First Steps on a Long Road

cimg2194At precisely noon today a little temporary Universe sprang joyously to life.  For all intent and purpose it appears pecariously perched on the edge of a damp park in New York city.  Its life span will last not much longer than a rose but in the brief time the Self-Transcendence race goes on in Flushing Meadow miracles will be taking place in every mile run and for some perhaps, in every moment.


The scoreboard begins to reveal the truths that cannot be kept secret.  To either frighten or inspire it speaks in the blunt language of math.  The heart’s stories are not writ upon it.

46 runners started today in the 10 day race and the number who have made it all possible is extremely difficult to count.  Even more will ensure that those will make their 10 day journey here are kept safe, well fed, and that they have no diversions in front of them along the long road in front of them.

cimg2214Madhupran Schwerk wears number one and for good reason.  The afternoon is just beginning to slip away and already the margin between himself and the next runner is expanding rapidly.  He is running smooth and fast and he appears to be on a mission.  In his previous visits to this race he has told me that he was inspired to come because of a significant experience.  He says, “It is the first time I have come here without having a dream or vision.  I have come only for my own self.”

cimg2221Last year his wife had told him not to run competitively and he was inspired nonetheless instead to run hard.  The weather turned hard, cold, and wet against him.  Yet ultimately he found a new purpose in his running in the later stages and ended with not a new record but instead a great transformative experience.  This year her message to Madhupran was quite different.  She asked him instead to please make it his last multi day race.

He tells me that in this race his goal is simple, he says “10 days 1,000 miles.  The only race I can do it is here.”  We are running together at a pace that seems almost effortless to him.  I find myself concentrating hard to keep up with him.  My questions sound labored while he moves as light as a breeze.  He says that at the start a few hours earlier he felt nothing but joy to be able to set off.  He hopes the weather will be his friend.

cimg2190cimg2191The running conditions are almost ideal.  The overcast skies will keep temperatures from getting cold over the long evening ahead.  There is no rain forecast and the equally nasty face of nature, the wind, appears not to be a factor.  Nearly all have run at least 20 miles since noon.  There are yet to be any aches or pains and the road now is realatively dry.


cimg2253cimg2254Of course the crew has worked long and hard to not only pump dry the course but also put the finishing touches to the village itself.  The crew chief Bipin takes a little break by demonstrating hammer spinning.



cimg2193cimg2202The helpers who work behind the scenes cannot ever get enough credit for their tireless efforts.  Their journeys are not as obvious as taking one mile laps on the course but still what they do helps so much and in so many ways the lives of the runners.



p10206711cimg22071Yesterday Fred Davis was just setting up his tent.  He and his wife Flo had come to New York from Cleveland.  It is Fred’s 3rd time at this race but the 1st for Flo.  She tells me that he has brought her this time to keep him awake.  She says, “If he keeps running by the 24th hour he is in a groove.” She says that when he came back from the race last year he had been disappointed at the time he spent sleeping and that if he hadn’t slept so much he could have run more miles.

I ask her impression of the little community that has sprung up and she says, “Its an awesome city.”  Their collective goal over the next 10 days is 600 miles.



cimg22601There are of course many familiar faces who have returned here.  Luis Rios has run many of the Sri Chinmoy events and completed 511 miles here last year.









cimg2229cimg2210Radi Milev is here for the first time.




Ivana Nemcova from the Czech Republic came in second amongst the women with 634 miles.  A personal best.




p10206721Yesterday I noticed some new faces.  They belonged to Brian Marshall and his wife Brenda who had come all the way from South Africa.  He had heard about the event from some friends who had been here a few years ago and says, “I always wanted to do this event.  It was time to do a 10 day.”  He has never gone 10 days before in a multi day event.

cimg2258He is walking very smooth and quickly as we move along the course.  He tells me that he cannot run anymore  but that he was always a good walker and is finding now that he can cover more distance in walking then he ever could as a runner.

I ask him if his wife has come as his helper and he says, “you don’t need help here, this event is so well organized. I ask him what it felt like to be at the starting line earlier in the day and he says, “I was all nerves.  My wife tells me that before the race I am all aches and pains but as soon as the gun goes off I am all fine.”

cimg2268He also mentions that he has been noticing all the spring buds on the trees in the park.  When he and Brenda left South Africa it was fall and leaves were falling there.  He says, ” before I go home all these buds will be leaves.”  This makes him smile.



Klaus Schultz is 68 years old from Berlin Germany.







The road is long,

Very long.

My mind, delay not!

Follow my heart.

Excerpt from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 13 by Sri Chinmoy.



The Night Before Tomorrow



Last night was a wet nightmare, and no where can its misery be more profoundly felt than in the swampy confines of Flushing Meadow.  It is a place in which water is a constant factor but with the previous night consisting of a constant downpour much of the paths and roads are floaded.  Where most would simply head for higher ground the workers and runners preparing for the 6 and 10 day race think of it as just another day.

Bipin and his team have been in almost constant motion building a village that will come to full life tomorrow when the 10 day race starts.  I ask him if he is on schedule and he replies, “there is always work to do.  Let’s put it this way when tomorrow comes we won’t be sitting around drinking tea.”



Dipali had set up her tent yesterday and has arrived a short while ago to an unpleasant surprise.  It rained so much that the covers over most tents have collapsed and all the contents of her tent were soaked.

Instead of being frustrated she seems amused at natures little trick.  It will take her several hours to dry everything off and put it back straight. Her race does not start until Sunday.


Padyatra and Rasto from Slovakia will run tomorrow and they are pleased to have missed the bad weather.  They have a prime location for their tent and are enjoying their precious free time before the real work starts tomorrow.


Kaneenika’s tent was next to Dipali and was also caught up in last night’s deluge.  Kanala who is helping told me I should have been there earlier to see the 5 star hotel room with its own pool.  The sun has come out bright and everyone seems thrilled that the weather has turned for the better and the weeks and months of training will soon be put to the test.


Bigalita has told me that she has been forced to abandon her tent and head for the safe confines of the dormitories.  She has not made her back to this race in Queens for many years.  She has hinted that a strong inspiration has drawn her back to this race.



Rupantar who is the race director is a whirl of activity.  I am here for just a few hours but he has been here for days.  When the race starts he will be the one who shepards the race through the long night hours.  Never complaining.  Always cheerful, and always more concerned about the runners more than himself.



There are many who have spent long hours bringing the little village into shape.  Nick from New Zealand has been a regular contributor for many years.  He seems to know how to fix and build just about anything.



Ed from Bristol has volunteered for the first time this year.  He is an artist and finds music and amusement in his work.

There are just so many jobs and things that need to be done it seems miraculous in so many ways that it all will eventually work.  On time and with almost flawless perfection.




The course however appears at this moment to be more lagoon than path.  At least the lower portion in which water seem to constantly spill off from the nearby Grand Central parkway and mysterious springs which seem to always trickle.

Pranab has been placed in charge of three pumps in various states of efficiency.  The flood will be staunched and the race will start at noon without the soggy conditions now present.


The ducks of course might object to this renovation of the watery paradise



In just a few hours from now these quiet scenes will be replaced with people and things and energy and just the extraordinary pulse of life which is the incomparable 6 and 10 day race.


The banner has yet to be stretched taut and firm across the path but the welcome mat of sorts has been laid.  Some of the 46 starters have arrived and moved in but all of them will eventually be here and whether nervous or joyous at noon tomorrow their long journey will commence.