1996 Sri Chinmoy Ultra Trio- Only Two Races; Just as Many Heroes
The tenth edition of the Sri Chinmoy Ultra Trio took place this past September 11th to the 27th, a smaller group of races than previous years due to the absence of any starters in the 1300 mile race, men or women.The difficulty of the 1300 mile distance, coupled with the graduation of previous stalwarts to 2700 miles or the Trans Am race seemed to limit the number of entrants- not to mention the 72 miles per day average for 18 straight days (or 68.4 miles for 19 days for the ladies). Two hopeful entrants pulled out with only a week or two before the race.The races begin in staggered starts, with all runners finishing after their respective journeys( on a one mile loop !).
The first runners to toe the line were women attempting 1000 miles. This group included Dhvaja Dorn,30, the young Canadian who last year became the youngest finisher in the history of the race; Hildegard Schmidhuber,53, from Munich,Germany who finished with 860 miles last year after nearly stealing the race away from her much younger opponents; and Gaby Zimmermann, 31, the tough, young Austrian who finished second in the 700 miler in 1995. Nirjhari DeLong,46,a multiday veteran from New York and Karin Bolliger,31, from Switzerland, had also signed up. Bolliger recently displayed some impressive cross-training exploits by swimming the English Channel in early August in 15 hours, then cycling 150 miles and finally running 50 miles to complete her own 'Trio'.
The men started a full day later. Istvan Sipos,37, from Szeged, Hungary, was back to improve his' kilo-mile' time of 12 days 20 hours, a split enroute to a then world best for 1300 miles in 1993. Sipos won the Moonbat Trans Am in (2925 miles) in 1994 by over 40 hours. Earlier this year he finished sixth at 1000 miles (14 days 22 hours) on a 400 meter grass track in Australia, but was confident he could do better here in New York. Texan Don Winkley,58, was back to do battle with the only race that has baffled him. Last year he succumbed to fatigue and made it to 913 miles in his second try, only a month after completing the Trans Am as oldest finisher. This year his summer training pointed towards a trip to Wards Island and a date with destiny. Sasa Djordevic,25, was the only male finisher in the 700 last year, so a move up in distance was natural. Aleksansar Arsic had spent a week in bed prior to the race, the result of a painful muscle pull in his back while stretching one day. Yet he toed the line along with the others as the race got off amid noonday showers. As the men left the starting line the women had gotten through the first day with few problems. Gaby ran 90 miles to pace the women and grab the early lead. The rest were ten miles or so behind and happy with their totals. The forecast was for more rain and wind as a series of tropical storms kept pushing up the coast and battering the eastern seaboard. Nevertheless the muldiday runner moves on. Istvan ran 90 miles on the first day but had company with Sasa and Don Winkley. Don briefly assumed the lead after working hard for 48 hours, even setting an age group record of 183 miles (pending ratification) before Istvan took the lead for good. A bad stomach for a few days slowed Istvan down. Sasa stayed close to Don and Istvan, but had shin problems after three days and slipped back about 30 miles.
On Saturday the women in the 700 started their race under warm, sunny skies. Mariana Nagy, 23, of Budapest,Hungary was the only previous finisher in the race, but trailed neophyte Paula Mairer, 37, of Salzburg,Austria who assumed a 15 mile lead after 24 hours. On Sunday the gentlemen in the 700 miler began their trek, with John Wallis of Michigan leading the way. Wallis had originally entered the 1300 miler, but checked into a nearby hospital when shortness of breath and severe pains attacked him. His severe gallstone attack had messed up his schedule to get to New York for the 1300, but after four days of rest in a hospital bed and the blessings of his physician, John was allowed to run the 700 and test his fitness. True to his word, he ran 97 miles the first day, followed by five other runners, including Brooks Queen from Tulsa,OK., who logged 89 miles and appeared in great shape. German Christoff Otto, an ultra veteran at age 31 but in his first multiday stayed close as rain clouds gathered.
By now the leaders in the 1000 miler had passed 300 miles, with Istvan nearly making up the one day headstart of the ladies, but experiencing more stomach problems. Don Winkley stayed close to Sipos; after six days they were at 436 to 442 miles respectively. Sasa Djordjevic hung on at 402 miles, but Aleksandar's back prevented him from putting up big numbers. He held on and ran when he could the rest of the race, a disappointment for sure since last year he had topped 903 miles. In the women's race, Gaby Zimmermann held a fifteen to twenty mile lead up until Day 8, when she was hit by shin splints. Hildegard took the lead for good on Day 9 with 554 miles, but her chances for finishing were steadily slipping away as the runners endured another day of showers and muggy conditions. Istvan ran 80 miles on Day 8 to secure a big lead on the field.
Showers again pummeled the course and the remaining runners on Day 9. With only a week left of running, the runners relied on their inner reserves and determination to carry them to their goals. John Wallis ran a solid 420 miles for six days, dominating the field of 700 men. Paula Mairer was clearly the class of the 700 ladies, a sparkling debut. She ran with enthusiasm and control, even when the legs were giving her problems.
We are always amazed at the capacity, discipline and enjoyment that the runners display while doing these seemingly difficult mileage events. After years of great performances in the Trio from the elite or superstar runners of multiday running, it is still inspiring to see new talent emerging as younger runners seek new challenges or strive to attain new goals. Going beyond their limits or transcending their capacities is what this ultra is all about. Race founder Sri Chinmoy has placed so much importance on these races not as a means of self-promotion but as an example for the world that running long distances can be done by anyone who believes he or she can do it- as if capacity will come if we just try. Completing 700 or 1000 or even 1300 miles in the timeframe gives the aspiring runner a tremendous amount of confidence and self esteem. Most important is reaching your goal and fulfilling your dreams.
Certainly the runners encircling the Wards Island course were making their dreams a little closer to reality. John Wallis crossed the finish line first in the 700 miler in 10 days 7 hours, ahead of men 25 to 30 years younger than him. A few hours later Paula Mairer finished the 700 for the women in 11 days 9 hours, jubilant and cheerful to the end. The next morning Istvan Sipos completed 1000 miles again, winning the race in 13 days 22 hours. He finished a full day slower than his best, but maintained his champion's demeanor, helping the other runners reach their goals. It was still an impressive performance. Now the pressure was on Don and Sasa to finish. Don's feet were deteriorating from the constant presence of showers in the latter days of the race. Gamely he hung on for the final 63 miles on Day 15 to reach his coveted goal- 1000 miles in 14 days 22 hours 48 minutes. Don became the oldest finisher(58) at 1000 miles in the history of the race. Sasa came from much farther back (81 miles the last day) to reach his 1000 miles. His youthful resilience and new found determination contributed to a fine performance in 14 days 23 hours 9 minutes. He became the youngest finisher(25) in the history of the race. Hildegard completed 930 miles in 16 days to lead the ladies' 1000 miler, a 'PB' by 70 miles but sadly a DNF nonetheless. Gaby topped out at 903 miles for second place. Mariana Nagy and Thomas Reckziegel both finished the 700 miler in second place, Mariana for the second time.
Even without the 1300 mile race, the runners proved themselves heroes in the battlefield of life. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is grateful to the many volunteers and professionals who make the fall multiday such a joy to watch and be a part of, and to Sri Chinmoy for continuing the saga of very long distance running here in New York. Good luck to all who run ultras.
Sri Chinmoy Ultra Trio
Wards Island,NY. September 11-27 1996
One-mile loop, paved, certified
(with 24-hr,48-hr,6-day,10-day splits)
1300 miles (no runners)
Men 1,000 miles(15-day cutoff)
1. Istvan Sipos,37,HUN 13+22:27:27
2. Don Winkley,58,TX 14+22:48:35
3. Sasa Djordjevic,25,YUG 14+23:09:13
Aleksandar Arsic,31,YUG 603 mi
Women 1,000 miles (16-day cutoff)
Hildegard Schmidhuber,53,GER 930 mi
Gabrielle Zimmermann,31,AUT 903
Dhvaja Dorn,30,CAN 800
Nirjhari DeLong,46,NY 782
Karin Bolliger,31,SUI 777
Men,700 miles (12-day cutoff)
1. John Wallis,59,MI 10+07:25:54
2. Thomas Reckziegel,27,SUI 11+18:46:34
Misha Pavlovic,42,YUG 570 mi
Christoff Otto,31,GER 561
Women,700 miles(13-day cutoff)
1. Paula Mairer,37,AUT 11+09:11:05
2. Mariana Nagy,23,HUN 12+14:47:51
Subarata Cunningham,41,NZ 607 mi
1996 Sri Chinmoy Ultra Trio- Only Two Races; Just as Many Heroes