Saturdays in Flushing Meadow are always a busy time. Today, with its unseasonably warm temperatures brought even more life and energy into the bustling park. The temperature pushed into the mid 80’s and for Preetiduta Thorpe from Auckland New Zealsand it was a chance to reuse the umbrella she must have used to protect herself from the cold rain a few days earlier.
She has 121 miles in this her first multi day race
Madhupran Schwerk still leads with 290 miles. The runners can enjoy sports from around the world as they wind their way through the one mile loop. We don’t know what Madhupran, who is from Germany, thinks about cricket.
There is a tradition at the race that when the weather gets hot the ice cream comes out. Every runner can have as much ice cream as they like. Perhaps the most enthusiasm can be shown on the faces of the runners when they receive their first cups. Here Jayasalina Abramovshikh from Moscow (211 miles) and Kateryna Krot (155 miles) from Ukraine are about as happy as runners can be.
A short time later Kateryna has something to celebrate when Jayasalina congratulates her on reaching 150 miles.
“I really enjoy these races, you definitely have your really hard times when you want to give up, and don’t want to take another step.” Sarah Barnett from Australia is far from giving up in this race or in fact any of the 5 other events she has competed successfully in, all over the world. She was last here in 2006 when she placed first for the women with 611 miles. She runs confidently and with real power every time I have seen her in the past 3 days.
She first came to this race as a helper for a runner, and as is the case in many instances, she wanted to try it for herself. She tells me, “You just get the feeling that you are meant for this world.” After that race she says, “I instantly wanted to come back.” She tells me that in general she runs for her own enjoyment but admits that sometimes the races bring out a competitive spirit in her.
She tells me that when she first started running she was inspired by the words and philosophy of Sri Chinmoy. That for her distance running was an ideal way to channel her dynamic energy into a arena in which you would be face to face with the spirit of Self transcendence. She also says how inspired she is by the great runners like Yannis Kouris, Madhupran, and Sandy Barwick. “Those people who are just so much better than everyone else. They have got focus and can bring down such intense energy.”
She relates a conversation she had during the middle of the night in which Madhupran told her that he looks upon running as a form of meditation. She says that the Sri Chinmoy races are, “more meditative than competitive.” She says that she hopes to compete for at least another 20 years but really wants to run for the rest of her life. She says that for her running is a way to find and bring happiness into your life.
“At he end of the race you realize why you have run this, because you have this calmness and happiness. You have an appreciation for everyone.” She describes that so often in our lives we get caught up in situations where one just goes through the motions of living. “You get caught up in everything,” she says. “Anywhere you live you can choose to be miserable or happy.”
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At the end of Sri Chinmoy st. in the park is the Sri Chinmoy Peace garden. This mom and her daughter were strolling by and saw some tulips that had fallen over. They spontaneously came by to put them straight.
Pratishruti Khisamoutdinova is 65 and from Smolensk Russia. She currently has run 179 miles.
Kushali Tarantsova is 41 from the Ukraine. she has run 141 miles
“Its incredible because he really got into marathoning at a late age. He amazes me, an old guy like him suddenly picking up a sport.” Walter Brooks is Mike’s older brother and has come down for the day from his home in Massachusetts to support him. Of Mike he says, ” he is tough as nails.” I ask him why he thinks Mike has taken on perhaps the toughest race in the world. Walter says, “It just shows his dedication for the families he is running for. It is not about ego, it is about raising money for the families. “
“I really like this experience of oneness. It is like being in a big family.”Luba Ukrainskyl is helping at the race for the first time. She is working with Sushovita in the kitchen and says, “There is a lot of joy.” She tells me that when she and the crew prepare the food they feel a onenesnes with the runners. Shey says that she feels the inner presence of her late Spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. She says, “It is very sweet and very strong. “
Her husband Misha is running the race for the second time. He currently has 185 miles. He tells me that when he came the first time his first day was very inspiring and then it got tough. Then his last 2 days were much better. I ask him why he has returned and he says, “because of that first day last year.” He says over the course of the race last year he started to realize, step by step, what the race was all about.
The three of us are walking along together, and I ask an indelicate question. I wonder if the presence of his wife helps, and he answers, “absolutely. There are so many small things you do not have to think about.” What he prefers to think about he says is his inner life. He feels being in the race provides him with an opportunity to focus on that alone and his relationship to his late teacher Sri Chinmoy. He says, “when it is hard and when it is good I know with whom I want to share the race.” He pauses for a moment, “all the struggles, and all the joy.”
“The hardest part is the preparation for the race. It is like pushing a huge rock up a steep incline. When you get to the top it just rolls down by itself.” Rupantar is the Race Director and has been overseeing the race almost non stop for the last week. He usually is here overnight but this afternoon a few jobs have called him back. It is anybodys guess how much sleep he will get before he is once again is out here at 1am in the morning.
The 6 day race will start tomorrow but he is not overly concerned. He says the biggest number of runners was in the 10 day race. All the problems with the large field have been taken care of. When the new runners start, he says, “Their enthusiasm and energy trnaslates into the 10 day people”.
We are walking along the route and he is posting litle signs along the route. Madhupran comes by and the two have a good laugh asking for directions.
He tells me, “The best part is believing you can do this. You can handle the physical set up and all the pressures and worries. You name it I worry about it.” When asked to describe the influence of Sri Chinmoy on the event, he says, “You absolutely know that something else is guiding this thing. Everyone believes in the philosohy of self transcendence. You can see it in the runners smiles and in the help that we get. “
John spofford 49 from Hawaii has run 10 multi day races and is here to run the 6 day for the first time. He says he came to run this race, “because of the Spritiual aspect of it.
“This is my second 10 day and I have done two 6 days.” Abhaya Field has become a regular to this race over the past few years. From New Zealand and at age 64 she has come a long way in many respects. She first came here to be a helper and her first thoughts were, ” I would never do it. It looked so torturous.”
What inspired her to actually do this race was a weight lifting record set by her late Spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy Some years ago he did a record wrist curl and dedicated it to senior citizens and told them to never give up. She thought to herself, “what can I do?” And then she realized that she had to put one foot in front of the other. In her first race she says she felt his energy in and through her. “I had never run before,” she says. Of this race she says, ” I am still trying to never give up, in everything I do.
“This is my first day at the race and I am having fun. Particularly with that last person. She was very entertaining. She will be running along a lot easier now. ” Gaurish has volunteered to help in medical today and already the results can be seen in the happy faces of his patients. More importantly it will be experienced in the ease of the miles they will cover after his amazing chiropractic offering.
Bigalita who was his patient as I came along had drawn a large audience with her initial noisy reaction to his work. Now she is laughing as she says, “he pulled me and pushed me and prodded me.” I ask her if she feels better, and she says, “I don’t know yet.” Gaurish adds, “do you notice she is laughing more?” Sure enough the moment she is back on the course I see her lightly running away. This will be the first time she has been able to run in days.
EACH NEW DAY
Each new day
Is a gift.
Each new day
Is opportunity’s revelation-sky.
Each new day
Is reality’s manifestation-sun.
Excerpt from Transcendence-Perfection by Sri Chinmoy.