Day 12 9:32 pm
As the wind howled from the south and the rain obscured the counters' vision, a humble, greying thin man with a broad smile etched on his face emerged from the shadows of darkness and light along the course and nimbly headed towards the finish of another lap. The multiday specialist had challenged his capacity for another one mile tour of Ward's Island Park. " 903 miles, Georgs". Lifting his gaze from the road he passed the counting tent for acknowledgement, grabbed a cup of water and a piece of cornbread from the kitchen, and headed past the dimly lit barracks that was his only stationary home. He had travelled 8300 miles to run on a mile loop, his task formidable . Without a handler he ran, surviving on pasta and four pairs of blownout running shoes. His is one of the 19 stories that make up a yearly epic. The race with staggered starts, mileage cutoffs and endless hours for contemplation was in full swing. Ward's Island, New York, is home for the Sri Chinmoy Ultimate Ultra Trio- the annual multiday pictorial about courage, capacity and willpower in the face of injury, fatigue and measureless miles on parkroads in New York.
The story begins on September 11 of this year as three runners toe the line for the start of 1300 miles. Izumi Yamamoto, only woman in the race and a last minute entrant must start with the men. She has participated in several of the superlong races. Miki Shiraki, Japanese warrior masquerading as a placid businessman from Kansas is looking for a chiropractor - his doctor told him not to run until his back heals. Needless to say, he is running anyway. Georgs Jermolajevs,52 and greying, should probably be home in Riga, Latvia looking for an extra job to support his stuggling family. Conditions in his country are bad at best: high unemployment, scarcity of goods- especially food, and corruption at all levels of government. This past May Georgs set a course record of 578 miles in the Sri Chinmoy Seven Day Race here in New York, and was eager to test his fitness after a good summer of training. At noon the race got started with little fanfare but great tradition. Only eight runners had ever run 1300 miles within the 18/19 day time limit. At an average of 72 miles a day, the difficulty of this race is obvious. Without any hesitation Jermolajevs ran 121 miles the first day, with the game but injured Shiraki at 101, and Izumi falling sick and clocking 64 miles.
Two days later the women's field started the 1000 mile race. The group of four included: Hildegard Schmidhuber, a running grandmother who ran the 700 mile race in 1988, defeating several of the men that year; Nirjhari DeLong, a veteran of over a dozen multidays who has yet to reach her peak; Karin Bolliger the young Swiss runner who has several multidays to her credit as well as a successful swim of the English Channel; and the young Canadian Dhvaja Dorn, who last year ran 700 miles and has improved with every race. Just before they start Georgs comes around the bend for 215 miles after 48 hours, a second day split of 94 miles. Miki can hardly run for more than 20 minute intervals, his strained back muscles and sciatic problem the culprits. Izumi is bothered by an upset stomach and dizziness, even though the weather conditions are good. She might not last either. The 1000 women proceed cautiously, with Hildegard topping 86 miles on the first day.
The next day only two men start the 1000 mile. Don Winkley from Corpus Christi,Texas has had quite a summer, finishing the Moonbat Trans Am as the oldest finisher (57)in the four year history of that race. Now barely a month later, he tries the race that defeated him last year, fatique reducing him to a crawl and only 700 miles after 15 days. Aleksandar Arsic from Yugoslavia, another youngster at 31, ran second overall in the 700 last year and appeared ready to mount the challenge of 67 a day. After three days Georgs maintains his form in the 1300 with a 72 mile day and a cheerful demeanor. He is running faster than the men who just started. The good weather holds as the small group of runners try to maintain their hopes for success.
As the 700 women prepare for their start, Georgs passes 431 miles for five days while Miki and Izumi are all but out of the race. Dhvaja is 16 miles behind Hildegard in the 1000, with Nirjhari looking strong in second. Alek maintains a five mile lead on Don. Four women join the fray at 700 miles. Heavy favorite Dipali Cunningham of Australia is one of the best at the distance. Last year she ran 700 in 10 days 5 hours for the overall victory. Barbara McLeod, at 57 another age group pioneer, has trained hard but was hit by a car while out running in Ontario,Canada. Alive and reluctant to drop out before the race, her ailments became better as race day approached so she stayed in the race. Mariana Nagy, 22, from Budapest,Hungary ran 300 miles of the 700 last year and was confident of her ability this time. And Gabriele Zimmermann from Austria rounded out the women's field as the only novice runner. Dipali cruised to 100 miles the first day, with Barbara 23 miles behind as closest pursuer.
With six days passed the men began the 700 miler, bringing the total to 19 runners from eleven countries. All six had never completed the distance- three were multiday novices. Scott Weber from Colorado, Ed Fishman from Hawaii and Method Istvanik from Pennsylvania were the veterans; Robin Holder from New York, Sasha Djordevic from Yugoslavia and Tony Munoz from Mexico were the neophytes. At the same time as the men began, Jermolajevs passed 492 miles for his six day split. Miki barely made the cutoff but his days were numbered. Don Winkley led Alek by a scant five miles with 218 in the 1000. Hildegard led the women's 1000 with 268 miles, her gaze firmly set on the road ahead and the task at hand.
The Ultra Trio originally started as a 1000 mile race in 1985. Don Choi, an Ameriacn pioneer in multidays, cruised to victory in 15 days 3 hours among three finishers. 1986 saw Stu Mittleman create a new standard, running 1000 in 11 days 20 hours, days ahead of four other finishers. In 1987 Sri Chinmoy, creator of this running saga, a living legend and master of self-transcendence, upped the ante and created the Trio- 1300, 1000, and 700 mile races. That year no one completed the distances in the allotted time. In 1988, Greek Yiannis Kouros set another 1000 mile standard with a brilliant performance of10 days 10 hours. Included in his totals were splits of six days at 639 miles, eight days at 810 and ten days at 964 miles. Sandy Barwick of New Zealand set a woman's best at 1000 miles of 14 days 20 hours. Still no one completed 1300 miles. In 1989 Al Howie from Canada was the first finisher at 1300 miles in 17 days 8 hours, followed by two others. It could be done! Suprabha Beckjord of Washington,DC broke Barwick's female record that year by 27 minutes. In 1991 Al Howie broke his own record in the 1300 by 13 hours( 16 days 19 hours) and Sandy Barwick became first female ever in the 1300 at 17 days 22 hours. She took back the 1000 mile women's record by two days(12 days 14 hours) with that 'Kouros-like' performance. In 1993 Istvan Sipos of Hungary grabbed the 1300 standard with a solid, steady run of 16 days 17 hours.
Runners always look to someone else's standard to test their own capacity. But the superlong race requires an extra amount of resiliency and imagination. To constantly convince mind and body to keep going is often job one. To attain a high level of confidence is job two. To actually run 72 a day for 18 days or 67 a day for 15 days is testament to a great inner fortitude. Having said all this, I wondered whether we would have any finishers this year. But the runners always surprise one with their resolve and determination. This year's event, although smaller in numbers, did not lack the luster of previous years.
Georgs continued his quest for recognition in the 1300. He passed 1000 miles in 12 days 20 hours, which is a world over 50 best. He ran fast laps or groups of laps, sometimes at sub-nine or even sub-eight minute pace, often for five or 10 miles in succession. Then he would resort to stretches of fast paced walking, again at 13 or 14 minutes a mile. Without a handler, he was at a disadvantage in attemting a record or even finishing. But he devised ways of leaving extra food for himself along the course, as well as getting every ounce of support out of his well worn shoes. He never asked for a wakeup call, preferring to get up on his own when he was ready to run. After 13 days Georgs had placed himself ahead of Istvan Sipos' record pace from1993. He was averaging almost 78 a day and showing no signs of slowing. On Day 15 he ran 86 miles, which virtually clinched a new record. At 2:30 am on Thursday, Sept. 28th, Georgs Jermolajevs completed his record run of 16 days 14 hours 28 minutes and 19 seconds. Emotionally moved, he hugged everyone in sight. Moments like this make a race of this length totally special and worthwhile. His satisfaction suddenly became everyone's.
Dipali Cunningham once again showed her tremendous capacity in the multidays, hitting the finish line first before all the runners. Her time of 9 days 15 hours for 700 miles ranks second only to Sandy Barwick's world best of 8 days 15 hours. Dipali was never challenged by any other runner in the 700. She prefers shorter ultras but only competes occaisonally. She has won the Sri Chinmoy International Invitational 47 miler 12 times. Dipali's great run seemed to inspire Gabriele, who withstood painful shin splints to reach her 700 mile goal in 12 days 9 hours. Mariana Nagy also caught fire the last two days to finish with just one hour and 20 minutes to spare.
In the women's 1000 miler, Dhvaja Dorn assumed the lead over Hildegard on the 12th day and never looked back. She became the youngest finisher of 1000 miles in 15 days 22 hours. Poor Hildegard struggled to 860 miles and complete exhaustion, but expressed gratitude for the experience. In the men's race, Don Winkley held a substantial lead of 90 miles over Aleksandar, but met with disappointment after 12 days. Extreme fatigue forced him off the road with only 180 miles to go. He finished at 913 miles, bringing his total racing miles for the year to over 4000, but with a little unfinished business. Aleksandar finished at 903, happy but determined to finish next time.
The 700 men kept close distance between each other, with walker/runner Robin Holder the early leader. At four days 72 year old Ed Fishman was only 12 miles behind Holder. But at day 6, Sasha Djordjevic, 24, from Yugoslavia began to assert his strength. In only his third ultra and first multiday, Sasha found the reserve to run through his injuries. On the last day he carved out 75 miles to make the 700, the only man to clear the 700 barrier, and only with 12 minutes to spare. Ed Fishman deserves recognition for his fine performance- he topped 335 miles for 6 days, an age group 70-74 record (pending ratification). Fishy was seen dancing along the course numerous times (it must have been that clean New York air).
With eleven superlong races, including nine ultra trios under its belt, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is intending to make 1996 a banner year for multidays. The Seven Day Race will now become a 10 day affair, starting April 25 to May 5, 1996. The Ultra Trio will retain its fall schedule. And the long awaited 2700 mile race will hopefully begin on June 13th, with a 47 day cutoff(location to be announced). We invite any and all individuals with ultra experience and a need to test their limits to consider a multiday. You never know what you have or what you are until you try . "Fulfillment in life comes from dreaming the impossible dream."-Sri Chinmoy". Good luck to all our friends seen or unseen who run ultras.
- Sahishnu Szczesiul
SRI CHINMOY ULTIMATE ULTRA
New York,N.Y. Sept. 11- Sept.29, 1995
10-day and 1,000-mile splits)
Men, 1300 miles(18-day cut-off)
- Georgs Jermolajevs,52,LAT 16+14:28:19
Miki Shiraki,39JAP 427 miles
Izumi Yamamoto,53,JAP 635 mi
3 starters (2 men and 1 woman)
Women,1000 miles(16-day cut-off)
- Dhvaja Dorn, 28,CAN 15+22:39:35
Hildegard Schmidhuber,52,SUI 860 miles
Nirjhari DeLong,45,NY 750 mi
Karin Bolliger,30,SUI 750 mi
Men,1000 miles(15-day cut-off)
Don Winkley,57,TX 913 miles
Aleksandar Arsic,31,YUG 903 mi
Women,700 miles(13-day cut-off)
- Dipali Cunningham,36,AUS 9+15:14:46
- Gabriele Zimmermann,30,AUT 12+09:13:06
(68,117,352, 406 )
- Mariana Nagy,22,HUN 12+22;39:35
Barbara McLeod,57,CAN 382 miles
Men, 700 miles (12-day cut-off)
- Sasa Djordjevic,24,YUG 11+23:47:46
Jose Antonio Munoz,38,MEX 546 miles
Ed Fishman,72,HI 538 mi
Robin Holder,34,NY 510 mi