Reminisces from Sahishnu...
The ninth edition of the Sri Chinmoy 24-Hour was held on May 2-3, 1987 on our venerable one-mile loop in Flushing Meadows Park near the giant Unisphere, the jewel of iconic symbols from the 1964-65 World’s Fair. A full compliment of 40 runners, including 10 women toed the line, adjacent the National Tennis Center, its facilities dwarfing parts of the large park as the fair weather projected happy runners and good times.
The heavy players in the race were dueling from the start. Cahit Yeter, 52, from the Bronx popped a 6:48:37 50-mile split to lead all. Don Jewell, 49, of East Islip, NY gave chase, with defending 24-hour champ Luis Rios a casual 40 minutes back of him. Diane Hawkins, 35, NYC, was the early leader through 50 miles in 8:01:54. Pippa Davis, 40, Westford, MA, the transplanted Englishwoman of 5-Day fame, pulled new American talent Suprabha Schecter, 31,Wash, DC along in the quest to stay close to the top.
Just past the 70-mile mark, Don Jewell was clearly the man of the race if he maintained form throughout the night. Don touched the line for 100 miles in 15:49:25, and cruised on to 130 miles. Luis Rios held for second place with 121 miles, holding off a charging Fred Riemer, the mountain specialist who reached 118 miles. In the women’s competition, Pippa Davis hung tough, claiming first position with 115 miles, 421 yards. Suprabha Schecter reached 111 miles, 632 yards for second. Diane Hawkins held the third podium position with 103 miles.
In all, 20 runners went past 100 miles. The event served as the warm-up for our 18-day trio of multiday races- the Sri Chinmoy 1300 Mile Race (with 1000 mile and 700 mile distances) that followed the 24-hour.
It was not until after the award ceremony of the third Sri Chinmoy Five-Day Race on November 12, 1987 that we heard about another 24-hour race happening soon- in Flushing Meadows. Sri Chinmoy wanted the race helpers and organizers to either run the 24-hour or come and watch, and let other people organize it from within our group. This was such a kind gesture after a full 12 months of events throughout the calendar year. Not, surprisingly, some of the 24-hour racers from earlier in the year came to run again, and or ‘help the helpers’ as some of us stood at the line, on December 12, for the 10th running of the 24-Hour. Forty people ran the race.
Sri Chinmoy’s spontaneity in creating another race was very appealing, at least to his students. He did not want people to dry out on the vine in our spiritual life. Rather, by exploring and challenging ourselves, no matter where we stood in the compendium of runner/ helper perspectives, the truth was clear. Both athlete and helper must transcend their previous notions of limits, boundaries, and capabilities. The spiritual life, he said, was a continuous exploration. Especially with the summer success of the 1988 Sri Chinmoy World Championship 1000 Mile Race and Ultra Trio, and the success of the other multiday races, there was amazing energy and attention drawn to these races. We had to keep up the pace. The one- day event still had a purpose.