In the month of March, 1985, Subarata successfully finished Auckland’s Ironman triathlon in a little under 12 hours, an almost Homeric adventure. For all the wrong reasons I shared her relief at finishing as I had followed her around for months – her support crew – breathing hard and peddling on an ancient bike through remote parts of rural Auckland while she flew effortlessly up and down hills in training on a gleaming Shogun. I spent weekends changing punctured tires and poring over maps, wondering how to find my way back to the sanctuary of the faraway city while interested cows lined their paddock fences and listened to my mutterings. Subarata had disappeared into the shimmering distance.
During her swim training I had secured an equally ancient dinghy and with flailing oars battled through the green chop of the Waitemata Harbor, trying to keep sight of her yellow hair as she dipped and sank with the breathing, swelling sea. Our tiny house was littered with bike parts, sprockets and chains, training manuals, goggles, shoe-goo.
One of only a tiny handful of women competitors in the full Ironman, her presence generated a great deal of interest with the commentators, and whole pages of biographical minutiae were shared with the attentive, cheering crowds. The race director announced, “And now let’s hear it for Subarata Cunningham, who is a member of the Sri Chinmoy meditation group in Auckland. Look at her go! She’s clearly meditating even now to get that last bit of energy and peace!” Then Subarata lumbered out of the gathering dusk and shadows, looking extremely cranky and in her most unmeditative consciousness, and we were worried for her and at the same time smiling at the remarks.
One weekend we went south to the great crater lakes near Rotorua and she swam alone and fearlessly across an immense emerald deep, a tiny dot against the vast sheen of water, disappearing finally from view and swallowed up by colossal distance. I drove to the other side, paced the shoreline worrying about her, watched the summer clouds marble the hillsides and mountains with shifting shadows. Then she would appear, a splash of white far out, the languid calm of the arms rising and falling. I always admired her resolute spirit and the joyous gratitude she felt when she met her considerable goals.