'I am the marathon Guru'
In April 1982, one evening Guru inquired of those present if any of us were proposing to run in the Boston Marathon, only two days away. Nobody was. Clearly disappointed, he asked whether any of us would now do so – about a dozen of us raised our hands, myself goaded into acquiescence by my impulsive friend Simahin, and we filed past our smiling Guru on the stage. I was astonished by this sudden turn of events and amazed by my own mad act of abandonment – my first entirely unintended marathon!
The next night around 9 pm we caught Guru’s old blue bus for the overnight trip and now there we were, start time for the great Boston race, untrained, unregistered and looking for an opportunity to vault over the starting area’s picket fence without officials seeing us when the gun sounded.
We flew down the hill at a fantastic pace, trailing the greatest marathoners on the planet. I cast aside all common sense in the exhilaration of these first few crazy, high-velocity miles, impervious to all misfortune. But misfortune eventually came – and at 20 miles I remember slowing to a walk and shuffling up the aptly named Heartbreak Hill, much chastened by this first experience of ‘the wall’.
Racing down our avenue of dreams, we had felt like champions, that first thrilling mile a gauntlet of cheering, rapturous crowds – but with 42 kms of America’s countryside behind me, I limped across the line in 3:20, Simahin close behind me.
During our bus ride back to Queens, Guru asked us for stories. “I am the marathon Guru,” he said to us, half-jokingly, “and all of you will have to run at least one marathon before you go to Heaven.”
Then he told us how pleased he was with the handful of runners who had accepted his challenge and how much progress we make when we run. He added that our willingness and our cheerfulness were much more important than our timing in the race.
The experience was one of those first glimpses of the manner in which Guru would take us far beyond our comforts and customary ways and open doors to many great adventures and discoveries. Running the marathon was part of our spiritual training, teaching us fearlessness, obedience, self-discovery, transcendence and the principal role of grace in the lives of those blessed to have a Teacher.
When God touches
The divine in me,
I run and run
Towards my Destined Goal.