- When I spent the Labor Day holiday shredding old bills, etc., I came across a folder that I was quite glad I had kept. Most of the time I wish I had a better handle on paper "clutter" and I imagine a day when my many piles of papers are filed instead of offering themselves up like some new archaeological dig revealing layers of history laced with nonsense.
When I opened my file called "Running", I nearly squealed out loud as I shuffled through New York Marathon finish certificates from the 1980s and 90s, small photo proofs of myself crossing the finish line and a laminated talk that Guru gave in 1986 on the subject of running marathons in particular and running itself in general. There was even a photocopy of a newsletter article that a woman had mailed me in which she told the story of her first New York City marathon and how she and I had kept each other going straight through to the finish after striking up a conversation at mile 6. Shared experiences such as these can create bonds quickly and I was so touched that she featured so much about me in her story. She also mailed me a copy of the New York Post that listed the finishers and their times, highlighting hers and my finishes in the newspaper. Finding this long forgotten tidbit delighted me in its sweetness.
Fast forward to August 2012 and my first ever running of the Rockland State Park Self-Transcendence Marathon. I had heard so much about this marathon that started in 2002 and had helped at it a couple of times but had never before entered it until this year.
Firsthand I got to see the ducks, geese, swans and a deer placidly eating grass a short distance from the path around the lake. I was somewhat surprised by how many entrants in the race are not actually disciples of Sri Chinmoy and as I waited to get my number the morning of the race, people around me spoke of their intention to use this race to qualify for the Boston Marathon, etc.
One woman who came in 6th place overall actually ran the marathon in bare feet the entire race. It made me ponder the days when Guru ran in bare feet in India during his sprinting and decathalon days at the Pondicherry Ashram.
I found myself a fickle and reluctant admirer of the marathon and the course despite its natural beauty and support from musicians such as Toshala on accordion and Antara-Prabhat and friends alongside the route.
Maybe when you are branded in one milieu it is hard to transfer affections. The whole notion that each lap had mile markers at slightly different locations kept me distracted in its unfamiliarity. Not until after the race did I realize that one needs a system to count oneself as well and found out that runners such as Karnayati keeps a pen in her pocket and marks off laps on her bib number. She said others keep pebbles in their pocket and transfer them after each lap. That part had me in fond remembrance of the Father's Day Marathon that I entered this summer in New York, where the route was the familiar loop around the Jamaica High School, the 3100 mile runners were good company just across the street and one could forget counting entirely because someone kept track of our laps as we passed the time clock.
Most of all I am grateful to toe up at the starting line even if I did not finish a marathon before the time cutoff in either race. After such a long lapse in marathon running, I've pointed my compass back in the running direction and with any luck and the grace of God, I will follow a course due north towards the pole star at a slow but steady walk/run pace.
p.s. while I had a hard race mentally and physically, I am most grateful to all the encouraging support from my fellow racers who I think perhaps noticed my participation was "new" and your encouraging words still ring in my memory.
p.p.s. At the Father's Day marathon, I actually had the experience of Guru's presence and blessing washing over me at one point while I was running. It felt as if he was *there* like what it used to feel like to be in his physical presence. That brought me to tears and catapulted me back to the memories of receiving blessings from him while he was still here on Earth. I cherish this experience deeply and can only imagine that it is his way of saying "Go on, go on, go on."