24 March 19851
A group of one hundred or so runners are gathered in a park by the Berlin Wall. In the moments that precede the race, the eye moves uneasily across the landscape in which we are about to run. It is the western side, just metres from the stark divide of barbwire and underground mines. On the park wall are painted crosses commemorating those who have unsuccessfully attempted the crossing from East to West. No one escapes these days. Within calling distance, the East German guards look down curiously from their towers at the sight of colour and animation below them. The distance of the race is announced (it is 2 miles); a minute’s silence and the race begins. The course is a one-mile loop. The first half mile follows the wall around the park and then the course turns back past the bullet-scarred Reichstag, Hitler’s infamous headquarters.
Once the race begins, all thought is lost in a concentrated effort to stay in touch with the leading pack. The first mile goes by in under 5 minutes and the leaders still look fresh. The air is cold, the skies grey, and the trees that line the empty pathways are devoid of greenery. Yet, like an artist's brush drawing an inspired line across a bleak winter canvas, a trail of multi-coloured tracksuits adds a touch of life and hope to an otherwise grim and forbidding scene, as it weaves its way through the park.
The guards watch intently as each runner heads for the finish line. The sounds of the timer's calls are muffled with the echoing coughs of breathless runners. Suddenly one runner attracts the attention of the crowd of finishers who have gathered. The runner sprints to the line and walks away casually. Moments later he offers the group some apples as prasad (blessed food) and a silent meditation.
Almost as quickly as they had arrived the group departs; the East German guards still absorbed in the early morning activities. For a time, East and West shared something in common – something intangible – that politics cannot touch.
This race was the beginning of a 7-day Sri Chinmoy race series, which started in Berlin and ended in Augsburg. The early morning races were a springboard for each day, yet in a sense they represented only a fragment in a mosaic of activity that characterised Sri Chinmoy’s German tour. Some of the posters merely read ‘Friedenskonzert 85’ and in most cases it seemed to be sufficient. Many people in Germany had either heard or read about Sri Chinmoy's Peace Concert in Cologne in 1984 where 8,800 people packed the city's ‘Sporthalle’. This year Sri Chinmoy came to offer 13 concerts in 10 days throughout the German-speaking world.
The concerts were 2-5 hours in length and on occasions, two would be held in a single day. A total of almost 30,000 people came to hear the master-musician-composer. The concert tour, which started in West Berlin (a tiny island of western occupation in East Germany), moved down the German mainland, through Switzerland, and onto Austria. The ethereal sound of Sri Chinmoy's flute still resonates in the silver light of the German dawn. A new inner road has been trodden. And along the way, the German people responded with the warm, glowing smiles of their peaceful hearts.
– End –
Associated article: Two Champions of Peace