Now that the 2017 edition of this year's race is finished, race director Sahishni Sczesiul takes some time to recap the highs and lows of this unique multiday race.
The 22nd Annual Sri Chinmoy Ten Day Race started on Monday, April 17 at noon, as 34 athletes left the cozy confines of their houses and apartments in various foreign countries (over 20) to do battle with 240 hours of running, nature’s elements and moving forward. The venue was the certified one-mile loop north of Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Igor Mudryk from Vinnitsa, Ukraine was the highest ranked individual, with a few races over 700 miles for 10 days, as well as a fabulous finish of 3100 miles in 2011 (45+ days!!). Jesper Olsen from Denmark was one of the world’s most unique runners, having completed two attempts of running ‘around the world’, feats that have been documented and shared with other runners. He also had extensive multi-day races to his credit. Perhaps a new rising star of super-long distance was Mongolian Budjargal Byambaa who hinted at very good fitness and a desire to join the elite of long races. The ladies field featured several runners capable of close to 600 miles for 10 days, including Ukrainian Nataliya Hlushchuk, also from Vinnitsa Ukraine, and Slovakian Vinati Docziova from Kosice. Canadian Kimberley Van Delst was also considered a favorite due to her brisk running style from 2016 and improved training.
The men roared off the line with Budjargal Byambaa setting a quick pace. After a few laps, Igor Mudryck and Jesper Olsen bothered to chase the Mongolian as he cruised through the first 50km in a little over 5 hours. Igor was only 3 minutes behind Budjargal. By the time the 24-hour mark approached, Mr Byambaa had seized the lead and reached 108 miles, smoothly and efficiently. Igor Mudryk took a few breaks in the early hours but still reached 91 miles. Jesper was satisfied with 80 miles, and content to parse his energy. Kimberley Van Delst found her way to the front after a few hours, and was shrugging her shoulders when queried as to how well she was running. All smiles was her reply. By the end of the day, she had reached 80 miles, with Russian Elena Kareva (77 miles) and Nataliya Hlushchuk (75) staying close.
The very first 10 day Race in 1996 was won by Georgs Jermolajevs from Riga, Latvia, with a distance of 725 miles (1176.7 km). 21 years later, Georgs started this year again, at age 74. Australian legend Dipali Cunningham finished close to Georgs with 723 miles in that first contest - she would go on to win the Sri Chinmoy Six Day Race, (added in 1998) a record 18 straight times.
The 48-hour mark showed the trend of good runners rising to the top of the standings. Budjargal Byambaa was now in control of the race with 189 miles at the 2-day break. He was still running at 4.5 to five miles per hour, with little sign of fatigue. His lead had swelled to nearly 30 miles. By Day 3, Jesper Olsen had pulled even with Igor Mudryk with a 70-mile day, and had actually gained back over 10 miles to the lead of Mr. Byambaa. But Day 4 saw a resurgence for Budjargal, as he rattled off 73 miles and continued to run quickly and efficiently. Jesper could not sustain the speed that Budjargal possessed. Only Igor Mudryk could even consider keeping up with the Mongolian champion.
The end of the fourth day also signaled the beginning of the 20th Annual Sri Chinmoy Six Day Race. An equal number of runners - 34 - moved forward to join their fellow runners on the one-mile loop. Heavy favorite, and four-time winner of the Six Day race, Ashprihanal Aalto, was there, with American John Geesler and other North Americans, as well as several Eastern Europeans, some who were novices but ready to experience 144 hours of running and becoming. Vikena Yutz, the defending women’s champ was back, as well as New Zealander Kim Allan, a national class 24-hour runner. By the end of the first day for the Sixers, John Geesler had a slim 2-mile lead over Ashprihanal Aalto, and Kim Allan had an 18-mile separation over Vikena Yutz.
In the Ten Day race, the six day splits verified the race - Budjargal has reached 456 miles, his best total for that distance by over 100 miles. Igor equaled 425 miles. No other runners topped 400 miles. Nataliya Hlushchuk held a slim 2 mile lead over Kimberley Van Delst, 342 to 340 miles.
The 48-hour splits for the Six Day people showed Kim Allan still leading by almost 20 miles, but Kiwi Susan Marshall claiming third place and on the rise in effort. By the end of three days, Vikena had closed to within 16 miles of first, but leg and foot injuries were causing her much pain and anxiety. She tried to rest a lot on the evening of the fourth day, but dropped from the race when the pain was too much. On the other hand, Susan Marshall was running better, and had closed the gap to Kim Allan from 30 miles to 14. Ashprihanal Aalto had assumed the overall lead in the Six Day after 48 hours with 180 miles, which proved to be enough cushion for the race. He and John Geesler stayed well ahead of the rest of the field.
In the Ten Day, Budjargal Byambaa was emerging as a star runner. He eclipsed his personal best (601 miles) before the end of Day 8 with 605 miles, and fashioned an insurmountable lead over second place of 40 miles. To his credit, Igor Mudryk pulled back a few miles in the last two days, but Budjargal had become the star of the race, overcoming any obstacle, and still staying above 67 miles the last seven days of the event. Budjargal also announced his ascendency in world rankings, becoming the first Mongolian to pass 1000km (8:09:41:10); first Mongolian to 700 miles (9:07:45:18), and first Mongolian winner of the Sri Chinmoy Ten Day Race - 739 miles (1189.305 km). His 138-mile improvement for 10 days is highly noteworthy, and places him fifth-ranked for best totals in the Ten Day history. If pushed he could have easily done more. At 35 years of age, he has a lot of talent and heart to reveal. (Photo: Budjargal right)
Igor Mudryk reached his personal best for 10 days with 713 miles, a couple better than his effort from 2009. Jesper Olsen held on to the last podium spot with 627 miles. There were several other personal bests in the men’s group, most notably Ales Pliva of the Czech Republic topping 600 miles for the first time (609), up from 534 miles, and 10-time Ten Day finisher Michel Gouin of Drummondville, Quebec, Canada making it 11 straight finishes – all eleven have been over 500 miles!
On the ladies side, Nataliya Hlushchuk won for the second time with 578 miles, a solid effort throughout, and as consistent as ever. Vinati Docziova ran 74 miles on the last day to lead all the ladies to the finish line as she finished second. Kimberley Van Delst held on for third with age-group Canadian records for six days, seven days and 10 days.
In the Six Day, Ashprihanal Aalto won the race for the fifth time. He totaled 441 miles on a gimpy knee and not a lot of training. True it was far short of his best 6-day of 505 miles, but he was still happy to share the park roads of Flushing Meadows with so many runners, going day and night to chase their dreams. John Geesler again finished second with 425 miles, and didn’t seem worse for wear after the race. He slept in his truck to avoid the rains that fell for a few of his days on the course. Aleksei Riabikov from Russia made the men’s podium with a fine first-time six-day effort of 377 miles. Through an interpreter he said the race gave him much satisfaction.
The women’s final results were a big surprise as Susan Marshall averaged 71 miles for each of the last three days to garner the victory with 408 miles, her first win. Her mileage was third best overall in the Six Day. Kim Allan held on to second place among the women with 364 miles, and Russian treasure Vera Kalishmanova, 61, from Volgograd, reached 332 miles and her second podium finish in three tries.
As the dust settles and the injuries heal, the runners have returned to their countries to bask in the glory or cope with the pain of recovery from injury. Yet, the undeniable feeling that we here in New York have after these two events have ended is one of gratitude for all the experiences - good or bad - that have been shared by runners and helpers alike. The sport of mult-day racing continues around the world. The many volunteers, helpers, professionals and organizers all agree- these races founded and nurtured by Sri Chinmoy over the decades give us hope and a glimpse of human potential. The energy at Sri Chinmoy Races is special. The runners’ ability to deal with everything over a period of 10 or 6 days and to reap satisfaction of any kind is a cause for celebration, and a small iota of perfection.