"It created a tremendous feeling of oneness as all the runners, fast or slow, were constantly flowing together in the same self-transcendence river."

9 is smaller than 26.2!

The local marathon in my city is two laps of a half-marathon course.   I work in a specialist running store and many customers comment that they find it mentally tough to have to cover the same ground again in the second lap.  

Just before I went to New York for the Self-Transcendence Marathon in Rockland State Park, my co-workers and I would tell customers that we were going to run a 9-lap marathon course. They would look at us as if we were, quite frankly, completely crazy, imagining, I suppose, 9 times the torture for 9 laps compared with 2!

I really like the 9-lap course though, and here are 9 reasons why:

1.   9 is a much smaller number than 26.2 so I could spend the day before the marathon telling my mind that I was only going out for a 9 lap run and strictly avoiding allowing it to think either the word "marathon" or the number "26.2".
2.   You get really excellent support with water stations approximately every mile, and medical/massage etc every 3rd mile, plus saxaphone, drums, singers, aphorisms, clappers and cheerers at regular intervals.
3. You can leave all your psychological crutches (eg energy gels, sports drinks, band-aids, vaseline, pain-killers etc etc) in a reassuringly accessible spot at the side of the track.  
4. You get to see all your friends and say "hi!", sometimes several times, as they lap you or vice versa.
5.   It created a tremendous feeling of oneness as all the runners, fast or slow, were constantly flowing together in the same self-transcendence river.
6.   You get to see the beautiful views of the lake not once but 9 times.
7.   In the early stages of the race there was a tremendous feeling of dynamic joy on the course from the speed of the faster runners.   In the later stages of the race there was a feeling of deep inner peace and silence through the meditative concentration of the slower runners and walkers.   This striking and beautiful experience could only be had in a multi-lap course and I felt it was a real gift and helped to increase not only my feeling of oneness with my fellow runners but also my appreciation for and admiration of each and every one of them.
8.   In the early stages of the race (eg after 1 mile, 3 miles, 7 miles), passing the mile markers for the later laps (eg 1/2 marathon,   18miles, 26 miles...) made me feel that although I had only just begun my journey the goal ahead was already visible and therefore definitely attainable.   This gave me tremendous confidence , enthusiasm and joy.   In the middle stages when fatigue started to suggest that it would like to pay a visit, I found that passing the mile markers from the earlier laps (1 mile, 7 miles, 1/2 marathon...) made me feel how far I had already come from the start line and how distances that had earlier challenged the mind had already long ago surrendered.   This also gave me tremendous confidence,   enthusiasm and joy!
9.   We were blessed by being able to meditate all together before the race with Sri Chinmoy, who came personally to start the race.   He also remained somewhere on the course for the entire time, which meant a brief blessing-meditation for every runner every lap - a total of 10 blessing-meditations for everyone!

(That's one gratitude-reason for each lap!)

I'm already looking forward to next year........