24/12 Hour Race In Basel, Switzerland
- On May 12./13. 2012, the time had come again for holding the 24/12 hour race in Basel, Switzerland. All together 111 runners had applied for the annual race. The results including the Swiss Championships can be viewed here:
As numbers do not say everything about a race, I am inspired to add some of my own personal impressions.
It was raining early in the morning and I was actually not inspired to go anywhere. But thinking of the many helpers who went already to Basel the day before the race to set up tents and build the open kitchen I thought it was not fair, although it would have been easy for me to find an excuse to stay at home. Not to think of the runners! I went. Some dressed in rain gear and flip-flops, trying to keep their running shoes dry, others taking with them lots of stuff to play a trick on the "Ice-saint" and the "Cold Sophie" at night. Colorful air-balloons were blown up and other decoration articles like artificially blossoming cherry branches lay next to dead colored umbrellas in the back of the car. Quite a few backpacks garbled. A young girl from Munich, Germany, who spent the night in our house and joined the spiritual path only a few years ago, was enthusiastic and excited about the race. It made me smilingly remember that I was helping there for nineteen years now, the other two years I did run myself a personal best of 125 km not that much.
We arrived unfortunately a little late as usual. I grabbed my seven Habseligkeiten and walked in direction to the 'beloved' civic shelter. But there is a new situation. I learn that it is occupied by immigrants. I see black young men sitting on the meadow watching what was going on. A friendly "hi" that's enthusiastically returned and I quickly pass by them walking at least a mile to another bunker that was prepared for those who won't spend the night outside. On my way I pondered whether some of those black men made it from Libya, a country that was freeing itself from a horrible dictator last year, or whether they might even come from Syria where war is still raging after such a long time.
Totally forgotten were physical limitations when I ran to the starting point not to miss the start. I was not the only one. Still breathing heavily I see Ashprihanal. He quietly arranges himself next to the running crowd wearing a big backpack and holding a heavy looking plastic one in his hand. Many were late because of problems on the highway.
Later I would meet him at the food station and ask him about the backpack on his shoulders and he says he would like to be a hero. He seems to be always in a joking mood, I was not but I tried to jump into his boat. It helped. He then adds, "a hero in being late."
The rain stopped thirty minutes before the start despite opposite weather predictions. 79 runners went off after a moment of great silence, leaving their zig zag roads of life behind in an attempt to circle a block of four for the next 24 hours. Nobody knows the outcome. Ashprihanal gently merged into the slowly running crowd and I am walking over to the race director, apologizing for being late, reaffirming that it was not my fault. He did not mind saying he had found a replacement.
I was a bit worried for counting the runners means one can sit for at least one shift of six hours. Instead, I was sent to the kitchen. My new job was to provide food for the counters. It was a rewarding task for it is easy to please others with food. Like a bird mother, I tried to feed the hungry beaks every hour, which also required some instinctive feeling not to distract anybody from concentrating on 'their' runners. But it also meant to run to and fro between counter station and kitchen, not to forget the 'singing birds' on the other site of the quite big park. When evening decended, I realized that I had been on my legs for nine hours. I felt as I would be walking like a question mark. Time to sit down and having some dinner and chat a little with those who were around the kitchen like the little cheeky sparrows that lost all shyness getting very close to the little tidbits on the wooden tables. They are really sweet.
Back to the counting station people were already missing you having this desire and that desire, almost impossible to fulfill all of them, at least not in a short amount of time. Around eleven p.m. I just disappeared although I would have loved to stay. I left their well-being to the kitchen boss and went to the less inviting civic shelter.
Only just I am able to open the heavier than the heaviest metal door and sneak in through a gap. It's colder inside than outside. A ventilator is rotating constantly. Another heavy door has to be opened and still another meticulousness cleanliness spreads on cold grey-green floors and walls, bedclothes loosly scattered on a table. I belong to the privileged ones who got a place in a small room of only five or six three-story beds. After some time of wandering about in the cold underground world I finally find the appointed room. It is relieving to meet familiar people there. One of those is Surasha, the second lady in the world who finished the 3100 mile race last year. We share a few words and I am hesitant to ask her about running the frightening distance this year. Out of the blue she asked me if I would like to join this year's race and be one of her helpers. Spontaneously I smiled and said, "Of course." But then my mind came to the fore and found many reasons why, of course, I was not able to join. We will end our little conversation with Let's see. Then she prepares for the 12 hour race that will start at midnight.
I will manage to get into one of the narrow beds and will remain awake for the next three hours lying in the pitch dark, listening to the rotating ventilator not knowing who would steadily breathing below me while I was shivering a little. At dawn I am glad to be released of the dark kingdom. Having regained *some* energy I am wrestling with the three sturdily built doors and finally make it into the bright day light, breathing in the fresh morning air, listening to the birds singing and just walk freely through an alley of chestnut trees that are in full bloom and not stingy with their blossoms. It's just wonderful to see the sun rise somewhere and walk and walk without any thought in mind until the runners come in sight, shuffling along while others are running quite fast. Only now I become more aware of where actually I am oops, at the 24/12 hour race.
Next to the open kitchen there is a snow-white tent, snow-white decorated inside and the Transcendental Picture in a blue frame put on a snow-white chair. No flowers, but still heavenly. Nobody else is there at this early hour and before my mind can fool me and telling me about all my ailments, I find myself sitting on the ground meditating. In the near distance, a mix of dynamic music is played over the speakers by students of Sri Chinmoy. Then Purushottama starts singing. I believe it was one of those soulful songs he dedicated to Sri Chinmoy. Your hearts just melt what a depth in his voice.
The kitchen crew is already busy when I crawl out of the meditation tent presented with new energy and light after two hours of sleep. Breakfast will be served, tea, water, coffee will be brought and and distributed and whatever is desired will be fulfilled. Abuzz with excitement the counter station now is the last hours have begun to run quickly and the runners are fired enthusiastically and asked to give their all Perhaps for the second time I had the time to look at the board for the results. But what I saw were the two boys who cared for the numbers quickly I walked to the kitchen and made them some sandwiches that were brought to them by a boy. I heard later they almost twitched them out of his hands. Gosh, I had forgotten them and obviously, they did not have time to care for themselves as well as the "singing birds", but they do have their friends who care for them.
Nevertheless I was inspired to visit them at the other end of the park. Pleasantly and cheerfully I walked across the really wide football field (actually there were two). Due to the weather, though the sun was shining for a moment, there were no matches and I had the pleasure to enjoy the vastness of the green meadows and the blue sky, except for a few crows that were fighting with each other.
12 o'clock the horn blows, the runners leave their flags on the ground and the place empty. God knows what is going on now inside their hearts, minds and bodies. Probably their family members and friends will lovingly care for them. Some helpers already begin to take down the tents and electricity.
The kitchen crew is busy with preparing for a final lunch before the award ceremony. The last test I will not stand. I am asked to help someone with preparing some dessert. Energetically we were like day and night. After some attempts of trying to unknot some confusion we both left the dessert table into God's hands. When I checked later, I found out we had prepared enough for everybody. Thank God.
Many of the runners (and helpers) came for lunch while we were serving but I hardly knew anybody. I said something jokingly to Ashprihanal but now it was him who was not in a joking mood. But he quickly jumped into my boat. It helped.
Impatient that I am you will have to wait for the plenty of pictures taken by our centre photographer, Bijoy, available in a few days.
Click on this link:
We missed Kedar, our cameraman, who spent hours and hours in past times of videoing the event. May he get well soon.
P.S. I hope you got a little joy from reading this simple report as I sometimes declare I gave my best when it actually was the worst. :-))
- Thank you so much for sharing this experience. It makes me wish I had been there... really! No matter how hard it may seem to join these events backstage, it is always energizing and inspiring at the end. You are lucky to have been there!
- I might have failed to convey that I was beaming with smiles throughout the day! I am lucky, indeed! I just didn't feel physically well that day. :-)))