Rupantar has been the race director of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team since 1985, having been asked by Sri Chinmoy to serve in that capacity. As well as working on the big races the US Marathon Team organise each year - the 3100 Mile Race and the Six and 10 Day Race - he also spends a considerable amount of time archiving the Marathon Team's 40 year history on this website.
Pradeep Hoogakker, a member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and a 2011 Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100-Mile Racefinisher, was interviewed on KBS Kyoto Radio, Japan on October 22.
The 10 minute program has been aired for 15 years, and is the first of its kind in Japan specifically dedicated to lay runners.
The runner-radio host Ms. Junko Wakabayashi (aka Waka), a well-known figure in the running world, dedicated the whole program for this interview.
Transcript of interview (English translation):
Waka:I interviewed Mr. Pradeep Hoogakker from the Netherlands, who completed this race in 53 days and 9 hours in 2011. About the race:
Started by Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in New York in 1997, continuing for 20 years.
3100 miles = 4989km (approximately 5000km)
Race Track: 5649 laps of a 880m-long loop
Cut-off: 52 days (To complete, the runner has to run at the pace of 95.9km per day.)
Note: In the year Mr. Pradeep did the race, the cut-off was extended to 54 days due to the extreme heat.
39 runners completed in the 20 years
The race track was open every day from 7am to 12 midnight.
7000 to 10000kcal must be consumed each day, equivalent of one week’s food intake for a person with normal activities.
The kitchen crew cooks customized food for each runner.
The runners use up 10 to 12 pairs of shoes.
Average temperature: 30C, Humidity: 80-95%
Waka: What brought you to the race?
Pradeep: One day, while I was meditating after having a good run, the idea of running the 3100 mile race spontaneously came to my heart and I felt an inner thrill. I had been to the race a few times as a helper before. I got advice from the runners then, and trained myself for 6 years. I trained to run long distances, starting from 10km a day, 40km once a week, and up to 100km once a month. I also practised how to eat while running, as well as trying different running outfits and shoes.
Waka: And the actual race came. Didn’t you get bored running 5649 laps?
Pradeep: Everybody asks that question! Actually, many ultra races have loops instead of a straight route. It actually makes a lot of sense since you can have your own table where you can put your belongings such as shoes and supplements. Also, you feel everybody is running together—from the fastest to the slowest ones in the race. We can inspire each other, and we feel oneness, which is really good.
Waka: Still, it’s sooo long. How did you keep your motivation?
Pradeep: We told different jokes to each other!
Waka: What was most difficult?
Pradeep: The first 10 days were really difficult. My feet were not used to running on concrete; at night, my whole body ached and could not sleep. My mind started thinking, “How can I run tomorrow being like this?,” which made me sleepless. But as weeks went by, I learned that I could run even if I had not been able to sleep the night before. Something within myself recovered with renewed energy.
Waka: What was most moving?
Pradeep: There were many things. I felt oneness, and one morning, as I watched the sun rise, I felt as if the sun was rising inside my own heart. And I felt: This is life…!
Waka: You experienced Life…yet, your feet must have been…?
Pradeep: All blisters! Can I say something gross?
Waka: No thank you! Did you discover something new about yourself?
Pradeep: I realized I had a tendency to feel sorry for myself. So I had to conquer that. I could not complete the race unless I could truly feel I could do it. The process of overcoming my weaknesses became a valuable experience.
Waka: Has your life perspective changed after the race?
Pradeep: Yes. The wonderful experiences during the race stay inside myself even after the race finished. I feel that happiness means progress; going forward. In ordinary life, many times we think we are going forward but are actually going round and round in the same place. But in this race, though we were running round and round, I felt I was going forward. Those are what I learned through the race. My weaknesses unavoidably came forward so I had no choice but to conquer them, which led to joy and happiness.
Waka: What is your goal now?
Pradeep: There are many. Everybody needs a new goal. My first aim is to improve my marathon time, from 3 hours 4 minutes to under 3 hours. I also want to write a book about my 3100 race experiences. Most importantly, I feel Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy “Self-Transcendence” is wonderful. No matter what field you are in, the important thing is to transcend yourself.
Waka: You have said so much today that resonate with our souls: ‘Continuous self-transcendence,’ ‘Importance of feeling inner thrill in your heart’, and ‘Happiness means progress’.
Dear listeners, are you doing something that thrills your heart? Are you trying to transcend yourself now? Yes, you can start today! I was so moved to meet Mr. Pradeep. Thank you so much!
Swimming Tsugaru Strait: Abhejali achieves her 4th 'Oceans Seven'
By Vasanti Niemz
Prayers, focus, visualisation and serious preparation nicely worked together! After the strong wind conditions caused by a typhoon blew out any chances for swimmers only few days earlier, Abhejali Bernardova (39) of our Czech Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team had almost perfect conditions for her attempt to cross the Tsugaru Channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan, which is about 19.5 km wide at its narrowest point.
In the early morning of Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, at 3.30 am, shortly before sunrise, the accomplished English Channel swimmer and "Triple Crowner" (EC, Manhattan Island and Catalina Channel) stepped into the unusually warm (23°C) waters of the strait on the shores of Tappi Misaki, taking advantage of the calm after the storm, to tackle the 30km distance. As you can see on the map, Tappi Misaki is not the closest point to the other shore, but experience shows it is one of the best points to start a swim factoring in the currents constantly pushing from the west through the straits.
Expertly guided by captain Mizushima of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association, who uses a white underwater "streamer" to help the swimmer stay on course, and supported by a great team with observer Mika Tokairin from Tokyo, sister Jana Bernadova from London, sister`s fiancé Tiago, and good friends Uddyogini Hall from Australia and Harashita of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team Japan, Abhejali experienced one of the calmest swim days of the year. Her helpers texted: "There were only tiny waves and almost no wind. In the middle she was visibly slowed down by the strong current passing through the strait, but she managed to stay west of the perfect line, which was ideal to avoid any tricky currents at the end." She had a perfect finish at the foot of the lighthouse in a time of 11 hours 07 min 58 sec. According to the captain, only some 3 swimmers or so have managed to land right at the lighthouse before.
Abhejali is the first Czech swimmer to successfully cross the Tsugaru Channel. Having completed 4 Oceans Seven solo swims now (the "classic way" without wetsuit!) - English Channel (2011), Gibraltar Strait (2013), Catalina Channel (2015) and Tsugaru Strait (2016) - she is already planning her next big swim adventure. Abhejali is inspired on the one hand by the challenge of the "Oceans Seven" launched by Open Water visionary Steven Munatones, as well as by the philosophy of self-transcendence of her late meditation-teacher Sri Chinmoy, founder of the international Sri Chinmoy Marathon team, who is known for his pioneering inner approach to athletic endurance feats in running, swimming and beyond.
In our self-transcendence
Is our tremendous joy."
Nirbhasa is originally from Ireland but currently lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. He is an enthusiastic multi-day runner, having twice completed both the Ten Day Race and the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race - the longest race in the world.
As part of a project founded by Sri Chinmoy to dedicate countries, cities and natural landmarks in the name of peace, 20 mountains from all over the world were dedicated as 'Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossom Mountains'. Asprihanal Aalto from Finland (world record holder for the 3100 Mile Race) and Vaibhava Kuschnow from Vienna, Austria have embarked on a project to scale them all. Here are Vaibhava's notes from a recent trip to Mount Fuji:
The captain just announced our descent to Tokyo Narita, and I am looking forward to finally stepping out of the plane where Akanda will (hopefully) pick me up. I feel excitement and am very curious about coming to Japan for the first time. I am also looking forward to meeting Ashprihanal and wonder what sort of experiences Japan’s highest mountain has prepared for us. Mt Fuji (3776m) is one of about 20 Sri Chinmoy Peace-Blossom Mountains spread all over the world. Being climbers looking for a challenge, Ashprihanal and myself have decided to climb all of them – if so is God’s Will.
Over 300,000 people climb Mt Fuji between June and September, and less then 100 during the rest of the year. This is for a good reason – in the winter months the winds exceed 100km/h on a regular basis and temperatures can easily drop below -25C, which will feel something like -45C in the wind. However, we also have Mt Logan in Canada and Denali (Mt McKinley) in Alaska on our list to climb this year, so we want to be prepared – climbing Fuji in winter seemed to be a great opportunity to test all our gear in “real-world-conditions” while being able to retreat quickly if necessity demanded AND to lop one more mountain off our list AND to visit JAPAN! So I am looking forward to new adventures.
Akanda picked me up from Narita and we drove to Tokyo to meet with everyone else to continue our trip to the foot of Mt Fuji where we stayed in a traditional Japanese house – a Ryokan – with tatami floor, low tables and a hot tub – all embedded in a beautiful forest. We were filming, checking our gear, eating, hanging out in the hot tub and just had a great evening together.
The next day, we drove to the 4th station on the north face of Fuji at 2020m and headed for the woods straight up. Our backpacks weighed around 20 kg and contained a tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, stoves, warm clothes, down pants and jackets, waterproofs, crampons, ice axes, a shovel, food and so on and so on... We started out around noon in fog and drizzling rain and as we left the forest the wind picked up. One problem we ran into was the diffiulty to find a place for the tent: the mountain is constantly sloping and we were very grateful to find a small spot with deep snow under some bushes by the end of the day.
Being in the mountains in winter is pretty basic: set up shelter, melt snow for food, dry wet things on your body (because this is the only source of heat you have out there) meditate and enjoy the view or hide from the storms (it depends...). We had some heavy snowfall and enjoyed our sleeping bags. Next morning we had side wind with wet snow, which makes staying warm and dry a challenge in spite of Goretex. Around noon the wind ebbed and the snow stopped and after cooking some ramen between rocks on sloping snow we drew new hope and made it to the top in the late afternoon.
We slept inside the crater and just made it back in time to catch the sunrise. We had a perfect blue sky, it was pretty warm (-7C) but windy and we meditated and enjoyed the scenery for a while before sliding down approximately 800 m on a snow slope. We made it down to the 4th station by noon and tried to catch a bus to Tokyo – which was not very easy considering that my knowledge of Japanese was limited to only one word, namely: arigato (thank you!) and the fact that their English was not much better.
To make a long story short: of course we somehow made it and spent a few wonderful days in the Land of the Rising Sun, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Ise and Kamakura, meeting people as well as different temples and last but not least the Great Buddha, which I was very very very very impressed with. We had problems getting vegetarian food, but loved the Shinkansen and we never ceased to be amazed by the kindness, politeness and helpfulness of Japanese people. Their helpfulness made up for all our incapacities and will remain the strongest impression I take back home, along with the overwhelming peace of the Great Buddha and the blue sky on top of Mt Fuji.