A thousand miles ain't far by plane. A thousand miles ain't far by train. But a thousand miles, I swear by the sun, is a long , long way for a man to run. A long, long way to run. - B. Podell, 1989.
The eleventh annual Sri Chinmoy Ultra Trio was held again this September 8th-26th, on the Wards Island one mile loop facing the Big Apple,New York City. With a history of over a decade of top performances at the various distances (700,1000, and 1300 miles), and the arrival of many good runners in all the races, one could expect some impressive results. The 1300 miler included Al Howie,51, the gritty Scotsman living in Canada who travelled by car from Victoria,British Columbia all the way to the East coast with his wife, Claudia; and John Wallis, the 60 year old phenom from Ludington,Michigan, who won the 700 miler last year and was eager to attempt the brutish 72 mile per day requirement ( the men get 18 days for 1300 miles). After 11 years of competition, only nine people have completed the 'thirteen'- Al Howie has done it twice. Al had been out of multiday competition for a few years as he was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic. Coming back meant running 20 to 50 kms per day, sandwiched around a strenuous 10 hour day of tree-planting, all the time monitoring his blood sugar level and taking injections of insulin. John had been fighting to stay healthy throughout the year ,too, but had a bout with dehydration and internal bleeding during the summer that warned him to be especially careful. Both men ran well the first day, Al netting 97 miles, John 92. On the second day, disaster struck, as John experienced those same internal bleeding problems that caused him to seek medical help in June. Doing the right thing, he dropped out, but vowed to be back at the starting line someday. Al Howie went through many ups and downs as he tried to keep a proper balance of sugar in his system. He ran 61 the second day and sat down to watch the four women begin their 1000 mile trek on Day 3.
Dipali Cunningham from Australia was the cream of the female crop. She had previously won the 700 miler three times, and had run 1000 miles in 15 days 12 hours, but was seeking to improve her time for 1000 miles substantially. Nidhruvi Zimmermann ran 903 miles last year and was determined to make the magic 1000. Nirjhari DeLong was back with her fourth attempt at the kilo. Hungarian Mariana Nagy had moved up after completing the 700 miler twice. Dipali moved out in a relaxed but quick pace, only Zimmermann staying close the first few hours. Nidhruvi caught Dipali at days end, both hitting 89 miles, with Nirjhari staying close at 81. Al Howie logged in 70 miles as he finally had someone to run with.
The next day a strong mens' field of seven runners began their 15 day adventure. Georgs Jermolajevs from Latvia toed the line on his seventh trip to New York. Familiar with the Wards Island loop, he had bagged victory in the 1300 in 1995(16 days 14 hours- world best), 7 -day(589 course record) and in the 10-Day in 1996(725 miles) on this same course. In all he was four for six in the last three years, including 2700 miles in 40 days 15 hours, and 2717 miles this summer in the 3100 miler,although it was more like a training run. He liked his own chances this time. He would be tested by Australian Gary Parsons, the world ratified track record- holder for 1000 miles(12 days 19 hours) and Charlie Eidel from Gardiner,NY, a local favorite who had 1000 mile experience (14 days 16 hours-1991) a large crew, a slimmer appearance from heavy mileage- he trained for a year for this event- and high expectations. Don Winkley, at 59 the oldest entrant, and in the best shape of his life, toed the line for his fourth consecutive 1000 start- probably a record for graybeards. Last year Don, a Trans Am veteran, reached 1000 in 14 days 22 hours. Thomas Reckziegel from Germany had an outside chance of making the goal if he could just hang on to the gang of four in front of him.Thomas was second in the 700 miler last year. Jermolajevs zoomed away from the line, carrying Winkley, Eidel and Parsons along. Georgs seemed the least nervous of the group as road reality started to set in. As the dozen runners filled the course with energy, the race took on a new feeling of intensity and competitiveness. After 24 hours, Georgs led the 1000 men with 109 miles, Don 105, Charlie 96, Thomas 93 and Gary 88. Don went all night to stay close, and before the end of 48 hours actually took the lead. He aimed at his own 48 -hour American age group record (183 miles-55-59 men). Georgs was cruising along, doing 90 miles the second day(199miles total), but Don bagged a heroic 201, passing his record effortlessly, content to recover by walking for a day or so and then begin his 1000 mile assault anew. The 700 women started this day, with only two competitors- defending champion Paula Mairer from Austria and Subarata Cunningham from New Zealand-( no relation to Dipali). Paula cruised the course effortlessly, her cheerful demeanor inspiring the onlookers. About this time Al Howie decided to stop in the 1300 miler after running 360 miles in five days, take a day off, then restart with the 700 men the next day. He had lost a lot of time figuring out his blood-sugar-insulin thing, and realized maybe he should have entered the 700 miler anyway. By this time, Dipali Cunningham had opened a 10 mile lead in the women's 1000 miler, and Georgs ran 76 miles on Day Three to fashion a 25 mile lead on Don Winkley.
Charlie had come in hoping to not only win the race but blow away all the records- this was not meant to be. After four sub-par days for him, he called it quits and pulled out. Gary Parsons developed a stomach virus early in the race, and kept getting weaker- even his wife got sick. Sadly he pulled out, vowing to return and give the course a new record some day. Later in the week he visited a doctor in New York who diagnosed a double hernia as well. he and his wife stayed on and encouraged the runners throughout. Reckziegel moved into third after five days, only five miles behind pace to reach 1000. Georgs breezed through six days with 509 miles, one of his best efforts in a long career, and totally in command. He ran 82 miles on Day six, establishing an 84 mile lead on the field, even making up the 24 hour stagger on Dipali, who logged 505 miles for seven days. She now had a 20 mile lead on Nidhruvi, with no threat from anyone else. After thee days in the mens' 700 miler, Nicola Sinisgalli from Argentina held a 19 mile lead over a nine -man field, including Akos Horvath from Hungary, and a rejuvenated Al Howie whose only problem was blisters from ill-fitting shoes. From a maximum of 22 runners on the track, our little family was beginning to dwindle. By the thirteenth day, the face of the race hardly changed. Georgs reached 810 miles for ten days, Dipali hit 794 for eleven, Paula had 521 for eight days, and Nicola had 465 for seven. Only fifteen men and women remained, eager to reach their goals.
The course meanders past stately willows and craggy elms as a runner heads to the far reaches of Wards Island, after a quick jaunt down a straightaway and the turnaround. The runner heads back towards camp along the scenic view of Manhattan with its always -changing views of light and darkness, bordering along the Harlem and East rivers that flow towards Long Island Sound. Sailboats, tankers, barges and vessels of every description pass in an endless parade, negotiating the tides that change and shift as the rivers and the ocean bargain for supemacy in the narrow lanes beneath the giant Triborough suspension bridge. Runners pass these views time and again as they negotiate the endless miles and the changing of their own emotional sides. The multiday runner is sometimes like the little skiff, pushed and pulled by the ravages of the slippery tides, exerting all its power just to gain a few feet on the advancing water. Other times, there is no stopping the valiant warrior, as he or she flies along, like an ocean liner, oblivious to the confines of space or time. We often marvel at these pioneer runners, not only for their talent, but for their conviction and their fighting spirit.The 700 or 1000 mile race becomes a journey of many steps, but each step brings new insights and experiences as life is revealed and observed from a runners new vantage point.
The currents seemed to be in everyone's favor as good weather held for most of the race. Georgs Jermolajevs closed in on his 'kilo' without trepidation. On Day 12 he ran 97 miles and finished just 85 minutes outside of 12 days, completing 1000 miles in 12 days one hour, 25 minutes, a masters world best, a course record and a PB by 19 hours. He now has the third fastest 1000 miler alltime. Dipali Cunningham finished early next morning, averaging 72.3 miles a day as she completed 1000 miles in 13 days, 20 hours,18 minutes, the second fastest women's 1000 alltime, a women's course record, and a PB by 36 hours. Paula Mairer finished 700 miles moments later, winning the race in 10 days 20 hours, a PB by 13 hours.
On the final day of competition, Don Winkley headed towards the finish in great spirits and hardly a blister. He rambled home in 14 days 10 hours, another US age group record and a PB by 12 hours. Nidhruvi Zimmermann completed 1000 miles in 14 days 22 hours in her second try. Nicola Sinisgalli led the men 700 runners in at 10 days 18 hours, 9 hours ahead of Akos Horvath. With only two hours left, Subarata Cunningham and Al Howie finished their 700 mile ordeals- Subarata embodying the never-give-up attitude, and Al breaking new ground for diabetics and people with non-apparent handicaps. Al even led all runners with his combined total of 1060 miles for two races!
With all 15 remaining runners achieving personal bests for distance or mileage, the race became a paradym for success. Many thanks go to all the volunteers from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, including the many professionals and personnel who continue to solidify the legacy of multiday running in New York, and to Sri Chinmoy, who celebrates 20 years of his Marathon Team's unique offerings to the world of running. Good luck to all who run ultras!
- Sahishnu Szczesiul
Sri Chinmoy Ultra Trio
Wards Island,NY September 8-26, 1997
One -mile loop, paved, certified
(with 24-hour,48-hr, 6-day,10 day splits)
Men-1000 miles (15- day cutoff)
- Georgs Jermolajevs,54,LAT 12+01:25:47
- Don Winkley,59,TX 14+10:56:46
Thomas Reckziegel,29,GER 888 miles
Gregor Knauer,43,NY 803 miles
Women-1000 miles (16-day cutoff)
- Dipali Cunningham,39, AUS 13+20:18:24
- Nidhruvi Zimmermann,32,AUT 14+22:56:26
Nirjhari DeLong,47,NY 804 miles
Mariana Nagy,24,HUN 765 miles
Men-700 miles (12-day cutoff)
- Nicola Sinisgalli,47,ARG 10+18:41:31
- Akos Horvath,36,HUN 11+03:54:55
- Al Howie,51,CAN 11+22:03:12
Misha Pavlovic,43,YUG 604 miles
Antonio Zavattini,33,SUI 525 miles
Women-700 miles(13-day cutoff)
- Paula Mairer,38,AUT 10+20:20:25
- Subarata Cunningham,42,NZ 12+21:02:17