It has been almost a full week, at the 3100 mile race. Today, the mileage board shows that the distance gap between the runners is growing. But the blunt reality of the board, is much different than the bond of oneness, building between the hearts of all who run here.
*the mileage on the right is of our other new kid Christopher
The crew has been busy long before the runners show up. Chairs and tables are put in place. Drinks are poured, everything is made ready.
Christopher has told what a miracle the bike ride is, both to the race in the morning and back home again in the evening. It helps the legs get ready for both rest and for running.
Savita has driven her dear friend Suprabha to the race. I don't know what is in the various bags they brought to her race table, but you can easily guess that one or more, is full of shoes.
Christopher goes to work on his feet as soon as he arrives. He has picked some leaves that he is taping to his feet to prevent blisters. He tells me he only knows the name of the plant in German. He repeats it several times to me but I haven't got a clue what he is saying. It looks like a very common weed that grows in the neighborhood.
Pranjal and Sopan are also working on their feet using medical supplies found in one of the vans. No runner can ever afford not to pay close attention to their feet.
Stutisheel told me on day one, his aim for the race was to be happy. In a couple of days his wife and daughter will arrive, and I think it is fair to say, add to his happiness.
On each of the runner's tables when they arrive, is the daily mileage report. It is printed out after the finish, the night before. I look at these two faces and wonder what they are thinking, when they read the building columns of numbers besides their names.
The time before the start disappears so swiftly.
There is silence before the runners start for the day.
I start around the course with Christopher, who is a 35 year old, first time runner from Switzerland. He is quiet for quite a distance, there is just the slight sound of his light footsteps as we jog along.
Then he tells me, "It was a tough night." He then describes for me a night in which he, like Pavol, the other new runner did not sleep much. "You just turn one side to the other side." He is describing the pain he felt, no matter which way he lay in his bed.
At one point we are passing Pranjal, who has run the race many times. He hears Christopher mention that he is tired. He jokes with him when he hears this. He smiles, "If you want to know what tired is, wait until after you have finished a couple thousand miles and have another thousand to run." Christopher cracks up at this.
He starts to tell me about his previous multi day races. He tells me that in 2003 he won the 700 mile race that year, in 10 days and 17 hours. I ask him if there is any similarity between the two and he says, "this is really a huge difference between them." In this, he says, "You have to go," he says seriously, "the goal is so far far away. If you don't move, it doesn't come closer." He tells me how the day before, a bystander had congratulated him, when he had completed 300 miles. He could not relate to their encouragement he says, because for him, there was just so much further he had to go.
He tells me that starting in 2002 he wanted to race in longer and longer races. He would run the spring races and also would run in the fall races in New York. But in 2005 the fall races were canceled, and he was left without a race to run.
Then he says he felt an inner voice telling him to run the 3100 mile race. He tells me, "I am not sure when this voice first came." At the 10 day race last Spring he felt inspired to come back to New York in June and help at the race. At the time, he came for 9 days, much like the other new runner Pavol.
He describes running the Father's day marathon in New York on the same day the 3100 mile race started. He says, that after he had run the marathon, and placed well, Sri Chinmoy came by, out of the blue, and asked him if he had won. He was both surprised and very pleased that he was asked this. He felt that Sri Chinmoy was encouraging him in his running. Later when he returned home he felt it was at last time, for he as well, to commit himself to the 3100.
Even with Sri Chinmoy's passing last fall he felt a real inner need to dedicate himself to the 3100 mile race. "The picture was, if I care a drop, for my spiritual life I must come back and do the race."
We have run together for several miles now and he seems to have grown stronger with each lap. The tiredness and pain do not go away, but they do not control the pace and flow of his footsteps. It is easy to feel that something, very great and wonderful is working in and through, not just Christopher, but all the runners here. He tells me, "I feel lucky to be chosen, to be part of this immortal race."
I reluctantly turn at last, to head back to my little world a few blocks and another universe away. Just as I go he tells me, "I don't know what is going on after the race, here is heaven on earth."