Fairly early one day last summer or maybe it was the year before, a satellite passing over New York took this picture of Flushing Meadow Park. Endlessly circling at an altitude of a little more than 400 miles it’s very precise camera probably took many thousands of pictures that day. Ever vigilant as it observed our world below from its remote vantage point way up somewhere within the cold silent vacuum of outer space.
No doubt some bored technician was gathering up this endless stream of images or perhaps the data just dropped silently onto some vast digital hard drive as it relentlessly circled our world. Something it has continued to do on an average of about 15 revolutions day.
Now some day it just might happen that it will do this same scan, just as the Self Transcendence 6 and 10 day race is going on. Technicians might be startled to notice a stream of little figures trotting around the paths of the park and wonder just what are all those little plywood buildings doing there.
As a rule, it is pretty easy to be amazed at what technology is constantly able to improve upon. Both make things happen better, faster, and cheaper. And yet for those 38 runners who have now circled around these same paths for more than 24 hours, the marvels of technology is of no benefit to them whatsoever. No doubt some may be listening at times to their personal music players or getting calls from friends and family in the nearly 15 countries from which they have traveled from. At night when the lights go on and food is cooked and is tasty warm everyone is happy that some good old fashioned technology is making their lives just a little better. But no gadget or gizmo will take away the tiredness that is creeping into their legs or dull the not so subtle aches and pains that are for some becoming truly annoying new companions.
Today the weather did an abrupt about face and it seemed to be continually drizzly and cool. There wasn’t much reason for anyone to play tourist and take in the sights as they circled the winding one mile loop again and again. One can’t say for certain what experiences each of the runners is having at any time of the day but one thing is certain. With each new lap and as the many hours tumble past, each who one runs here, find themselves drawn ever more deeply within themselves. Into parts of their being that most of us are often quietly aware and yet most of us never seem to rarely find the time or inclination to explore there. Even though this part of us has been constantly beckoning us.
It is within this unmeasurable inner journey that they also feel an expansion of their subtle dimensions. For it is after all a pilgrimage here. To a place where the travelers journey, way beyond the very limited world that their eyes see and their feet can carry them. A place of self transcendence in which the goal is to explore and gather new strength and purpose from the uncharted regions within themselves.
“It’s pretty much like at home isn’t it.” Nirbhasa is a first time multi day runner from Dublin. When asked if the weather this afternoon is not unlike Ireland he confesses that the similarities are eerily similar. “For an Irishman it is kind of otherworldly.” When he describes the bright sunny day which greeted him here on his first day he said that he had only seen a day that nice was only once in the past 6 months back home. Ironically on the day he left. “This is more up my scene.”
He says that for him today he is already entering into new territory when it comes to distance running. “I did a 24 hour in London last year. I did 100 miles. It was pretty good. When people say for a first timer that is a good mark when you do a 100.” He says he had been thinking of doing this race much earlier and used the 24 hour race as part of his preparation. In fact it was just about a year ago that he felt the call of the race in a very real way. He came to the park here with some friends late one evening. “Just as soon as I stepped out of the car and started walking I somehow knew this was what I was going to do.”
“Originally I thought I was going to do the 6 day.” But he says that something inspired him after his 24 hour race. “It was quite tough in a lot of ways, but very rewarding in a lot of other ways.” He says that about 2 weeks after the race he was showing a documentary film on the 3100 mile race called Spirit of a Runner to a mediation class and said that he was profoundly moved even though he had seen it many times. He calls the film spirituality in action. The next day he realized that if multi day running is such a life changing experience why shouldn’t he try it himself. “I mean everybody you talk to says it really changes your life. So I really got this inner feeling. So if you are going to have this experience why not make it last for 10 days instead of 6.”
” So far conditions have been quite good and I feel quite good. So far it has been a real joy running the race. I have been sure to take it easy.” Many have told him to not over extend himself on the first 2 days at least. “I have been very obedient to their advice. I run for about 3 hours and then take a break. So that is quite good for the mind as well. Just to king of ease into it. I am really taking each day as it comes. I know in the next 7 days, and possibly quite soon, when those experiences when I am up against it. I will be able to answer that question then.”
“I think that part of it is that you are not running this race yourself. We are all in it together. If you are kind of grumpy or down it definitely affects other people. Where I suppose if you can smile or have a kind word or joke, it takes a load of people.” He describes how experiences a real joy when he can inspire in even a small way anyone who crosses his path. He laughs and adds, “or at least not make them worse.”
“It is amazing.” Nipura is the chief cook again this year and of her crew she says, “they are the best, the best, the best.” I tell her that she said that same thing last year. “But they are the same crew. I am so lucky.”
“She is doing very well.” Eva is once again handling Ilvaka this year. When asked about her runner who is sitting beside her she says, “she is running very well and is very happy.
Ilvaka responds to this with, “she is helping me in every way, by giving me joy. I always look forward to seeing her every lap. I look forward to the food and everything but inwardly she is giving me so much inspiration by being herself so happy, cheerful, and enthusiastic.”
As for the change in weather from yesterday she suggests simply, “you must love every weather.”
“What is really my goal is to give my best, and also always try and be on the positive side. I always feel that the worst suffering here is not physical pains but the worst suffering is inner. When you say, O God this is painful and your thoughts tell you that you do not want to continue any more. I want to give up….. That is the worst thing. That is what I would like to avoid, and try and be on the positive side.”
Eva says, “I am grateful to be here.” Ilvaka adds with delight, “tomorrow is her birthday.”
I come across Vinati who is working on one of her shoes. “I am cutting it more because a blister is coming.” She hasn’t felt well since the beginning of the race but as of this afternoon she has completed 100 miles.
Some jobs are hard at the beginning.
Then you create something quite wonderful.
She lists for me all the different scenarios that have kept her from running the race the past few years, even though she did make one appearance here as a helper. An experience that is for many even more difficult than tying up running shoes and actually doing the race. Last year was so demanding with her job she says that it killed her body. “I must admit that I am still kind of struggling with a burn out. So my running has been very poor, over the last year. So my only hope to change things was to come here and run it out. I knew that I didn’t have much energy, so I am walking a lot. Which is fine except that I am getting so cold.”
Yesterday the weather was ideal for most of the runners but Tirtha says that as much as she enjoyed running her first day she unfortunately somehow managed to get a stomach problem that was very painful and persisted into the night. “During the night it did get better being out here.”
“I am glad to be back but it is a new experience for me.” She is trying her best to get into the rhythm and flow of the race with the limited physical capacity that her body seems to have at this time. But because she has been here at times when she has been much stronger and more fit she is trying to ignore the temptation to build up the big miles and instead move forward with the capacity and inspiration that is available. She also doesn’t have a helper which also takes getting used to.
Her only real goal, “is to get back my strength. That I come out healthy.”
TOGETHER LIVE, TOGETHER DANCE
A happy man and good things Together run.
An unhappy man and bad things Together sink.
An aspiring man and fulfilling experience Together live.
A God-man and fulfilled Realisation Together dance.
Sri Chinmoy, The Wings Of Light, Part 8, Agni Press, 1974