming up the road he feels as though a lighthouse is coming. Because of his size inwardly as well as outwardly. He says, "When you see him coming, you feel safe."
Of Parvati's group however he is full of praise. He describes them as not just singers but that they also embody support, love, and concern for all the runners. He says that this is, "a most powerful weapon in the inner world." He feels he wants to pay tribute to all who have helped make this race happen for him and the others. He call this, "small drops which create an ocean."
Vajra puts up the new daily prayer
The body is the patient.
The heart is the sufferer
The soul is the sympathizer.
God is the ultimate curer.
Guru Sri Chinmoy
And in the category of, you have to see it to believe it. Not only did Asprihanal play the cello this morning at the beginning of the 2 mile race. He also ran 12:42, this after finishing the 3100 mile race 4 days earlier.
And oh yes, he came in third. This is the first time he has ever medaled in the 2 mile race. He has quite a few however, in the longer races.
It is with great appreciation and sympathy I mention that Christopher dropped from the race yesterday, shortly after this picture was taken. His physical problems just proved insurmountable. It got much hotter, and he felt, "absolutely bad." He is here today for Petr's finish, and he tells me, "I feel inwardly I did my best. I did everything I knew. I am happy. I will come back. I have to."
Tomorrow these two champions will complete the 3100 mile journey. Neither is competing against the other, though they are literally on the same lap. Pranjal says, after making 3000 miles, "I am doing my own thing, 3100 is the goal." Smarana says of 3000, "It is just a number along the way."
Miroslav Hasal has come to see Petr's finish. He works for Czech airlines and is a runner himself, though today he is circling the course on roller blades. A year ago he set a high altitude marathon record, by running a marathon around the aisles of an empty air bus 380, flying from Prague to Cuba. The distance of his loop was 66 meters and he did 693 laps in order to run his 4:24:54 marathon. All of this taking place at 36,000 feet, somewhere out over the Atlantic.
Petr finishes in a time of 48 days, 11 hours, and 51 minutes. He will better his previous best time by 4 days and 1 hour. This will be a new Czech record.
The deputy Counsel General from the Czech Republic, Tomas Hart, is here to recognize his remarkable achievement. He says, "I can't imagine someone doing it. What to they think about."
Rupantar said, "he must have had a ball." Sahishnu says of Petr that he embodies the idea of Self-transcendence. He has a big heart and tremendous capacity." Petr says, "Hopefully I can do better next year."
And if there are any missing words, they might as well be repeated now, as he said them last year, and they fit rather nicely this year, as well. Sri Chinmoy said of Petr, "I am very proud of you."