Pranjal Milovnik finished running last night just before midnight. All the other runners had left earlier and he was alone on the course with just himself and an immense bright moon hanging low in the night sky above him.
As he does most nights, he struggled on until there was simply no time left to run. He then pulled his small bag together and drove off on his bicycle to ride the 1/2 mile to the place where he is staying. Once there, he still had to negotiate locks, stairs and hot showers.
He may or may not had been aware that when he left the course last night he had less than a mile more to run before he would have completed 800 miles. On his second lap today, as he starts his 13th day of running here, a counter will stand up with a bright sunshine smile and ring a bell to congratulate him as he passes by. He does not react, he does not respond, he simply keeps on shuffling forward. He is not interested in celebration, at least not now, when there is so incredibly much further he has left to go. He does not calculate, that if he ran that distance on the roads straight west from New York, he would have made it to Chicago and still have miles to spare. He probably is not even aware that for the first time in the race yesterday, he ran more miles than anyone else.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that in all the previous 5 years of running here, he has never before posted the most one day mileage total. That he bettered the efforts of the 4 runners in front of him is no slim achievement. If this were just a single day race, what he accomplished on day 12, by running nearly 67 miles on a simmering day drenched with oppressive humidity would be considered an astonishing achievement.
It is very hard to determine exactly what motivates and inspires him to do this incredible thing, running 3100 miles. We can ponder and guess but will never really know for sure about him or of the others for that matter. At best we can admire and appreciate what really pulls and pushes them onward. If it was for the vague glory of running the most miles in a day you probably wouldn’t last too long here. Instead, we can only attempt to scan the surface of big men like Pranjal and lightly poke and question and try and extract a few precious glimpses of what is burning in the core of his heart.
There is precious little that we bystanders can do at all to make his journey swifter or sweeter. At best we can strive for some oneness with all of those who run here. Follow, and admire their progress, as they climb higher and higher on the mountain that we too must summit. And then ask of ourselves, what more must we do.
The water tower on 164th st. can now officially no longer be considered a Queens landmark.
Vlady, who is in third place, is just 10 miles ahead of Pranjal.
Start day 13
When I ask him about passing the 800 mile mark he says, “I haven’t checked the score board in a few days. I don’t know what’s there.” He also says that he is not interested in the mileage of the other runners either.
Every night, when he gets back to his room he attempts to write something in his blog about the race. I ask him what he has written, he says, “That I am dead. This kind of thing.” When I suggest to him that his version of dead does not seem that bad, considering what he is ultimately achieving. “I would like to be more alive in the evening. It would not be bad.”
As we run a few laps of the course you cannot help but be aware of the steady heavy shuffle sound coming from his feet. A truck pulls into the park and blocks his way and he just patiently waits. He tells me that on another day a car with a young driver pulled out of the school and nearly hit him. He says he was going very slowly and was not injured at all, he just leaned over the hood of the car. He is not aware if the driver apologized or not. Instead Pranjal ignore the whole incident and just kept on running.
I am always amazed that he, and a few other fellow runners are able to run almost from the beginning. None seem stiff from the day before or because of the early hour. He jokes that it is because they haven’t cooled down from the night before.
He tells me the story of a fellow he met who decided to run from Bratislava to Bejing. It is a distance of more than 4,000 miles and of course every day is new and exotic. He ran into many obstacles including not being able to have his support vehicle follow him in Mongolia. Pranjal says that as interesting as it sounds it is not for him. “This is special. I want to come back.”
It is particularly noisy this morning. A helicopter is chattering above us and moments earlier he had to stop for a big truck as it rumbled into the park. He tells me that he is oblivious to all of it. Describing how he turns on a switch in the morning and then just turns off at night when he leaves. Nothing much else matters. He says that when his day ends here he is very much grateful that it is over. I tell him that the next morning comes pretty quickly. “But I am not thinking about that. That is a different race.”
Fellow Slovak Pavol Saraz is one of the few whose mileage did not decrease in the heat yesterday. He has deliberately chosen to wear the colors of his country in order to celebrate their surprising victory over Italy.
“I am happy because it is great. It gave me joy.” It clearly means a lot to him and demonstrated that even under unrelenting odds things are not always impossible to accomplish. He says, “Everywhere everything is possible.”
“Every day my heart and I can love God a little more.”
Poem of the day written by Sri Chinmoy
He describes what it means to him. “Every day we can do a little more, to be near to God. Trying every day we can we must love God more and more every day. Go up, up, up. It is progress. When we love God every day a little more, it is spiritual progress. When we don’t love God every day more we go down, and our progress is not good. We are here doing very fast progress.”
my heart’s Aspiration-flame
sings and sings and sings
my Lord Supreme’s Victory.”
Composed on this day by Sri Chinmoy in 2007
Performed by Enthusiasm Awakeners
God touches the earth
So everything will be possible.
Everything is being done;
Everything will be perfect,
For God touches the earth.
Excerpt from Transcendence-Perfection by Sri Chinmoy