Need some running motivation. Dipali Cunningham is a great Australian runner you probably haven’t heard of. She has lived in the USA for 35 years and has raced almost exclusively in North America but she stills call Australia home. She might be small in size and quietly spoken, but her running achievements are towering by any standards, especially in the field of multi-day running.

A netballer in her youth, Dipali only started running when she was 21, pushed into it by her brother who was dragging her along to a lot of Melbourne races in his own attempts to get under two hours thirty for the marathon. She watched the races from the sidelines and was impressed by the runners’ attitude in general and the positive self-image they carried. Soon she joined in and started training seriously. “After a while it became a way of life,” she says. “Running is the best way to start the day.”

Dipali got nippy over distances up to and including the marathon (her marathon PB is 3:07) but when she moved to New York she discovered ultrarunning. Each year the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team hosts a 47-mile (75.6 km) event and Dipali has put her own stamp on this race, winning it 27 times. The race takes place on her birthday. Even in 2015, on her 57th birthday, she won the race in 6 hours 42 minutes – which is only about half an hour longer than what she was doing when she was 31. “I think it teaches me that age is in all in the mind,” she says.  

After winning a number of 10-day, 700-mile and 1000-mile events, Dipali started focusing on the classic 6-day race. Since 1998, she has won the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 6-Day Race an amazing 18 times in a row. In 2001, at age 42, she surpassed her own female world record, running 820 kilometres.

Dipali often uses meditation to cope with the mental and physical challenges of ultrarunning. “I just try to compete with myself, do the best I can and rely on grace.” True. But Dipali definitely has a competitive streak and extraordinary talent. You have to have those qualities to win so many races. 

In 2009, Pam Reed of ‘Born to Run’ fame entered the Sri Chinmoy 6-Day Race and arrived with a huge entourage. A multiple outright Bad Water Marathon winner, Pam had handlers, photographers and medical assistants all in tow. You name it Pam had it. She also declared her intention to break all sorts of 6-day records and this got Dipali very motivated. They had an epic battle, and at age 50 Dipali took victory, running further than any other female had in 6 days – 513 miles (825 km). Pam ran 788 kilometres and, needless to say, both of them blitzed the rest of the field. Dipali didn’t last the awards ceremony though. She passed out from exhaustion on the dais.

So, what was better: defeating one of the best female ultra-runners at the time and setting a world record or doing a PB? “Definitely the PB. The whole thing was like a dream. It was such a thrill to transcend my best and gave me such a feeling of accomplishment.” And what does running mean to her? “It is a way to feel good about yourself.  It gives me real inner and outer strength and makes me feel I am the person I am meant to be.”

·         36 multiday races completed

·         30 first place finishes

·         12 times overall wins (beating all men and women in the race)

·         1st ranked in the world and 3 world records — 6-day race (women):

o   1998 811.1km/504 miles

o   2001 820.7km/510 miles

o   2009 50 years old 825.5km/513 miles

·         3rd ranked woman in world for 1126km/700 miles

·         4th ranked woman in world for 1069km/1,000 miles

·         33 Australian National records (24 hours to 1,000 miles)

·         2014 American US age group record 55-59 years 764.4km/475 miles

 

Dipali will be visiting Perth on October 31 and is traveling around Australia to Melbourne, Brisbane (Nov. 9) and Canberra afterwards. As our keynote speaker she will be talking on fitness, motivation, running and nutrition. Visit www.meditationperth.org for more info