6. Long Journeys

Although not a speedster, Subarata had doggedness and mental toughness and brought these qualities to her participation in triathlons and ultra-distance races. She competed in three 700-mile races – in the Septembers of 1991, 1996 and 1998 – completing the distance on that final thirteen-day outing with only three hours to spare. I would wake her at 2:00 in the morning after she had taken a recuperative short nap and she would stare at me uncomprehendingly. “Who are you?” she asked on a couple of occasions. “I’m your husband,” I would reply. “We have been married for the past fifteen years.”

Returning only slowly to the reality of her human life, she would ask me strange questions, the residues from her faraway sleep-world, and I would attempt answers that might coax her back. I have several videos of her lying in her tent, a little dazed and her mind all but gone from exhaustion, being quizzed by her friends. There is something absolutely innocent there, and childlike, and the guileless heart and spirit have crept into her eyes and face.

Subarata never saw these events as a race or competition but simply as an intensification of her own spiritual life. All her mental barriers fell away, leaving her feeling her trusted teacher very close in her heart. In May, 1992, she ran 361 miles in another multi-day event, and in Auckland she ran in our own 24-hour event.

Subarata had an almost spiritual affinity with the ocean. She embraced it and loved it, swimming across great stretches of sea with that languid, floppy-armed reach of the long-haul swimmer. Confident above the depths that dropped down into unfathomable blackness, she loved feeling the heaving sea rising and breathing beneath her – unlike her landlubber, waist-deep-only husband. She loved dolphins, hoped she had been one in another time in her evolution – and was mildly disappointed when Guru hinted at a different animal incarnation.

Guru’s spiritual name for her – Subarata – succinctly means “the message of inspiration.” Her running and her wonderful reason for running inspired many New Zealanders to tackle the great distances. The New Zealand Ultra Runners Association ranked her as our nation’s second-best woman ultramarathoner of the twentieth century.