The seventh annual Sri Chinmoy Seven Day Race, held May 8 to May 15, was distinguished by excellent performances and interesting developments, as a field of 26 runners from eight countries and eleven states tested the tarmac of Ward's Island Park, sight of several multiday adventures the last few years. The heavy favorites, Ohian Tom Possert and southerner Bob Evinger, were expected to battle for the laurels of this year's race, since Al Howie and James Zarei were late scratches. The women's field was quite talented, with five time winner Suprabha Beckjord, last year's winner Dipali Cunningham and Canadian record holder Antana Locs among the eight ladies ready to do battle. The prolonged heavy winter in the East had curtailed many a runner's hopes of long runs and high mileage training weeks. Still, runners greeted each other with hopeful predictions and hasty prayers for good weather. The foliage was in full bloom and pheasants dallied on the greenlands that make up this little island oasis, plopped so close to teeming Manhattan. Large boats and tankers cruised by on the narrow waterways that border the western half of the mile loop race course as the runners began their weeklong sojourn.
Multiday novice Hassan Salif bolted ahead first, oblivious to warnings to slow down. Possert and Evinger followed closely, uncertain of their fitness, and certainly unwilling to race hard so early in the week Antana, Suprabha and Dipali seemed to be locking into their relentless rhythmical cadences as the first few hours of the race rolled by. Possert had won practically everything he entered last year, including course records at Laurel Highlands and a great 158+ miles second place at Olander Park 24 hour. Yet his expectations appeared greater than his fitness, as he struggled to stay with Evinger as night descended on the park. Hassan had given way to sleep and Bob assumed the lead with his easy going style. By morning Tom Possert had given up the fight in his mind, his hopes of an American record for six days all but gone. Evinger started to experience shin splints just as he rounded the last turn near noontime at the end of the first 24 hours. If it were with only one or two more days to go, he might have been able to hold on. Faced with six more days of torture, Bob became the next victim of fear and left before midnight of the second day, his 115 mile first day total lost amid the relentless pursuit of miles by the remaining runners.
Suddenly, at the end of two days, Suprabha and Antana were fighting for the lead and Dipali Cunningham was firmly entrenched in third place overall. The only men who could stay with the ladies were age groupers Donald Winkley, from Corpus Christi ,TX, and Richard Sitter, from Erie, Pa. The rest of the field was strung out behind.
The runners were treated to fairly good weather, with rain coming only for a few hours during the 168 hour ordeal. By the middle of the fourth day, Antana Locs had established a gap of a few miles on the other runners. Locs was again surprising everyone, including this observer. With a winter of little or no training, and a reluctance to even enter the race, Antana seemed a bit out of shape to attempt a multiday. She seemed that way last fall, before attempting the 1300 miler, which she completed for the second time, the only Canadian to ever finish that distance in a certified race. It seems her determination, natural ability and constant faith in the 'Grace' would somehow help her to the end of the race. For her and her runner-friend Suprabha, a multiday is not merely a display of ahtletic talents but a propulsion towards an ever widening feeling of freedom and joy. They seemed to lock into an almost hypnotic inner rhythm, while clicking off 14 minute laps for hours on end.
Donald Winkley, himself caught in the endless spiral of energy, mounted an attack on the lead. Winkley took dead aim on the 55-59 US age group six day record of 438+ miles. With a massive 81 miles on Day 5, Don assumed the overall lead. He ran all through the night to eventually snare the record with 450 miles at the end of six days, a PB by 110 miles! In his wake came Dictino Mendez to grab US 65-69 age group laurels at six days with 385 miles, breaking ultra legend Willie Rios' mark.
The race does not end at six days, however. Succumbing to fatigue, Winkley relinquished the lead to Locs. Eventually Suprabha and Dipali passed Don in the standings, never to be challenged by any other man. Dipali was most awesome the last day, her 3:08 marathon speed lifting her to an 86 mile day, taking 9 miles from Antana's insurmountable lead and placing her in second overall. Suprabha hung on for third place overall, undoubtedly the strongest womens' showing in mutiday history. She crested 500 miles for the fourth time in seven tries, truly a model of consistency in a sport likened to a roulette wheel of chance as far as performances go. Antana's 518 mile week was her first win in the Seven Day and a testimony to cheerfulness and strength. Don struggled to get 20 more miles for 470 and fourth place. Rich Sitter and Argentinian Nicola Sinisgalli tied for fifth with 451 miles, running hand in hand to the line seconds before time expired.
With five ladies in the top ten, including solid performances by Swiss runner Karin Bolliger and Canadian rookie Dhvaja Dorn, the women truly dominated the race. Some people feel that women are better suited to the physical demands of the sport. I feel it is a combination of factors. These particular women runners have experience, a fearless attitude, a desire to excell, and a base of inner experiences in meditation to propell them towards remarkable and consistent results. In any case, the gauntlet has been placed down for other runners to challenge, both men and women. Lock into the rhthym, the power, the energy of the moment. Use each goal as the next starting point. And find the courage to fulfill your dreams. Plaudits go to all the runners who endured the ultra experience for a week. And a deep thanks to Sri Chinmoy himself, who has set a standard for excellence in the multiday arena. Sahishnu Szczesiul
SRI CHINMOY SEVEN DAY New York, NY May 8-15, 1994 1 mile loop, paved (with 24-hr, 48-hr, and 6- day splits)
- Antana Locs,35 ( 96,168,441) 518 mi
2. Dipali Cunningham,35, AUS ( 101,167, 423) 509 3. Suprabha Beckjord,38,DC (100,170,426 ) 502 4. Donald Winkley,56,TX ( 82,150, 450 ) 470 US Age group 55-59 Rec.* 5. Nicola Sinisgalli,44,ARG (85, 159,409 ) 451 Richard Sitter,55, PA ( 77,147, 397) 451 7. Michael Purwins,36, GER ( 76, 133, 339) 402 8. Dictino Mendez,66 (63,130,385) 385 US Age group 65-69 Rec.* 9. Karin Bolliger, 29,SUI (80,137, 330) 383 10. Dhvaja Dorn, 27,CAN ( 62,106,317 ) 370 11. Hassan Salif,29,(83,129, 318) 369 12. Nirjhari DeLong,43,(77,134,310) 355 13. Chanakhya Jakovic,40(66,113,297) 352 14. Bob Wise,54,NE, ( 72,107,290) 350 15. Pete Coffin,48,UT (77.127,317) 337 16. Indu Tamborini,43,SUI (71,117,288 ) 316 17. Michael Moilanen,48,MI (70,123, 301) 313 18. Dan Baglione,63,CA (81,124,265) 310 19. Mary-Anne Trusz,38,CAN (53,97,263 ) 307 20. Arun Sud,CAN ( 47,96,241) 282 21. Satyajit Saha,45 (64,102,202) 257 22. Marvin Skaggerberg,56,NJ ( 30,65, 200 ) 250 23. Roy Jones,43,PA (26,46,128 ) 150 24. Bob Evinger,38,NC (115,142) 142 25. Tom Possert,31,OH (98 ) 116 26. Method Istvanik,67,PA (84 ) 111