208: Sanjay Rawal | RUNNING TRANSCENDENCE

What does it take to hunt an antelope barefoot in the Kalahari Desert? Run 3,100 miles around the same ½ mile block in Queens, New York for 52 days straight? Or become a Marathon Monk that must complete 1,000 days of consecutive running or be put to death? Find out how this inspired Joe to start Spartan and the persistence and perseverance witnessed through the lens of documentary filmmaker Sanjay Rawal who believes our “first form of prayer was with our feet- when we hunted, we followed animals, we tracked, we foraged…” learn from these cultures of endurance how inner progress can lead you to transcendence.

Lessons

  1. Get joy from the pain
  2. Humans have a primal connection to the earth through movement- running, hunting, hiking was a part of everyday life- KEEP MOVING!
  3. Self transcendence comes through perseverance and persistence
  4. Track your inner patterns - choose trajectories to catch what you're hunting for
  5. “Happiness is solely dependent on your physicality - if you’re not challenging yourself physically you’re not challenging your mind and heart”

This episode of “Spartan Up!” is sponsored by Athletic Greens. Get 20 travel packs free when you order at https://athleticgreens.com/spartan

LINKS

3100 Run and Become Film

3100 Film on Facebook

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208_SUP_EDIT_AUDIO_ONLY.mp3

This episode of Spartan up is brought to you by Athletic Greens insure your body gets the nutrition it needs. Athletic Greens has a special offer for our listeners. Just go to Athletic Greens dot com slash Spartan. And then when you place your order they'll send you a free travel pack with 20 individually wrapped packets. That's a free offer just for our listeners.

Welcome to Spartan Up Podcast we're here on a gorgeous day at the Spartan Stadium race at Dodger Stadium. We've got Joe De Sana. We got Tim Nye with Sephra, Johnny, Marion, Andrea the whole crew and we've got a great guest. This guy Sanjay Rawal ...All I want to say about him because you're going to find out lot more great stuff, he wrote an... he made an amazing movie with a 3100 mile foot race.

You might not know this but we actually made the movie with him.

We were here for Spartan Up we're a Dodger Stadium I'm what Sanjay Rawal my new buddy. So check this out. I grew up in Queens everybody knows my mother got into yoga meditation health food in the 70s and at some point in our childhood she introduces us to this race. What's the name of the race transcendence run.

The Self transcendence 3100 mile run.

3100 mile run and and when I think about Spartan and I think about how we got here that introduction that event actually help even if it was behind the scenes in my subconscious get this thing going called Spartan. You out of the blue a year or two ago reached out to me.

Telling me about your project where you want to create a documentary on this run and started tell me like the back stories and things you want to cover. I was like This is unbelievable it's as if my mother's making the film. So so we made a film.

Having that kind of connection especially that personal connection meant a lot to me. You know everyone has good experiences with their mothers at least at some point in their life to the fact that the inspiration came from your mother your mother's kind of guidance of your childhood really really touched me. But then it's like there's nothing that's kind of inspired me in a certain way and in my mind that the work that you've done. Like I read your book. And we had a mutual friend that I don't know if I talked to you about Swami Buwa died at 120 years old and he could blow a conch shell for like three minutes.

Supposedly 120, we don't know.

So I met him in New York in the mid 90s. And it's like he was the first person that really illustrated the idea of living beyond the physical and really transcending age. And in New York City I had a spiritual teacher named Sri Chinmoy who actually founded that 3100 mile race. And so when we connected it all kind of came full circle.

Did you spend any time at St John of Divine's church.

I have. Yeah.

And did you because of those connections.

Yes.

I used to go there a lot as a kid because my mother's teachers were all there. So I actually want to do some filming down there because that church really has a lot of meaning for me. But let's talk about the movie. Tell us about the movie.

So I wanted to do a movie about the world's longest race which is 3100 miles. Participants are required to do about 60 miles a day for 52 days and it all happens around a half mile sidewalk loop in Queens in the summer. This is the 22nd year. But you know making a film has you know a show something that's really interesting and dynamic and showing people meditatively running in circles isn't that exciting. So it kind of like amp up the visuals and really show people how and why this race is even possible. We have a Navajo narrative. We have a narrative what the San Bushmen one of the oldest cultures in the world they live in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. And that the marathon monks whom I know you're very familiar with the group out of Kyoto Japan that pick one person a generation to run a thousand days and if you don't finish your daily mileage yet to kill yourself.

Stakes are high stakes are high and a lot of people say I'm crazy with the stuff we do and I think you know what I'm not crazy. There's lots of rituals and religions and as well as the ethical part of a religion or the metaphysical part of religion. And so we're just talking about some riht. This is like a modern day religion. What you're describing what we have in the background here.

It's true what I learned from making this film which took three years and took me around the world. Was that, the first form of prayer was with our feet. We hunted it like we followed animals we tracked We foraged and ... it's a chicken and the egg thing. Did we develop spirituality around that practice or was it because of spirituality that we were able to hunt and gather so well. I spent time with the Bushmen who were one of the oldest living hunters and gatherers still. Practicing. And they feel like the cosmology of hunting, and man's essential nature and woman's essential nature are tied together. So running moving was the first way that we as human beings communicated with the divine. It was the first way that we actually generated inner progress and experienced transcendence. I think we think we lost a lot of that and it's taken you know races like that 3100 events and cultures like Spartans to remind humans of what we essentially are physical beings connected to the divine through our bodies.

So you don't think we're getting that same connection through the couch and the remote control?

I guess if you're watching Spartan races all the time you might get a little glimmer of that But no. They even say Right and you guys are proselytizers of this. You know your metabolism when you're sitting is slower than while you're sleeping. It's death. And we as human beings we were always on the move and when we lose that we lose our connection to earth when we lose that we lose our connection to the heavens.

So so the movie comes out when?

The movie comes out in theaters starting August 17th. We're going to have a rolling release through the southwest through all the great athletic cities. We're going to be at the Spartan World Championships at North Lake Tahoe at the end of September hit Chicago New York and they'll be full theatrical runs a week or two at three in each city.

How hard was it to make this film.?

I got pneumonia. On the very last day of shooting. It's like as soon as he wrapped. My body it was like. OK now it's time to get healthy again. And I'm going to lay you down. So it was really hard. The Bushmen story in Botswana was one of the most challenging the Bushmen have been hunting for 125 thousand years. But about 20 years ago. That the black Botswanan government discovered copper and other minerals on their ancestral territory which is a desert. And that provided them a reason to... exclude ... to kick out the Bushmen to stop them to prevent them from hunting. To the present day when hunting is illegal and so we flew into Botswana we sneaked into the country with a couple of Bushmen guides who are willing to go on camera and show the ancestral persistence hunts even at great risk. I mean they could be thrown in jail. So we were basically evading park rangers. We were evading local government in order to capture a story that's kind of... in its in its last chapter.

So it doesn't exist anymore?

It doesn't.

Describe, describe one of those hunts.

So traditionally the only advantage that men and woman had in the Sahara. I mean look at us. It's like you know like you know you and I don't look like Neanderthals who weren't six foot five like these little guys in the Sahara competing against giraffe. Wildabeasts lions hyenas. We have no physical advantage. The advantage that we had was that we could carry water. Some people say it was endurance but everything kind of had endurance. The advantage that we had was if we could carry water and we didn't need to time our breath to our gate. If you're on four feet. It's like when you extend you breath in. When you push back you breathe out that we could breathe independently of our gait so we could go long distances slowly. And so what the Bushmen and other cultures you know way back when hunters and gatherers did was they tried to exhaust animals. We knew where the watering holes were and we could carry water so you'd see an animal let's say a kudu like an African elk you chase it away from water it would go off at 30 miles an hour.

There's no way you're going to you're going to be able to follow it but except by tracking. So you're tracking it you locate it's tracks you go into the area that blocks it from the next watering hole you chase it away. After two days the animal can barely walk because it hasn't been drinking whereas you and your hunters have been drinking. The Bushmen didn't have long range weaponry they'd have poison arrows that could shoot a distance of 12 feet. So you'd have to get 12 feet away from the animal kill it with a poisoned arrow. And if the animal was a giraffe you weren't going to be able to butcher a giraffe with your six hunters and carry it back two days to your village. You know you send a runner back two days and the village would move. And so it's like they were nomadic hunters and gatherers within a specific territory with the multiple little village points but they survive by being able to track and being able to run slow and long.

What was a normal distance for a bushman to catch an animal?

So these these hunts take two days and go upwards of 120 miles and they're all barefoot. So we were with a team of Bushman hunters who were hunting underground like they did not want to be caught by rangers because they'd be shot on sight. So we went out with them and after the first 12 hours they found something worth hunting. They didn't want to get like a little scrawny things. But by the end of 12 hours you know our team we were exhausted like we were carrying cameras and I was carrying water and food and all this junk they were carrying little bottles of water and no food whatsoever. So after about 12 to 14 hours we ended up basically losing animals because we couldn't keep up with them. And plus the animals that would see us in our sunglasses in our Oakley's and in our Under Armour gear whereas the Bushmen didn't have anything reflective and so we had to settle for much smaller animals than the big game like they ended up seeing these little antelope. And ended up tracking them and killing one of those. So it didn't take two days because we couldn't have lasted two days.

Did you end up eatings some antelope?

So this is interesting. Like I'd always read that our advantage as hunters was by tiring animals out entirely and we were with one particular hunter that was the best Bushman Hunter. And it's like a fish story everybody told me this guy can catch an animal by outrun by chasing it down. It can or he can run faster than an antelope and it's like. I'm not going to square it. But its like BS. Give me a break. Like yeah I caught a 18 pound guppy. So we're with them. And at this stage it kind of got sick of us because like we were slowing him down. And we weren't really good hunters. And at one point he saw these tracks that were apparently this antelope

And he ran super quickly towards this Bush. This antelope jumped out, and antelope, they can they can hit 40 miles an hour. The Antelope took off this way. But the hunter Gollow understood that at a certain point running up this hill the antelope would cut down. So Gollow actually chose his trajectory in a straight line the antelope went this way came down and Gallo tackled it and grabbed it. And we asked him like why didn't he throw a little spear or an arrow at it. And he said you know we've got like 45 miles to walk home and if I've pierced the skin of that there'd be blood everywhere. And so I said I would I prefer to actually catch it by my hands and break its neck and carry it intact back to the village then to kill it with a spear. But we watched it and we saw it. And the problem with the filming was he'd get smaller and smaller and smaller and so he couldn't necessarily outrun an animal in terms of velocity but he could accelerate it. And he could figure out intuitively where it was going to run so that he would have a shorter distance.

That's awesome. All right we're going to take a break. Let's go you and I'll catch a squirrel or something and then come back.

I'll go get my poison arrows and get a couple of pigeons too.

Hey Spartan podcast we're here at the top of the gondola in Morzine France one of the most beautiful place I've ever seen in my life. And I think I think we're really lucky in the podcast. Wee get to go to amazing places all over the world. And we get amazing partners like Athletic Greens.

Yeah. No we couldn't we couldn't be any more blessed.

And friends like you guys.

Community. Community The Spartan Community.

And the community of plants. And that's what's in Athletic Greens. A community of plants!

And that's beautiful. Talk to us about it.

Well I don't know if you guys know like dandelion is or Burdock a chlorella and Spirulina and Reishi and it's basically creating an edible forest of goodness for your belly which is what we like to do so we can go run around these edible forrests of goodness.

So this is good for your digestion?

It's good for your digestion its good for your brain its good for your heart good for your relationships. It will bring you love and luck.

And clearly its good for your hair, look at you.

Check out my Lupin. These are wild lupins. Does anyone know what this is. Seeds. OK Lupins, mostly poisonous except for one crazy species, NOT in Athletic Greens but...

So I just want to say something: I don't know that much about this stuff. You know so much about all these plants. I don't need to know.

The more you know the more you know you don't know.

So you forage all over the world. I don't I go to my fridge but this has been foraged for us. I mean it's seventy five ingredients all raw natural sourced from all over the world. The stuff that I'm just not going to get my day to day diet.

True.

This is good for anybody. This is good for athletes. So all the Spartans up here. This is good for people of my age. This is good you can give it to kids.

See this is even... OH look at that dog!! This is even fast food. This is like fast food fuel that's good for you.

So when Sefra said look at that dog. I always forget because I watch these on youtube. Forget the people listen ito these on iTunes. I want to describe what's around us. We have the most incredible.

Alpine landscape...

green with like evergreens and like you can see with ski hills are on the other side...

Red Clover White Clover ground cover.

You can see the glaciers that are there year round. It really is quite spectacular.

We've got mountain bikers ...

and women lederhosen...

parasalers...

We've got the European Championship going on for Spartan. We've got some kind of...

Your wife's here looking gorgeous! and we've got Andrea as always!

Anyway, there's a lot going on and in the middle of it all is Athletic Greens.

And I just want to say the great thing about it. We travel all over the world and you don't always bring everything with you. They have these little travel packets. If you're on a plane you have it .. if you're in a... You know we get busy right you've got to jump...

...On horseback.

You've got to jump in the cab you didn't have breakfast you tear open you've got your water, pour it in. It really is the most portable thing you've ever had.

I was agoing to say mobile, portable same thing.

And to be honest ... We'll wrap this up here... But like it's one of those green juices that doesn't give you a bellyache because sometimes when it's all packed like you just feel good I just feel ready to run around the lupin fields of Morzine and...

I just wanna say I as being honest the whole time.

Yeah I didn't need the caveat.

Athletic Greens! Yum!

This episode of Spartan Up is brought to you by Athletic Greens ensure your body gets the nutrition it needs. Athletic Greens has a special offer for our listeners. Just go to Athletic Greens dot com slash Spartan and then when you place your order they'll send you a free travel pack with twenty individually wrapped packets. That's a free offer just for our listeners.

All right. How can we apply some of the learnings ... how long this film take to make?

About three and a half years.

How can we apply some of that three and a half years of experiences and learnings to our own lives.

What I learned from making this film was that happiness is solely dependent on your physicality. In this day and age, if you're not making progress physically if you're not challenging yourself physically you're not challenging your mind and your heart. There are so few opportunities that we have being sedentary to really open our hearts up to higher energies and to higher learnings at the same time it's like that physicality can't just be like 1 run a week. It can't be just one race a year. It has to be like a day to day religion. And I learned from this film that. Running, that hunting, that hiking that moving was religion for human beings for millions of years. And you know we need to incorporate that aspect of physicality into our day to day lives.

They all said I was crazy. Millions of years. Did you hear that.

I'm telling you it's like you guys are called Spartan from a civilization that was 2000 years ago. They didn't come up with that philosophy on their own. They came up with that philosophy based on people that they had known about for a thousand years 2000 years 10000 years. In fact the lineage goes back a million two million years and it's something that I think we've only lost in the last couple of hundred. And it's I don't think we're really going to advance as a society and reach kind of levels of transcendence until we go back. People always like looking to the future. But if you don't understand what you've lost you're never going to get to a full future. I think that's what you guys represent. That's what you inspire in me and my filmmaking. And I saw that in all these cultures around the world as well.

You and I are like the Flintstones and we're going up against the Jetsons.

Yeah but it's like at the end of the day it's like you know if you're Norma or whatever the other jetson characters are and like a big mammoth stands in front of you. Who do you want at your back. Do you want Fred Flintstone or do you want like a you know...

Who would be Barney and...I'm going to go with Fred.

So we dove into the Bushmen we dove into what people could do in their everyday lives. Let's go into the run itself what learnings can we take what did you you learn there?

So like not everybody can be a Bushman. Right. You're born Bushman you're born in Navajo. It's like to choose to be a Japanese monk. What will it take like a decade. But there are some things you can do you can push yourself physically through Spartan the self transcendence 3100 mile race gives you a similar experience. People from around the world come to Queens every summer to try to do 60 miles a day for 52 days all around a half mile loop. People say like repetition would destroy my mind. I'd much rather run through the forest but you know from from the death race that, if you know that you're going to have aid in certain places at certain times you're able to separate yourself. If you if you know that you are able to have some consistency. You're able to separate yourself and go go deep within, or if the environment is totally beyond your control you can do the same thing. So what the 3100 people come to this block in Queens and in order to reach that mileage of 50 to 60 day 60 miles a day for 52 days I think they have to like..develop ways to actually get joy from the pain.

Find enthusiasm create enthusiasm. I like to fake it you'll smile through it you crack jokes, many military use humor. Spartans use humor to get through tough times.

And one of the main characters in the film is a Finnish paper boy and he set the record at thirty one hundred seventy seven miles a day in 40 days. He works in a very Spartan job. He delivers papers and he's done that for the last 20 years 12 hours a day on his feet delivering papers in the middle of the night in Finland and that's his training but he said the way he actually trained for this race. Is by understanding how to quickly move on from bad stimuli like when he gets a blister. It's like you've got to go beyond that with your mind you have to find humor in the worst situations and that allows you to move from problem to problem to problem and not get fixated so in the .. in the run people are encountering things like whether they're encountering blisters they're losing weight they're getting sunburned. They're aching but it's like the question for you is in those situations how do people transcend that. How do people find joy. In a physical situation that seems like it's going to limit your progress.

Yeah I'm lucky because I have ADD so my mind quickly gets off to a blister. But a lot of people don't have that. And you've got to actually work at getting your mind off the negative and turning it into a positive.

And so these runners I think most of their training is done before they hit the starting line. It's like they have to understand how to be cheerful in the face of the worst problems. They have to learn how to be enthusiastic...

Which we should apply to our everyday lives.

And it's like they train themselves in the day to day life. And in fact like the race organizers only choose people that have the right mental attitude because no matter how physically superior you are you're not going to make it through a race like that. Just like the Death Race you're not going to make it through. Just based on your physique, you have to have access to other tools.

You're awesome. That was fun.

What a nice guy and I like where is heart and where he tracks like where his spirit goes. Because I mean he's he's capturing great stories. I can just imagine just annoying little kids just standing on the street corner for 3100 miles you know like throwing water balloons.

But I was one of those kids. This whole thing happened the reason we connected to him was when I was a kid my mother grew up in Queens. My mother brought me to that race the predecessor of the 3100 mile you know what it's called now..

Transcendence... Joe De Sena transcended.

Well I definitely transcended and ... And so it is very near and dear to me. So when I heard he was making this movie, wanted to make this movie, I said we're all in. So Spartan got behind it and that and that's how we ended up here and he goes much deeper than this race in Queens he goes out to look at the marathon monks which you know we love, he goes out to see like ... Kalahari Bushmen...

So I've studied with a great naturalist called John Young and he's one of the best trackers in the world studied under the lineage of Tom Brown Jr. and basically he's taking people out to the San Bushmen in the Okavango Delta because they're the best trackers in the world. They're such good trackers that they don't even need to see the tracks you can almost see the spirit lines, the track of where the animal energy is gone. If that sounds a little out there I can understand that for most people but when you're so tuned in right... He would always say he would watch the Bushmen's children playing and he's like what's interesting here... He's like oh they're playing silently they will be playing full on rowdy raucous games with each other. Right. But they were silent. Why. Because all the other elders of the tribe were paying attention to the bird language and what's going on are also Lion can you know come up and sneak up on them and you know so there's just kind of a different set of rules that you play by and they're just extraordinary people. I've never been out there but a perseverance hunt... I mean he was talking about hunting the great ghost the Kudu, Right, which is the antelope which is what they were talking about chasing which are like some of the hardest in the world. I want to see a Kudu so badly,,,.

Before you go Johnny I just want to say I wasn't so blown away with that even though it seems impossible to track by foot an animal because you know the story in Vermont where I had that guy working in the back yard with a backhoe any dove off the backhoe and he tackled a deer by hand and killed it with a handsaw.

A deer is different than the grey ghost Joe.

There's a difference between tracking and happening upon.

I love that story...

What I want to say about that tracking, because its an incredible story. He talks about you know chasing the animals away from the water following them they can run a lot faster but they can't carry water keep them away..

It's like the Death Rayce...

...but keep them away from water. But I loved when he said that they couldn't recreate it with them there he said because the Bushmen do it right. We're there filming them we've got her Oakley sunglasses on a reflective clothing he said so they couldn't catch the animal that they were trying to catch. And they actually had to settle for some smaller animals. But I loved sort of the humility and the like. I get that we ruined their hunt. You know that we can't just show up and...

Becaus they were a disruptive force...

That's a lovely...

changes all the energy of everything right. But you know he talked about the reason humans survived. The reason we evolved not because we're stronger not because we're bigger not because we're faster but because we learned how to do it and you know you talk a lot about grit sand resilience in business and you talk about parenting and all these things that are these these endurance sport you know raising kids is an endurance sport. But the idea that persistence and the idea that you've got to figure out what works and do it and maybe sometimes it means you can take a lot longer than you thought it was. And so many people don't succeed because they they stop. They get that first hurdle and they stop. You know they lose sight of the antelope and they stop.

Well persistence would be a lot easier if we weren't in the first world right if we back up a thousand years. You had no choice but to be persistant...

And now and now everything is delivered to you, Uber eats right...

But the smart part about that as you said that they wouldn't catch the Antelope. He said what they did was he went 90 degree angle to it. Right. Because he knew that it was going to come that he was going to come back around. Right. So in business if you can have we talking about the long odds are the long game of it if you can see... you know it's going to be a difficult part but you know at some point it pivots and be prepared for that at that end then maybe you win the day and you get the ... grey ghost.

So regardless of your environment learn how to read the signs.

Yeah.

Or as Wayne Gretzky the Canadian would say ...

He talked about religion. I thought that was interesting, good point Marion and...

Wait what about Wayne Gretzky?

or as Wayne Gretzky the great Canadian would say don't go to where the puck is... figure out where the puck is going to go and go there. But Joe you were talking about religion and the idea about how that changes.

Like for me right religion. I got really focused on the rituals. But he was talking about the first real religion was was run with our feet. Get out there and get still in a even though you're moving like that. That was a religious experience and so I thought that was interesting.

I think it's probably fair to say from the anthropology standpoint that the further we moved away from nature when we became settlers and farmers rather than hunter gatherers we had to start creating stories because you didn't need a story when you got up every day and went looking for that animal everything else right so it ... recorded history is when we as far back as we know there is religion. And so.. yeah there's something to be said for that that religion is in the woods.

Well you don't you don't need entertainment when you are trying to survive.

Well that is entertaining.

Unless you're really hungry and you can't catch the animal...

When you're tracking and you are talking about thousands of years ago. You're talking about you have to stay singularly focused on that tracking and so you don't need entertainment...

There's your meditation right there.

That is it right there.

You're meditating on finding that...

... and to your point to bring it back to seeds for a second... is when we went from hunter gatherers to agricultural societies it was because we were able to take teosinte and make it into corn or maize that you can harvest, when you can get those seeds that were able to produce enough food that you were able to be like stay in one place. And when we were able to have the food that could provide for enough of a civilization that's when you have the luxury to spend more time with music spend more time with art spend more time with storytelling and ...

...spend more time doing Spartan Races at Dodger Stadium...

Yeah but I think he's got a great he's got a great he's got a great vision we're all really excited to see the movie and come see us at spartan dot com slash podcast.

Check us out on YouTube. Sign up and Toodles.

This episode of Spartan up is brought to you by Athletic Greens ensure your body gets the nutrition it needs. Athletic Greens has a special offer for our listeners. Just go to Athletic Greens dot com slash Spartan and then when you place your order they'll send you a free travel pack with 20 individually wrapped packets. That's a free offer just for our listeners. Thanks for listening to another epic story of success if you like our show be sure to tell your friends about it. We want to hear from you just leave us a comment below if you're watching on YouTube or if you're listening go to Twitter and find us at SpartanUpPod or Instagram at SpartanUpPodcast and let us know what you think. Then go subscribe on iTunes YouTube Stitcher Spotify wherever you listen to our show. Spartan up is brought to you by Spartan race to find a race naer you visit Spartan.com

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CREDITS

  • Producer – Marion Abrams, Madmotion, llc.
  • Hosts: Joe De Sena with Johnny Waite, Sefra Alexandra, and Col. Tim Nye
  • Synopsis – Sefra Alexandra

© 2018 Spartan