Somehow it was slipping away from me. Like it always does, the 47 mile inspires and touches my heart like no other running event. This year the night of the race was perfect. The evening air was cool and light as the midnight start approached. An impressive group had turned out to participate in a run that has now taken place on every August 27th for the past 31 years.
I had taken hundreds of pictures in and around the track lit bright by candles and dangling light bulbs. Out on the still twisting streets I flashed even more shots of the smiling faces of the intrepid runners who ran with light and determined steps, at least during the early laps.
Throughout the long night more and more precious moments from the race where being captured by my camera and my microphone. Those fragments of joy, of determination and of selfless service had inexorably gathered into a mountain of data stuffed onto digital memory cards. After the race I faced the daunting task of unraveling a story that now seemed much more difficult than tying on shoes and running the 47 miles itself. A persistent case of nagging procrastination dogged my heels for weeks. I felt myself almost uncontrollably sliding towards a precipice where the story was heading towards some digital oblivion.
Then on a recent bright Sunday, which seemed to be gilded more by the soothing promise of Spring than the gray dullness of late Autumn, I found myself out running on the 47 mile loop. On an afternoon flooded with light and warmth I felt myself caught up in fervent tide of sweet memory. From whence it came I do not know but soon my dawdling middle aged footsteps were feeling the selfsame effortless lightness and unbridled hope of all those many times I had run the 47 as a much younger man. It was though my own countless cherished memories of running the race were reaching out to me from my own not too distant past. But it was not just my own memories that were calling out to me it was as well as though the inspired experiences of those who had just run weeks earlier were calling out to me to bring that magical night back into focus. To find a voice for a magical event in which impossibility itself becomes banished in the boundless enthusiasm of those who take part in this most sacred of Sri Chinmoy Marathon team running events.
As I rounded the corner near goose pond and made the sweeping right hand turn, across from Jamaica High school and looked ahead, I had a profound moment. It was a vivid experience in which I felt as though I could clearly see Sri Chinmoy running on the road ahead of me. He had run the full race himself on 2 occasions and had run on the course during the race at least one more time. I remember clearly, during one race, coming round this same corner only to be shocked to see the familiar form of my Spiritual teacher bobbing along under the dim street lights in front of me.
At the time he would have been either 48 or 49 years of age. I was in my running prime and gradually I was overtaking him. As I came up behind him, each step I took I felt myself repeating his name in silence to myself.
This was after all his birthday and it was in honor of him that I ran. It could not escape me what a beautiful experience it was to thus find him there on the course as well. I can remember my slow and inevitable approach from behind him and then my sweeping pass on his right side. I can remember saying something as simple as, “Way to go Guru, way to go.” I am not aware of any comment or remark that he may have made in return. Nor do I remember any other time that I passed him again, though most certainly through the night I must have passed by him a few more times. What I do recall however is how so much I wished to carry him with me throughout the night and lighten the burden of his steps. Yet inevitably in time I would understand, that all along that it was he who was actually carrying me.