Guru always encouraged us to use our talents, but he also encouraged us to try things that we were not talented at. For me, perhaps the most striking example of being untalented was running.
I was not very good at it, but I still tried to do it. In fact, I was one of the first disciples to get interested in long-distance running. Most of us were not running much at that point. We would go to work and have functions at night, and we were singing and doing so many activities. But somehow I found the time to do some running.
Then the New York City Marathon came around. Previously only two or three disciples had done a marathon, but that year, 1977, about eight girls and thirty boys ran the New York City Marathon for the first time.
The morning of the marathon came. We made it to the starting line, I started running... and about two miles in, I thought that I was going to faint. I kept going, though, and managed to make it all the way to Queens. (The New York City Marathon goes through all five boroughs of New York City, and when you reach Queens, you are getting fairly close to the end.)
I had not eaten anything during the entire marathon. I don't know if I ate anything that morning, but I know I didn't eat much the night before. I also had no money with me to purchase any food. I was in a very lonely part of Queens, and I went into a little store and begged somebody to buy me a banana. An old man bought me one, then I went outside and sat down on the sidewalk and ate it. I was very sad because I was running so slowly and still had some distance to go.
Then a little boy, about ten years old, came up to me on a skateboard. He sat down next to me and put his arm around me, and said, “You're going to make it. Are your mother and father at the end?”
Then he said, “Come on, I'll take you to the bridge.” He got on his skateboard, and I followed him to the Queensboro Bridge.
On the other side of the bridge was Manhattan, and they were starting to take down the marathon barriers that were blocking the traffic. But a young man driving a truck saw me, and he decided to block the traffic for me all the way up First Avenue. At one point he got out of his truck and bought me something to drink.
Guru had been waiting at the twenty-mile mark, and at one point all the other disciples had already passed him by. Somebody said to him, “Guru, Nemi hasn't come yet.”
Guru said, “She's all right.”
He then left, but when I got to the twenty-mile mark I met my “inspirer.” For each woman disciple running the marathon, Guru had appointed another to be her inspirer. She wore a t-shirt that said “inspirer” on the front, and on the back it said “Go” and then the person's name. So my inspirer was Pratyaya. The back of her shirt said, “Go Nemi,” and I did. I followed her for the last six miles to the finish line.
So I finished my first marathon, and that was totally Guru’s grace because I certainly wasn’t a great runner at all. Over the years, though, I did many more marathons—about 53 of them all together. Pretty inspiring for a bad runner!
I want to run with You
Sleeplessly and unconditionally,
But I cannot keep pace with You.
What can I do?
“My child, Your very eagerness to run with Me
Is more than I need.
Sleeplessly think of running with Me;
Unconditionally meditate on running with Me.
Lo, sooner than at once
You and I will be easily running Together.”
Sri Chinmoy 1