July 13: Significant Places

Just a few weeks ago was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Over 3 days of fighting 50,000 soldiers lost their lives in this great struggle that was the turning point of the American Civil war.  Latter that fall the American President, Abraham Lincoln gave a short but immortal speech at the inauguration of the cemetery that was created there as the final resting place for all those who sacrificed their lives on its hallowed ground.

With both the significance of the battle, as well as those most powerful inspirational 10 lines that Lincoln spoke there, people from across the country have been making pilgrimages there for generations.  It is a place in which history has indelibly etched its mark.  Such locations have  always been beacons to pilgrims, scholars, tourists, and the curious.


Great natural wonders will also always attract those who want to at least briefly separate themselves from the artificial worlds that we so often create around and about us.  But also we are drawn to places in which man as well has achieved greatness by building something that is timeless and beautiful.  Whether it is the pyramids, the great wall, or a cathedral lovingly created to lift up the spirits of those who seek out wonder.

Over the greater part of the year the course of the 3100 mile race does not receive much attention and fewer visitors.  It has no specific name in which to distinguish it from countless other places of interest in NY.  For much of the year it is a busy thoroughfare for students and teachers, and sport teams who want to make use of its fields.  Most if not all who traverse around and about here likely know little of what takes place here over the course of a few months each hot NY summer.

Photo by Bipin January 2012
Photo by Bipin January 2012

Yet it seems to me that gradually more and more people are finding their way here to this little sidewalk.  They come for many reasons.  None of which include an acknowledgement to a specific moment in history, nor to be inspired by its’ great natural beauty, or to view a significant architectural wonder. Something deeper and intangible compels them to come.

“I think what these runners are doing is absolutely extraordinary.  It is hard to wrap your mind around 3100 miles, physically, mentally, and even spiritually.” This morning a young couple from Columbus Ohio are visiting the course.  Sunshine and her husband Jimmy came to NY the other day to celebrate their 4th wedding anniversary and made visiting the race on of their priorities.

Sunshine is very animated as she talks.  “I want to experience what these people are experiencing.  Get a small taste of what they are doing.”


Question: Is there a soul-significance to the place where something happens?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes, when something very special happens, it has something special to do with the heart of the place or the place itself. If something very spiritual is happening, the soul is bound to be there and the place is bound to be significant. This is not the case for silly, ordinary, mundane events, but if something very special is going on at a particular place, the soul’s divinity has to visit that place and stay there for some time to watch what is happening. If necessary, it will illumine or transform what is happening. Again, if something positive is happening, the soul of the place tries to expedite the journey of the seekers.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 13, Agni Press, 1999

Photo by Bhashwar 1981
Photo by Bhashwar 1981

The snow has been cleared away for Baladev’s arrival.


Swamiji is going to run this morning and asks which way the runners are going.


The day will cooler than usual and there will be light rain from time to time.  The presence of lots of orange shirts indicates that ultra great Mark Dorion was recently here and left gifts.




It is a quiet morning.


Some of the local residents are staying in for the morning.


Another little bird is flying around the course and completed 128 laps here yesterday.


Some things are hard and some things are soft but each has its place.


The human body never as hard as steel.  Sopan does some quick home repairs.


It hurts and yet he has to continue


He made 100 laps yesterday.  He cannot stop for long either today or any day ahead of him.


Nidhruvi has her great helpers.


She also has just received an old fashioned….. but still inspiring fax.


But she only slows but rarely stops.  She did 111 laps yesterday


Recognizable by her socks


Ananda-Lahari always peaceful.


Ananda-Lahari always on track


Atmavir comes through the camp.


Atmavir had a good 120 lap day.  He has 2nd place


Everything goes by


Vasu is in 3rd place just 35 miles behind Atmavir, but he is also 130 miles ahead of where he was last year.  He seem to get faster in the evenings.


Counters keeping watch.


Surasa also had 111 laps yesterday


“I felt pretty good until it started to rain.”   Pranjal


“The humidity went up and the air pressure went down.  It just took all the energy from me and I felt much heavier but anyway I was pretty happy.  I did 115 laps, which is good for me.”


Some things stay here always and some things come and go.


Sarvagata is getting lots of help.


Help that comes in all shapes and sizes.  Yesterday he did 100 laps but is struggling to find more


Rupantar with the bible of ultra running


Sarah a great ultra runner


A content Baladev


This is his world


“Running is by far the most important thing in my life.”  As Sunshine says this I joke that her husband better move away from our conversation.  She laughs, “okay, husband first.”  She tells me that longest distance she has so far run is a marathon.  Their enthusiasm for the marathon is also very evident by a very conspicuous licences plate on their car.  One dedicated to 26.2 miles.


When I raise the obvious concept with her that doing a marathon for any of the runners here is just getting going.  “Every day for 60 days I can’t imagine.  I would like to imagine something like that but it is almost impossible to imagine.”  Both she and her husband Jimmy have run the Columbus marathon, but admit they are still very new to the sport of distance running.

“Running is a part of who I am.  It exists inside of me, I feel it in the marrow of my bones.  It is hard to explain.  It is such a simple act of one foot in front of another but it is so much deeper than that.”

When asked where it all can take her.  “The sky is the limit.  I do hope to run ultras some day.”

She and Jimmy have a busy schedule while visiting New York but want to spend as much time as they can here.  “It is hard to tear yourself away from these guys.”


Jimmy says they first arrived at the race yesterday morning.  They did a few laps, “and we stuck around a little longer than we planned.  It is just a very welcoming environment here.  We had different plans for yesterday, but when you meet up with different people who are so interesting and so friendly and open.  It is hard to move away from it.  So we came back again last night and hung out until about 10:30 or so.”

They will run the 2 mile race across the street shortly.  “We might come out again latter.  Who knows?” (laughter)

Sunshine and Jimmy

The evidence of yesterdays rain is still present


Yuri has continually looked stronger and better each now since he had his problem with the heat.  When asked can he see the finish line yet since he is now more than half way he makes an interesting sighing sound.  “When we ran in Vinnitsa, Vasu’s mother came to the race and blessed the runners, and I saw the finish line at that time.  I felt this line deep in my heart.  I did not see it with my eyes but felt it with my heart.”


“Happiness is deep inside us and it give you inspiration and strength.  It is always the same.”

He says that he realizes now that he should have been wearing a hat earlier in race to protect himself from the sun.  He feels that his strength has returned yet still cannot run fast just yet.

Like all the runners here Yuri has had to endure much.  The sun, the heat, the blisters, and also the feeling of being alone out on the course with his problems.  “It was very hard.  But when I felt my oneness with Sri Chinmoy deep in my heart I felt a most intense inspiration experience.”


He says that where Sri Chinmoy used to often come to the race he now still feels a special feeling at the places he stopped most often.  “A warm and gentle strength is still there.”


“I prayed and prayed for many years to be in this race, but I had no money to afford to be able to come here.  Now I feel as though God has big ears like an elephant and hears all my intense prayers.  Now that I am here running I feel that God is now smiling and smiling at me.”  I tell him that now Yuri also is smiling and he laughs.


The lights are on always.


Vera and Tamara recite the prayer for the day.


Vera and Tamara prayer

Enthusiasm Awakeners



God does not want me
To think of what will take place
A thousand years from now.
He wants me only to think of today –
Nay, this very moment.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 42, Agni Press, 2005


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