The first Sri Chinmoy Ten Day Race was held April 25 to May 5 at Ward's Island Park, New York. The SCMT was celebrating eleven years of sponsoring multiday races in New York with an ultra of unusual length. As is usually the case, the field of 21 was stocked with veterans, novices and the Eastern European multiday specialists - all were looking to test their limits on the asphalt one mile lollipop running course in full view of the city that never sleeps. Georgs Jermolajevs,53, from Riga, Latvia was unquestionably the cream of the crop. Last years' 1300 mile champ and record holder had again convinced a sponsor to fly him to New York in search of fame and glory and a plug for their products. Georgs had a chest cold and few warm clothes when he got here. He spent the cold Latvian winter working as much as possible- snow shovelling to buy food and coal shovelling to pay the rent for his family. "Look at my chest- muscles- yes- I work so hard" and " Too much snow for running" seemed to suggest performances below the Jermolajevs curve of last year. He ran a course record 578 miles in the 1995 Sri Chinmoy Seven Day, then an astounding 16 day, 14 hour 1300 miler of world record proportions later that fall. But in his mind, perhaps, this race was only a training run for the 2700 miler in June.
Dipali Cunningham of Australia, however, always enters a race intending to "race". Last fall in the 700 miler of the Ultra Trio, she ran a fine time of 9 days 15 hours and was winner of that race overall- second fastest woman in the world for 700 miles. She thrives on competitive goals in the long ones- an unusual break from the usual survival stategies of so many of the other mere mortals. In last years' Seven Day finale in May, Cunningham blitzed the course for 93 miles on Day 7, good for third place overall. Women's champ Pippa Davis saw her own 28 mile lead dwindle to six at the closing bell. Cunningham was determined to keep the pressure on again this year. "I'm here to see if my training is going well,but you never know with the long ones if you're doing it right. I rely on Grace a lot." she said.
Other outstanding competitors included Don Winkley from Texas, the tough Trans-Am finisher who ran out of gas in the latter stages of the 1000 miler in 1995; Dhvaja Dorn, the young woman multiday specialist who won the 1000 miler last year; Ron Gehl from Canada, no stranger to the winner's circle in short ultras the past several years, and Christophe Rochotte, the promising young Frenchman with 7:40 100km speed who finished third in the Hiroshima to Nagasaki Peace Run( 450 km in four stages).
The first day Jermolajevs revved up with 104 miles, but Dipali stayed close with 102. The men trailed along behind, with only the young Aleksandar Arsic from Yugoslavia giving chase with 100 miles. The second day Dipali took the lead overall with an 83 mile day (185 total) as Georgs (179 miles) complained of stuffiness in his head and chest. Rochotte and Arsic stayed within striking distance with 159 totals, but the rest of the field was stretching further away from the leaders. The dreaded rain appeared for the first time on the second day of the race. Cold rain is the worst enemy to a multiday runner- one always feels wet and uncomfortable. Blisters appear more frequently. The course floods. Open toe shoes become slogged easily.
By the third day, Dipali had widened her lead to 16 miles, as Georgs spent more time resting. During the night his chest felt better, and between sips of carrot juice and ginseng tea he began to run more like the champion we had known. On the fourth day his 81 miles pulled even with Dipali at 321 miles, and a race was on. Further down the pack, Satyajit Saha was making a move on Ron Gehl and Don Winkley by running consistently. His goal of 60 miles a day at first seemed unlikely, as his face was etched with effort. By five days Saha had pulled ahead of Winkley and Gehl, and the effort lines were smoother and less detectable. Georgs began regaining more strength, and as he hit 466 miles for six days, the race seemed nearly his. Dipali ran a PB of 438 for six days, but was nearly maxed out. Dhvaja was ahead of Satyajit, Ron, and Don with her 377 miles, but was far behind Dipali to think of catching even. The rains became heavier and colder, but then abruptly stopped- not to be seen until the next to last day.
Dipali was able to regroup and fought back for 67 miles, cutting Georgs' lead to 19 miles after seven days. After the seventh day the good weather held so running was the order of the day. Ron Gehl emerged from his early race funk to put heat on Don and Satyajit. The rest of the group seemed in control of themselves.
It has to be a bit odd but a lot inspiring to see so many numbers on the scoreboard- these numbers indicate not just miles run, but battles fought and won- through pain, tears, laughter and joy. Quite often passersby will notice the scoreboard and shake their heads in disbelief. But the runners notice everyone's progress.
With only five and a half hours to go Georgs and Dipali are virtually tied for the lead with 696 miles. Dipali has overcome Georgs' six mile lead and has run all night to catch up to him. Georgs can still run 8 or 9 minute miles, but he too is hurting from the ten day effort. Dipali takes a break after the 700 mile split, and Georgs slips back into the lead, this time for good. With only six minutes left in the race Georgs and Dipali end their duel, shaking hands as they cross the finish line once more. They embrace and congratulate each other- what an extraordinary finish to a 240 hour race. She ran 89 miles to his 85 on the last day. Dhvaja Dorn ran 624 miles to take third place overall, and Satyajit and Don both cracked 600 miles.
The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is again indebted to all the volunteers who made the race such a pleasure to watch and be a part of, and to Sri Chinmoy himself who saw that runners can push back their limits and forge ahead with new dreams and surprising realities.
- Sahishnu Szczesiul
Sri Chinmoy Ten Day Race
New York NY April 25 - May 5, 1996 1.0-mile loop,paved,certified (with 24-hr,48-hr,6-day and 7-day splits)
1. Georgs Jermolajevs,53,LAT 725mi (104,179,466,524) 2. Dipali Cunningham,37,AUS 723 (102,185,438,505) 3. Dhvaja Dorn,29, CAN 624 (82, 140,377,435 ) 4. Satyajit Saha,46, 603 (76,141,366,427 )
5. Don Winkley,57, TX 600 (79,139,370,417 ) 6. Ron Gehl,48, CAN 568 (85,133,351,404 ) 7. Christophe Rochotte,33, FRA 560 (95,159,381,426 ) 8. Aleksandar Arsic,32,YUG 547 (100,159,346,395 ) 9. Gregor Knauer,40 543 (63,122,337,392 ) 10. Andreas Puntigam,24, AUT 538 (94,157,331,392 ) 11. Valentin Vlasov,38, RUS 522 (92,156,310,366 ) 12. Nirjhari DeLong,45, 510 (80,128,333,372) 13. Hassan Salif,31 503 (79,139,318,360 ) 14. Indu Tamborini,45, SUI 500 (71,120,316,363 ) 15. Kelvin Sherrington,35,UK 457 (75,120,300,350 ) 16. Pete Coffin,50,UT 428 (76,127,305,350 ) 17. John Cookson,49,CAN 412 (77,124,311,350 ) 18. Misha Pavlovic,42,YUG 281 (70,111,281 ) 19. Sutushti Lang,44, CT 273 (63,110,273 ) 20. Michael Moilanen,50,AZ 245 (76,126,245 ) 21. Carl Stelman,65, 112 (73,111 )