My dad, Dmytro Lebedev, started running marathons at the age of 49. He was a good sprinter in his teens and later was fond of ski racing. In 1990 he completed his first Moscow International Peace Marathon in a time of 3:09. I still remember that moment when he came back home to Kiev the next day, quite tired and exhausted but with glowing eyes. It was hard for the body, but he was so excited and literally shining. For me it was the final push I needed to start thinking about running a marathon. At that time I was studying at the Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology and was training for ski races under the guidance of Olympic champion Lubov Zabolotskaya. I inherited a serious approach to things from my father and after the winter ski season in 1994 I chose to compete in the Sri Chinmoy Rainbow Marathon at the end of April. I ran about 550 km the last month prior to the marathon and completed my first marathon in 2:46:04. My father did not believe it! There was no certificate or official protocol in those days to prove my finishing time and he was quite skeptical about my meditation practice and our Marathon Team. So I decided to run the official Moscow Peace Marathon in autumn of the same year. It was harder for me the second time, but I managed to finish in 2:51. My father was more or less satisfied. So, that is how, due to my father’s personal example, I started my long distance running career.
Later in 1994 when I organized our first public Sri Chinmoy Peace 2 Mile races dedicated to United Nations in Kiev downtown, he participated and ran our race in 11:13. He received a small trophy for fourth place…Altogether he ran our 2 mile race 4 times.
That first marathon in 1994 is still my fastest, but over the years my father improved his marathon time. Once he got inspired to apply for the famous Berlin Marathon that is considered to have the flattest and fastest course in the world. It was in the fall of 2002 – I also got inspired to support him and run the marathon with him. That was the same year I won the 47 mile race in August in 6:18:21. At the end of September we arrived at Berlin – both of us were in good shape. I was aiming to improve my best marathon time and started quite fast… Then my legs became heavier and heavier and at one point I caught myself enjoying sightseeing in Berlin more than trying to transcend my PB. Around 38 km my father passed me with good speed exclaiming: “Let’s go!”. But I just couldn’t. So he finished with his PB in 2:53:31, my time was 2:59. He was so happy!
My father never aims at marathon quantity. He usually chooses one marathon a year, trains hard, and has an excellent performance for his age category. He is ranked #2 in Europe. Once while I was experiencing tough times during the 3100, I started thinking about taking a break from the 3100. In the next few days I spoke on the phone with my father and it turned out that he came in second in the European Veteran Athletics Championships Marathon in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 3:04:51 (at the age of 67). I realized, that my retirement is a far cry :)
Although my father unintentionally inspired me to start my long distance running, he was not very supportive of my first 3100 mile race. I remember that before I traveled to my first race in 2004, I told my father that I was going to work in the States for a few months. After I arrived I sent him an email to tell him that I would be unavailable for the next couple of months because I would be doing the longest race in the world. All his anger I smartly escaped… Then, when I presented him my first book that was published in 2005: “My first 3100 miles” – I saw how his attitude changed. He became very proud of me! I think that, as a professor, he treasured published books. In 2007 I successfully inspired my father to try our 6 day race in New York. He applied with his friend and Sri Chinmoy approved both of them! But before the race he changed his mind… For a long 5 years my dream of his coming to New York to our race was postponed. Then finally he decided to run our Self-transcendence Marathon in 2011. Maybe it’s coincidence, but this was the year of Sri Chinmoy 80th birth anniversary and my father’s 70th. Before that day, I had a dream in which I presented my father with a trophy on completion of our marathon. That year, at the beginning of the summer, I left for my 8th start of the 3100 mile race with plans to meet my father in the middle of August in the Big Apple. Two months before the Marathon he started his usual training programme, running approximately 150 km per week.
We often checked our progress by phone:
– I ran 109 km yesterday, it was a good day for me on the 3100
– I ran 32 km in 2:26 during my training as planned.
So, I did my part and finished my most difficult 3100 mile race on August 3d. On August 19th, together with Alakananda, we met my dad at JFK. He liked New York instantly. He still had one more week of training before the Marathon. I showed him my favorite running route through Cunningham Park and beyond, which I used to train for the 47 mile race. He liked it also!
He was at the starting line of the Marathon at 6 am on August 25, 2011 in very good shape. It was very humid that morning, but there was no rain. He ran at a very steady pace from the start to the end. He finished in a fantastic time of 3:13:59 – 6 days before his 70th birthday! He placed first in his age group of 60-69 and 13th overall. Later he said that many times during the marathon he thought about not letting me down. And he was successful! When I asked Rupantar to present a trophy to my dad, he immediately agreed – thus my long cherished dream came true! We can’t find that photo from the award ceremony, but I remember my feeling that we were the happiest persons at that moment…
Stutisheel, 3100 Mile Runner