A field of 32 runners from eleven countries toed the line for the Eighth Annual Sri Chinmoy Seven Day Race, held on Ward's Island, New York. The flat, somewhat circular mile loop has seen many fine performances the last few years. The Seven Day Race was actually an extension of the Five Day Race which concluded in 1988. The multiday saga continued this past May 7 th amid sunny skies and stiff breezes. The field included several strong runners bent on rewriting record books. Istvan Sipos of Hungary returned to the site of his great record run of 1993, when he broke Al Howie's 1300 mile and 2000 km world marks during the Sri Chinmoy Ultimate Ultra. Last year he won the Moonbat Trans America Race(64 stages, 2934 miles) by over 40 hours, and again seemed fit and confident. Don Winkley was back to defend his men's title in the Seven, where he set an age group record (450 miles for six days) last year. American Tom Possert entered with the idea of challenging Brian Purcell's US 48 hour best of 240 miles. Tom holds many course records in the coutless races he's run the past few years, but has had a little trouble running at the slower paces needed to survive a multiday. But his speed could pull everyone to greater heightts. Ron Gehl of Canada, another fast 50 mile and 100km specialist, returned to do battle with the only race course that has stymied his championship form in recent years. Nobuaki Koyago, NYRRC's Ultrarunner of the Year and winner of 10 of his last 16 ultras, was entering unknown territory but ready to attack the seven headed monster multiday. Tony Rafferty was also here to complete 25 years of ultrarunning by doing another multiday, this time at age 56. And Latvian Georgs Jermolajevs, 52, a rare visitor to these shores, was back to try and win sponsorship for his fleeting career and support his family back home.
The women's field was as strong as ever, with Suprabha Beckjord of Washington,DC, five time winner and event record holder; Australian record setter Dipali Cunningham who placed second last year, and Englishwoman Pippa Davis. Enthusiastic as ever, Pippa ran across the country in 1993 in 61 days and was rumored to be in terrific shape. She waged great battles with Suprabha in 1988 and 1991 in this race but had yet to come out on top. Twenty five men and seven women roared off from the line as the wind gusted and nearly blew the scoreboard over.
Nobuaki Koyago and Tom Possert traded the lead the first few hours of the race. Tom later conceded that an ankle injury which forced him to curtail some training sessions had bothered him enough to force an end to his race before 24 hours had expired. Nobuaki took Day One honors with 113 miles, followed by Georgs with 103 miles. The threesome of Suprabha, Dipali and Pippa notched 100 miles and sent notice to the rest of the field that the women were once again an undeniable force. The only surprise was that Istvan Sipos was not fighting for the lead. He later confessed that his training was not as good as in previous years due to a new job commitment. Running 2931 miles last summer might have something to do with it,too.
The second full day of running seemed to scatter the rest of the runners behind-including Koyago- who tasted his second consecutive day of running for the first time after 24 hours. Pippa Davis took Day Two honors with 82 miles, but Georgs Jermolajevs began to run on another level as well. He arrived two days before the race only having received financial backing and a visa the day before his plane left Riga. After a dismal performance in the Tasmania Stage Race last November, he lost his job at home and endured hungry nights searching for ways to survive the squalid economic plight of post- Cold War Latvia. He came with two worn out pairs of shoes and the heart of a survivor,however.
Georgs and Pippa fought for the lead the next 48 hours. By the end of Day Three Pippa had taken the overall lead by a mile over Georgs and 12 miles over Suprabha and Dipali. She appeared in complete control, running smoothly without breaking a sweat, and walking fast miles to relieve pressure on her legs. A few hours later rain and misty conditions began to assault the runners and affected their willpower. Injuries might seem magnified and the task at hand feels too great. With half the race still to go, some runners drop out or all but give up the fight. But not the champions. Those who can manage to negotiate one mile at a time can continue on, confident that they will survive the lows and excel with the highs.
On the evening of the fourth day Georgs asserted himself- running continuously for hours he churned out an amazing 87 miles, smiling and enjoying himself amongst the puddles and the mist. After four days Nobuaki started to climb back into the fray, but Georgs' lead was practically insurmountable for any of the other men. Georgs ran 79 miles on Day 5 to claim a 30 mile lead over Pippa with a clear shot to take the course record as well. Charlie Eidel's 550 miles from 1991 was going to go; Suprabha Beckjord's record of 523 miles was in jeopardy as well. With only two days left the runners began to fathom an end to their ordeal. The rain had cleared out and there was no longer an excuse to lay in bed. Georgs continued to run well as the six day split was approaching. His 498 miles for six days was his best in years, and his youthful enthusiasm belied his years and his weathered face. Pippa set a personal best for six days with 454 miles, moving her up the alltime rankings a liile bit.
As only a day remained, everyone started to run with purpose. None could stay with Dipali, though. On the last day she ran 93 miles to climb from fifth to third overall, even getting within six miles of Pippa Davis after starting 28 miles behind her. Georgs ran 80 miles the last day, setting a new event record of 578 miles. Pippa set a new women's event record with 525 miles and had a chance to savor her great race. Suprabha ran 508 miles for third place for the women, becoming the only person to run all eight editions of the Seven Day. Furthermore she topped the 500 mile plateau for the fifth time. And the multiday novice Nobuaki Koyago finished like a veteran with 80 miles the last day to reach 500.
At the awards ceremony, the runners are amazingly quiet and composed, as if expecting to be told that another challenge awaits them. They certainly are pioneers in a sport that has no growing pains yet, but is attracting people looking for meaningful challenges. But the thunderous applause for each and every runner shows that personal effort is appreciated by all; but only those who have been through the battle of a multiday know what they have really experienced. Long days of intense effort, sleep deprivation and constant negotiation with their emotional side give way ultimately to a satisfaction few seldom feel in any earthly endeavor.
The eighth running of this race could not have happened without the generous support of all the volunteers of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, the great athletes,and the boundless inspiration of Sri Chinmoy himself, who has so lovingly nurtured multiday racing in New York for the past ten years.
- Sahishnu Szczesiul
Eighth Annual Sri Chinmoy Seven Day Race
Ward's Island, New York May 7-14,1995 Certified paved one mile loop (with 24, 48, and six day splits) miles
1. Georgs Jermolajevs, 52, LAT 578 ! ( 103,184,498) 2. Pippa Davis,48, Ma 525 ! (100,182,454) 3. Dipali Cunningham,36, AUT 519 (100,169,426) 4. Istvan Sipos,34,HUN 509 (90,164,445 ) 5. Suprabha Beckjord,39, DC 508 (100,173,436) 6. Nobuaki Koyago,37, 500 (113,159,420) 7. Ron Gehl,47,CAN 474 (88,152,395) 8. Nicola Sinisgalli,45,ARG 466 (91,165,423) 9. Tony Rafferty,56,AUT 420 (93,153,362) 10. Dhvaja Dorn,28, CAN 417 (72,131,347) 11. Aleksander Arsic,31,YUG 406 (96,155,359) 12. Hassan Salif,30 393 (88,143,336) 13. Don Winkley,57,Tx 373 (79,140,339) 14. Nirjhari DeLong,44 366 (70,120,314) 15. Clade Buisson,63,FRA 355 (74,129,307) 16. Richard Sitter,56,Pa 352 (84,140,320) 17. Serge Benard,54,FRA 336 (68,118,292) 18. Sutushti Lang,41,Ct 332 (60,106,282) 19. Bozidar Stavric,24,YUG 329 (70,105,265) 20. Scott Weber,42,Co 327 (75,120,301) 21. Pete Coffin,49,Ut 315 (73,116,274) 22. Peter Szigeti,27, HUN 313 (60,118,271) 23. Al Prawda,48, 308 (73,133,251) 24. Goran Vidovic,19, YUG 300 (57,88,236) 25. Sulochana Lallai,67, 283 (56,88,241) 26. Misha Pavlovic,41,YUG 274 (68,119,244) 27. Bob Wise,55,Neb 213 (0, 7, 166) 28. Tatsuya Muramatsu,39,JAP 193 (92,140 ) 29. Dan Baglione,64,Ca 174 (65,111 ) 30. Tom Possert,32,Oh 103 (103 ) 31. Method Istvanik,68, Pa 73 (73 ) 32. Bill Peck,56, 51 ( 51 )