London to Brighton: a personal perspective by Sarvosmi
In my youth, the only running that I did was when I was in hot pursuit of moving objects, such as buses or footballs, or when moving objects, such as large rugby players, were in hot pursuit of me. It was only when I became a student of the Master Sri Chinmoy that I came to know the true meaning of real running. Sri Chinmoy inspired me, and continues to inspire me, to run both inwardly and outwardly.
The longest run that I ever attempted was the 55 miles that separates London from Brighton. It was Peter T (Kaivalya), a Londoner, who came up with the idea. He found three comrades for his intrepid plan: myself (then a young man living in Oxford), Richard F (a young man who hailed from Nottingham) and Frank K (Purohit) (a laid-back, but very determined, Irishman). This ambitious endeavour was going to be a big jump for me, from my two-miles-a-day routine, to over 50 miles in one go. Self-transcendence indeed!
Ultra running is an established sport now, but back in 1984, when we did the run, it was definitely a minority activity. It was an early summer morning when we started out from London. Filled with energy and anticipation, we glided with effortless strides along deserted streets in the fresh morning air. Gradually suburbia retreated, and we hit the open road. We were ten miles out now and still feeling good, There was a single support vehicle, and Audi A4, travelling with us. This had our food and water on board. The plan was to stop every hour or so for brief refreshments. Out at 15 miles the going started to get tougher. We were running in single file now, with Peter or Frank taking turns as the lead runner, and Richard and myself bringing up the rear. At the twenty mile point we stopped again for water. I was starting to feel the enormity of the task that I, a mere running novice, had undertaken. My legs were stiffening up and my feet were sore and throbbing.
The sun was well up now and the air was getting warm, very warm. It was around this point that the pleasant tree-shaded roads ran out, and the endless stretches of dual carriageway began. In the August heat, with no tree shade, it felt like a desert out there - a desert filled with roaring cars and thundering trucks. What started out as heaven was slowly turning into hell. At 27 miles I felt hot and exhausted, but we were only at the halfway point. I had run a marathon, but we were only halfway there! The energy was draining from my weary limbs and I was desperately trying to hang on at the back of the group. On they went, relentlessly pounding the tarmac. At 35 miles, I was still running. It was pure agony now. Sharp stabbing pains were shooting through my calf muscles and my feet were on fire. I felt the desperation of a lost soul cast adrift and left to die in the burning desert sand.
The group forged on and I started to fall away. Every nerve, every sinew, and every muscle fibre screamed stop, for God's sake stop! This was my darkest hour, the point of total despair. Filled with absolute dejection, I decided to give up. I just could not face taking another step. And then, at the very point of defeat, a voice called forth from deep within me. The words were very clear - "Surrender to me. Surrender you mind, surrender your body and surrender your pain." There was no sudden rush of mysterious healing energy, but instead of embracing the pain, dejection and despair, I began offering them to the inner voice, and slowly but surely I broke through the mental barrier, the barrier that always tries to hold us back, to limit us. I began to move forward again. In the distance I could see that my comrades had stopped to nurse their blisters. This gave me the chance to rejoin the group and continue the journey.
At last the final leg! I was running on empty now, but I had transcended my pain, I had transcended my despairing mind. Every step had become an offering to my higher Self. Finally the promised-land appeared - the outskirts of Brighton. The shady trees were back and the fresh salty air gave our lungs a new lease of life. Quite a sight we must have looked: sunburnt, weary and sweat-soaked, but triumphant, as we reached the seafront - our final destination*. I learnt a lot on that run. But by far the most significant thing that I learnt was the power of surrender. Not the surrender of 'giving-up', but the surrender of 'giving', the surrender of offering the limited, finite self to the boundless, infinite Self. Ultimately, through the power of true surrender, anything is possible.
*The run ended there for me, but the rest of the group made a valiant attempt to run back to London. Peter T (Kaivalya) made it all the way.