‘Choi, Cherns and Laharraque Race 1,000 Miles In Sri Chinmoy 1,000 Mile Race, May 1 – 17, 1985’ (Press Release). Brummell, S. and Weisbrot, B. May 1985. Retrieved 2012-06-02. Archive copy at the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team Office, New York.
Photo: (l to r) NYRRC President Fred Lebow, a frequent visitor to the race, congratulates 1,000 mile champion, Don Choi.
"One thousand miles. We couldn’t conceive of it, but Trishul’s vision coupled with Sri Chinmoy’s enthusiastic support seeped into our bones and once more we found ourselves juggling jobs and family to sign up for day and ‘graveyard’ shifts at the one mile asphalt course on the zoo grounds of Flushing Meadow Park, New York. Ziggy Bauer, the only man to successfully race this distance, had finished in 12 ½ days on a grass track in Colac, Australia in 1983. We had a sixteen day cutoff, but never really expected to be out there that long. Little did we realize!
Day One: The runners are off at 8:12 am under hot, sunny skies with Ted Corbitt giving the ‘go’ sign. Don jumps into the lead, cushioning himself with 107 miles over Trishul’s 88 – the highest daily total of the race. Cahit Yeter, who is camped with kids and wife Sharon, also a part-time runner, knocks of 8 minute miles for 10 hours then disappears to drive a bus for another 10…then the rains came.
Day Two: Cold, drenching rain, 36 hours’ worth – drowning tents, food, handlers, runners, and spirits. Stan ‘The Leviathon’ Leventhal still pulls 81 miles out of a hat. Don stays happy running under an umbrella in a ‘Peanuts’ jacket – someone else has hands wrapped in foil, like baked potatoes. Emile’s feet, with a dropped metatarsal on one foot and unhealed blisters from the San Diego 6 day on the other, begin to trouble him.
Day Three: The rain stopped at 5:00 pm – thank God. Don has not slept for 48 hours and has racked up 36 miles on Trishul. The runners’ culinary tastes have begun to emerge – Bob goes for buttermilk, coffee, and more coffee. Nathan ends up on his ‘bread and water’ diet of grains and pasta – no dairy, but Tofutti makes his eyes shine. Don is the strictest, downing a mouthful of ‘chute’ each lap – a combination of vegetables, tofu and brown rice – no sugars. Trishul lavishes his brown rice with tamari for sodium. Emile finds club soda settles his stomach but Haagen-Dazs keeps him sane.
Day Four: Curious weekend park pedestrians dot the race. Bob rides the carousel – Nathan spots a duck nesting her eggs. Don puts in 86 miles; Trishul begins his comeback with 76 – ‘a strategic error. I should have run my own race.’ A sign appears near a razor and cream – ‘shave your handsome face’ – compliments Cahit Yeter’.
Photo (l to r): Nathan Whiting, Kim Cavanaugh and Sharon Yeter.
Day Six: The first of two back-to-back 6 day races ends. No one really notices – what is six days in the immensity of 1,000 miles? The magnitude of this race continues to steal over everyone. Race personnel replace precious Walkman batteries and make banana smoothies over words of encouragement. Sri Chinmoy makes multiple appearances daily to oversee the race, bolster spirits and log his own mileage, finishing 208 miles by the race’s end.
First casualty – Stan is out for good with shin splints but he sticks around to help. He’s done, 309 miles.
Day Seven: Strong day for top 3. Emile running steady 11 minute miles, despite flaming blisters which have by now corroded away into a gaping hole on the ball of his foot. Reliving his trail runs with the Mexican Indians seems to help.
Day Eight: Crisis day – for everyone. ‘We shattered – physically, emotionally, mentally,’ recalls Trishul. ‘Even God rested on the seventh day!’ Only the heart is keeping the feet on the endless blue line. Don toys with quitting – the runners and handlers re-inspire him – ‘You’re the pioneer, you’ll set the standard!’ Emile seems the least affected, logging 65 miles, the highest mileage of the day. Bob walks 57.
Day Nine: Crisis over – back to business. New strategies emerge as runners digest the awesomeness of this task. Junk food is abandoned, replaced by yogurt, tofu, whole wheat pastas, bland vegetables and rice. Sleep lengthens from 1-2 hours a day to 5-6, climbing even higher as the days mount up.
Day Ten: Second casualty – Trishul leaves the track, seeking the aid of an acupuncturist for his ragged shins. Don meanwhile puts 77 miles on him and Emile moves into second. Bandaged like a thoroughbred on his return, Trishul rebounds with 64 miles the next day, reclaiming second and whittling Don’s lead down to 14 miles by the race’s close.
Day Twelve: Second fatigue zone seems to hit. Don and Bob both sick with stomach problems and sleep a full eight hours. Emile is in great pain, and although he maintains that 11 minute mile, he rests more and logs low mileage. Trishul is the only one with pep – he rested on his sojourn to the doctor. Fred Lebow pays a house call, toting sacks of fruit and snacks.
Day Thirteen: Runners wave goodbye to Ziggy’s 12 ½ day record, now held in awe by one and all. Runners are hyper-sensitive- race personnel talk to them gently and directly. Nathan runs and walks, singing loudly to himself in a rather pleasing, folksy way. Counter to Nathan, ‘Hey, Nath, that’s tiptoe through the tulips music!’ Nathan to counter, ‘But these tulips are cacti!’
Day Fourteen: Bob is obsessed with the desire to break 1,000 miles by the 16 day cutoff, but remains delightfully cheerful, living on coffee and refusing to leave the track. Jogyata Dallas hits upon a partial solution of Emile’s cavernous, bone deep blisters. He cuts away the insert of Emile’s shoe beneath the wound to release the pressure on it, slathers on cold aloe vera gel, then pads the rim of the hot spot with lamb’s wool, making a ‘whoopee cushion’ of sorts. Emile manages his highest daily total – 71 miles.
Day Fifteen: Anticipation of the nearing 1,000 mile mark hangs in the air like the aroma of baking bread. Don, still weak from the flu, plans a conservative 3 miles/hour for his last 50 miles. He runs with a dandelion in his cap. Trishul, 42 miles behind, makes a final bid for the lead, logging 64 miles today, 71 tomorrow. As the Chinese Press films for points east, the two sprint three miles.
Day Sixteen: The goal is won: At 2:37 pm Don crosses the finish line, quietly happy and exhausted, hoisting a large American flag and larger grin for the TV cameras and the appreciative audience. It has taken him 15 days, 6 hours, 24 minutes and 43 seconds to become the America’s first and history’s second man ever to race 1,000 miles. Three hours later Trishul retraces Don’s steps and the two congratulate each other all over, smiling those smiles that people wear when they share a secret. Emile finishes at 2 am, stillness, dwarfing the distance with two 6:30 miles thrown around the familiar course for the last time. Nathan finishes with Trishul, 817 miles of personal best behind him. Bob walks alone through the dawn, fighting for 900 miles by the 8 am cutoff. Making it with change, he puts in three more miles until his handlers pull him off the course to get him ready for the award ceremony. Photo: three 1,000 mile finishers (left to right): Emile Laharraque, Trishul Cherns and Don Choi.
A warm Fred Lebow honorarily hands out the awards as members of the Marathon Team sing a song written by Sri Chinmoy for the occasion. As we break camp, Bob is tooling around on his bicycle, the laurel wreath still circling his head like Caesar, happy as a kid off school. And the carousel keeps on playing." Photo: (left to right, foreground) Ranjana, Fred Lebow and Sri Chinmoy.