Thoughts from a Champion, Dipali Cunningham

By | Jul 17, 2010
Dipali Cunningham at the 2010 Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race Awards Ceremony

World Record Holder Dipali Cunningham at the 2010 Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race Awards Ceremony

By Dipali Cunningham

My name is Dipali Cunningham and I have been a member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team for 30 years and competing in multiday events for nearly twenty years. My first multiday was a seven day race and like any beginner I endured the challenges and discomforts of running nearly twenty hours a day. I have completed thirty-one multiday events (7 day races, 6 day races, 1,000 mile, 700 mile) and now hold Australian National and World records. I continue to run these races with inspiration and enthusiasm and now only as a spectator at this amazing 3100 mile race take you into their daily lives around this half mile loop.
Many people ask me: why would you run a 3100 mile race? I can only answer the same reason why I would run a 1,000 mile race; accomplishment, satisfaction, achieving a momentous task that only something deep down inside of you knows why you want to do it. There is no prize money. There is a race memory, a trophy, a certificate and t-shirt. But there is always that satisfaction-thrill that the human spirit will thrive for. Runners know when they are giving all parts of their being to succeed in their running events, a self giving of all parts of their being.
So the journey begins on Day 1 at 5:50 am. The eleven heroic runners are assembled at the starting line. Nine of the runners have competed in the 3100 Mile Race for the last few years. Surasa from Austria and Dharbhasana from New Zealand are attempting this race for the first time. Surasa arrived in New York six days before the start. She seemed so nervous and expressed here difficulties in eating. I asked here “when did this start, not being able to eat”. She answered “when I signed up for this race one month ago”! I could identify with a little of that feeling, but I did not sign up for the 3100 race.
Dharbhasana had been training very hard in New Zealand. He seemed very confident at the start. Many people asking how the race is structured going around a school and half mile loop in the neighborhood of Queens? With the race about to begin at 6am I explained the daily routine.
Every morning the runners will have to get up (which could be 5:15 am or earlier) and be standing on the starting line at 6 am and start running or walking around the loop. They have to run a minimum of 115 ??? laps every day, an equivalent of 60 miles. “Wow”, someone said to me. “You mean they come and run around this block from 6 am to 11 pm or midnight for 51 days?” “Yes” I said, “that’s basically the routine.”
The eleven runners began their first lap at 6am. Many cheered and done amongst the crowd clapping and cheering was Suprabha Beckjord, the 3100 Mile World Champion of 13 straight years. I asked Suprabha what were her thoughts. She said it did seem very strange to be standing and watching. She said “I feel like I should start running and join them”. For many of us Suprabha’s presence in the 3100 Mile Race we will sadly miss. Her contribution to this race is unprecedented!
A few hours into the race I returned to the race while I was out on my own run. Asphrihanal, six times 3100 Mile Race winner, I met on my first lap. He immediately asks me “How is Suprabha?” From his question I felt many of the runners were missing the indomitable power of their running sister Suprabha. I told him Suprabha felt at peace that she had decided not to run this year’s race, but who knows if she will return in the future. His reassured smile was a priceless picture. Asphrihanal has always admired Suprabha’s incredible 3100 mile performances.
I arrived at the camp site consisting of a camper van, two regular vans (all set up inside with beds and medical equipment), two tables, one holding all the drink refreshments and the second table with runner’s delight treats, all tempting the long distance runners to eat and drink! Situated on the fence was the unbelievable scoreboard, mileage climbing every day, numbers that passersby often would or could not believe. There are two counting tables, each counter with clipboards with lap sheets attached to score each runner.
Surasa is running towards me and in here Austrian-English accent points to her leg and says “this is hurting, what do you think?” Surasa had pointed to the spot where no multiday runner wants to say the word “shin splints”! I told her not to worry and I would talk to her handler. Surasa is always so cheerful, smiled, and in her jolly way ran off into the distance. I chatted with the handler and she was off in minutes to get the needful supplies for this problem.
One day too many of the runners seem very stiff and sore, very normal for day two. Even Asphrihanal who we call the “Flying Finn”, was struggling to get his legs moving. But on day 3, all the runners were moving so much smoother. Every multiday I have run it seems to be the case that the first three days are the hardest. It’s kind of funny to say this but when I am competing in a 6 day race, it takes me 3 days to get warmed up and into the race. For the 3100 runners, it takes the 3 weeks to get warmed up and into the race. Amazing!
Day 4. The weather in New York for June has been very kind to the runners. The days and nights have been quite cool so far. This is really helping their performance as in the first few days of a multiday event, your body can internally become very hot and many uncomfortable rashes start appearing.
Surasa’s left leg is still swollen. Her legs are not used to running on the hard concrete surface. She has it bandaged and securely tucked inside a piece of green cabbage. Many multiday runners use cabbage as a means to reduce inflammation. She said it definitely was helping. Surasa was running even though the shin was obviously causing her pain. Her cheerful nature is very inspiring.
Pranjal and Petr, very close in miles, are both looking very strong. Petr for many years has bounced a small rubber ball on his 3100 mile journey. Just for the record he stole his ball bouncing craze from the great Russian runner Pratishruti Hisamutdinova.
Stutisheel and Vladimir the great Ukrainian team are looking super solid.
I often look at each runner’s running shoes, Each runner has a unique way of cutting up the shoes to accommodate the needs of the feet. I myself cut the whole toe box out and most of the high back of the shoe. This gives the feet a chance to get more air and take away any rubbing possibilities on the chilies. Then there are the insoles. Some of the boys have double layer insoles to give more shock absorption. Then there are the blisters inside those cut up shoes and double layered insoles. That’s another story. I have had so many blisters is my multiday races I have no toe nails left. To this day I have not had the most feared blister on the ball of the foot.
So far it looks good in the camp. No one stopping and trying to figure out how to adjust the second skin and tape foot (????). One thing that always amazes me is that every night most of the boys, after their sixty to seventy miles for the day, pack up their gear into a backpack and climb upon a bicycle and pedal home in the backstreets of the neighborhood. I know it is only a five minute ride, but I could never do that! Imagine riding a bicycle when you are at 2700 mile, pedaling in your neighborhood, take a four to five hour sleep, climb on that bicycle again and then start the next morning. If you do not believe me then come to the 3100 mile race and see these remarkable athletes!!

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