You Must Do Your Work Here

The race is heading into its 3rd day now and the sun bright weather of the past 2 days took a decidedly damp turn this afternoon.  It is not unexpected of course at this time of year.  The race always has a constant solution for not only the cold and damp but as well perhaps for a host of other ailments in a runner’s long long journey here.  The simple answer is often a warm and satisfying visit to the food tent, in which these 5 ladies work tirelessly from  the pre dawn darkness to well past the sleepy time of the sun.

Every volunteer here at the race has a crucial role to play, but without the tireless dedication of the cooks the fuel that fires the great running engine of the race would sputter out within a few hours.  The runners of course have their own particular stash of treats and concoctions on their tables but inevitably they will come in through the door of the food tent many times each day.  They may snatch a cookie or forage up a steaming plate, a cold drink or a hot brew, but there is more than calories to be found within its always open door.

There is a banquet of love and caring heaped here as well as food.  You can feel it energize you even as you walk by on the road outside whether or not you feel tempted to swerve off from the course and enter inside.  For many years Sushovita, holding Roxy, was the Queen of this realm throughout the great spectrum of the day.  Now she holds court just for breakfast and has handed over the rest of the day to Nandana and her crew.

Tomorrow a long hard job will become even more challenging.  The 6 day race starts at noon and this means there will be more than 40 more hungry bodies to feed and keep fueled.  Nandana and her helpers have performed so far to delicious fulfilling perfection.  They have demonstrated magnificently that their job isn’t about rolling out an endless assembly line of staggering calorie totals.  Rather they have made their food tasty and beautiful and the runner’s reviews are not just in their smiles as they leave, but also in the number of their miles on the board, climbing ever higher as they run by.

Nandana arrives at 6 am every morning and doesn’t leave again until around 9:30 every evening.  When asked the number she has been cooking for so far the answer isn’t just the 29 names so far on the board.   If you include helpers of all sorts, the number balloons out to about 50.

During a short break I have a chance to chat with both Nandana and Vedisha about what the experience has been like cooking so far.  Vedisha is unique in that she has run the race herself.  For herself she calls running the race, “a hard adventure on yourself. When you go back to your normal life you look at things on a totally different level.”  She describes how the small normal things of life take on new and inspiring significance.  “You value these things.”

Now that she is working with Nandana and is part of the cooking crew she is having a different kind of experience.  Of all the self giving taking place here she says, “it is so nice to be among these people.  It is very inspiring.”  She had not planned to be a cook but instead had been training to run the 10 day race instead.  When she heard that the cooking crew was short of help she was inspired instead to be part of the race in this way.  For her it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you  become part of it.

“Because it is my first time I wanted to be completely prepared,” says Nandana.  For more than a month she had started her preparations.  From the beginning of the race things have been going smoothly that is until last night.  She describes for me a scene in which a huge Shepards pie made the worst possible detour as it was inches from making a safe landing on the runner’s food table.  She says, “In that moment we just froze.”  Only for a moment was the solution not obvious.  The catastrophe she says was a test in some ways for the poise that her crew had exhibited without pause for nearly 2 days.  Panic mode was not an option and she and the other girls went immediately to plan b without  a groan or a grumble from the hungry runners.

It is easy to tell that the crashing of the casserole was the worst experience for the group so far but when asked what the best experience has been so far both Vedisha and Nandana chime in together, “what happened afterwords. It was oneness.  We didn’t really talk, we just knew what to do, we were communicating on another level.”

They also all feel the importance of how good consciousness plays a role.  It is significant not just in the preparation of the food but also what qualities it also offers in and through the food itself.  They are aware that their own happiness is of paramount importance if they in turn want happiness to carry on into those who eat what they so lovingly prepare.  Vedisha says, “it is not just an outer food, it is an inner food as well.  It has to be a combination of the 2”

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This is the first time Andrey Somov 30 from St. Petersburg Russia has run the 10 day race.  Last year he had come for the first time to the 6 day race and now he has returned to challenge himself even more.  When asked why he has come back he describes that one cannot fully understand the experience of participating in the race unless they themselves actually do it. He tells me as well that the race itself also has its own unique energy and experience.  He had been out and around the course before the start but everything changes when the race itself actually begins.  He says, “It is while running that you feel the energy.  It is like a small world here.”

He also describes that beside accumulating mileage that you also can find solutions to the problems in your day to day outer world.  When I ask him why he did not just return and run the 6 day race he says, “Everyone wants to grow.  I forget a little bit how difficult it is.” He laughs as he says this but he clearly believes that if one can cheerfully overcome obstacles along the way than the happiness which is gained is in so many ways more important than the miles.  “You can use such things in your life.”

When he is asked if the amount of miles he covers is important to him he answers, “I am just trying to do my best.”  He also says it does not help or inspire him to be concerned about those who are running faster than he does.  “It does not help me.”

He also mentions that yesterday was a hard one for him.  Whatever the difficulty was, he transcended it, and moved on.   He tells me that in this struggle you can feel purification taking place within.  As well you are able to gather inner strength, even though ironically, you seem to be expending so much energy.

As we are running along I mention how different the world outside the park is from the one he and the other runners are sharing on their safe and simple one mile loop.  On the highway cars are packed and moving slowly and it is all agitation and frustration.  He says he must ignore this world and just appreciate the little special world he now inhabits.  “You must do your work here,” he says.

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As the rain drizzles the pace for a time slows down.  Muslim who has been announcing runners names for more than 2 day takes a break.  He is part of the large New Zealand contingent.  Baridhi from Bulgaria is enjoying the few hours he has left before he starts the 6 day race.

“I changed my sleeping pattern,” says 62 year old Fred Davis from Cleveland Ohio and suggests this is the key as to why he is having such a great race.  “Normally I go to bed around 2 o’clock.  Now I have changed it to around 3 am. ”  It seems that it is the simple math of just staying out longer that is helping him.  This gives him about 3 hours of sleep and that because most people get moving around 7 in the morning the commotion helps motivate him as well.  Simply put, “I am not sleeping. That is the biggest difference.”

The weather has started to get very wet as we run along and Fred shows no sign of heading for shelter.  I am amazed in fact just how fast this 62 year old man is moving.  He tells me, “I have been moving comfortably the whole time.”  His routine he says is to try and complete each loop of the course in about 15 minutes.

When we get to his table he shows me an elaborate chart he has created that indicates his schedule for sleep and breaks.

When I ask him about transcendence he says that part of his success so far this year is that he feels more relaxed.  He has his schedule but if something goes wrong when it comes to making all the correct points the important thing is to not be bothered by it.

He tells me that he has a goal this year of breaking the record for 6 days in the 60 to 65 year old age group.  The number of miles he will need to run to do this is more than 380.

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O seeker, do not take

Anything for granted.

You must work hard

If you want to achieve

Something momentous

In your life.

Excerpt from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 27 by Sri Chinmoy

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