When I shook Ray’s hand early this morning it was clear that it unmistakably belonged to a big guy who worked hard. It was about the size of both of my hands put together. He was driving one of the jumbo dump trucks that is currently hauling the last of the huge loads of dirt out of the nearby field. The gate was still locked, so he came by to find out who could possibly be up and working earlier than a guy like him, who made his living getting up early and working hard.
When he saw the board with all the large numbers he took of his hard hat and his jaw went slack. “That’s really somethin,” he said. “And they are gonna be here all summer, wow! I’d rather do this than what I’m doin.”
Just around the corner, down by the basket ball courts is Lee-Ann’s Day care center. Her morning starts just about the same time as the race, and she has been observing it for years.
It amazes her that just as her day starts the runners start running and then they just go on and on. Even after she has gone to bed she says they are still out there.
She is familiar with Suprabha, having seen her every day for 13 years, and is a little sad that she is no longer running. She says that her husband keeps saying to her, why can’t she go out and do something like that. I tell her, why doesn’t she tell her husband, why doesn’t he start first and then you can both do it together.
Stutisheel tells me this morning that he was once asked, if all the noise and traffic bother him. He said, that after just 2 days, the runners are simply no longer aware of it, and if they are, they are unaffected by it. Sometimes the big trucks, like the one Ray is driving, take a little while to get in and out of the gate. The runners just sweep wide around them or wait but a moment for it to pass.
The caretaker at the little park piles up bags of garbage each night by the gate to be collected later the next day. Vajra also comes each day to try and keep the course in tip top cleanliness but when the weekend comes around, the war against trash is hard to beat.
Factor in the almost constant din of traffic on the nearby expressway and you would have to think that not only was the place not scenic it just might be unpleasant to even come and visit.
Yet clearly, nothing could be further from the truth. Even as you approach from afar it is possible to feel the specialness of this little hard block. That it is lacking in obvious outer charm and scenic natural splendor, is irrefutable. Yet still one can be astonished by the beauty and peace that exists here. With an abundant sense of tranquility, as serene as any zen garden.
Perhaps it is because so many runners, for so many years, through their devotion and unrelenting efforts, have made it really and truly sacred ground. Or maybe it is a simply a spot so surcharged with grace, that though the every day hectic world can be seen here, it somehow cannot manage to intrude or disturb the idyllic atmosphere that permeates the .56 mile loop. There are times as well when one can wonder, why the rest of the world cannot feel so splendid and sublime as this little block in Queens.
Asprihanal does a little curbside calf stretch most mornings. For a guy who ran 72 miles he doesn’t seem to be too concerned about his diet. He grabs a glass of Coke most mornings and says that when a truck driver saw him drinking coke out of a bottle he told him that he shouldn’t do it. He says, “I like the taste.”
He is also happy with his miles having run the most once again yesterday, with 72.
Vlady has a large box of shoes. It is hard to tell what his system is for knowing which pair to wear. He is averaging a phenomenal 67 miles a day.
Dharbasana seems to be getting stronger Yesterday he ran 62 miles the most since the beginning of the race.
Start Day 12
“I make my Lord Supreme extremely happy
when I claim him as my own, very own.”
Poem of the Day by Sri Chinmoy
“Not only today but everyday, the same message.” Sutisheel tells me that the poem is significant for many reasons. He suggests that in trying to make the Supreme happy one also satisfies and pleases oneself at the same time.
He says that for him there is a parallel with this message and another quality, surrender. He tells me one of his favorite poems written by Sri Chinmoy.
“My Progress depends upon my God surrendering will.”
The weather the last few days has been hot and humid for the runners. The kind of conditions that when they last for several days can have a devastating toll on the runners. He says, “Yesterday, we were like under pressure. I don’t know, humidity, weather, mileage, extreme.” He says at that moment Vlady gave him a song to listen to which he describes as being stupid, and yet, “I was laughing like anything. The pressure was gone. The smile does everything else.”
“Actually I request to all my friends, who are following the race to send jokes every day.” He says that the moments of humor and levity have a profound affect upon all those who run, and sometimes get caught up in the seriousness of the challenge ahead of them. He mentions an expression that his late spiritual teacher often mentioned, “humor is my only savior.”
He mentions that even without Grahak, Ashprihanal is trying to put on short funny performances in the mornings for the singers who come out to support them every day. He was part of one of the first jokes and it went something like this.
Heh, Asprihanal, do you know if there will be a garage sale on Parsons blvd. tomorrow?
Well, I don’t even have a bicycle. Let Rupantar buy the garage.
He describes that in performing the little skits for the girl singers it is great to be able to offer something in return for their dedicated and devoted service. They inspire not only him but everyone who comes by. The school teachers who are in their final week of school often greet the girls and say hello. Stutisheel describes the music as sublime. “They sing really beautifully.”
Michael is a helper who has been coming to the race for the last 3 years. “What I like about being here is the atmosphere and the peace.” Also he experiences he says a sense that it is all one family. That not just the runners but all those who come out and help and encourage them. “I am feeling part of the family and so it feels like I am at home.”
He describes that even though outwardly it appears to be quite noisy it is easy to fade out the noise , by “concentrating on the inner things going on. I am a helper if I try and figure out what they are doing. Two marathons a day, and coping with these circumstances, it is amazing.”
Another helper today is Gunthita who is one of the early counters. she is wearing a really nice hand painted t shirt given to her by friends.
The water tower is nearly gone.
“Your days of excellence choice are
ahead of you, and not beside you.
Why then do you not immediately run, and declare,
The goal is won.”
Song composed by Sri Chinmoy
Performed by Enthusiasm Awakeners
If you smile.
God will use you more,
If you smile.
God will please you more,
If you smile.
Lo, God is running towards you.
Lo, God is at your command.
Lo, God is the slave of your life.
Excerpt from The Dance Of Life, Part 20 by Sri Chinmoy
2 responses to “The Smile Does Everything Else”
Thank you Utpal for your daily stories and interviews from the runners and helpers and the sidestories from spectators. It makes the race very alive and it almost feels like having it experienced it myself.
Continuing to watch excitedly from the distant shores of the Adriatic. Say hello to everyone from me;)