World Harmony Run Team Brings Mission of Harmony and Understanding to University City
The team of 11 runners is running 10,000 miles through 48 states over a span of four months.
The World Harmony Run, a group of runners from around the world, trots into University City Saturday bearing a message of harmony and a lit torch symbolic of their goals promoting communication and understanding.
The team of 12 runners started their epic four-month, 48-state, approximately 10,000-mile journey April 15 at the United Nations in New York City. The run, which started as the Sri Chinmoy Oneness Peace Run in 1987, is now in its 25th year and has spread to corresponding torch runs in Europe. The United States contingent, currently down to six men and five women, will have passed through 17 states by the time they arrive in University City for a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at City Hall.
Arpan DeAngelo of Queens, NY, who has participated in every Peace or Harmony Run since 1987, said he keeps coming back to help make a difference through one-on-one encounters.
“It’s the people we meet, the children, all the good will, the hope that you see in the country, even among all the problems,” he said by phone Wednesday while running with the torch through the streets of Cairo, IL. “In the hearts of the people, there’s hope that the goodness of humanity will shine through all the things that create the problems.”
The torch is a symbol, and it also serves the purpose of being an eye-catching icebreaker. Run through town or along a road on your own and people see a jogger. Run carrying a lit torch, and people get curious, as evidenced by the exchange DeAngelo had with a resident of Cairo.
“Hey, what are you doing?” the man asked, spying DeAngelo running by, wearing a “World Harmony Run” shirt and carrying the torch.
“We’re running around the U.S. Not just me – 11 people,” DeAngelo answered. “It’s 11 people in a relay. C’mon, hold the torch.”
As the man approached, DeAngelo gave him a card with the run’s Web site and explained a bit more.
“We started in New York City almost four weeks ago,” he said.
“Oh, OK,” the man replied. “How far you gotta go?”
“I’m doing about 10 miles today – maybe 12,” DeAngelo told him.
“Whoa,” the man said.
The runners are logging a total of about 90 miles a day, through heat, rain, humidity and everything else Mother Nature throws at them. DeAngelo, who plans to celebrate his 60th birthday in July by running a 52-day, 3,100-mile race, is running higher miles to prepare for his race.
“We split up the miles evenly, or however people want to do it,” he said. “We have a pretty good team.”
In Kentucky earlier in the day, the runners stopped at Wickliffe Mounds, an area with Native American mounds similar to Cahokia Mounds near Collinsville, IL. One of the people they talked with, touched by their altruistic goals, gave the runners $20.
“We don’t ask for money,” DeAngelo said. “But if somebody wants to give us a donation out of the kindness of their heart, we accept it.”
Donations can help with trip expenses, anything from gasoline costs to meals and lodging to, well, something near and dear to any long distance runner burning lots of calories day after day.
“We’re gonna use it to go get some ice cream today,” DeAngelo said, chuckling.
Activities on Saturday in St. Louis will include a 9:15 a.m. run from the Forest Park Visitors Center to the Tivoli Theatre in the Loop; a 10 a.m. walk/run from the Tivoli to the City Hall, and a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at City Hall where runners will share stories and the secret of their inspiration.
Everyone who comes to see the runners will have an opportunity to hear their stories and hold the World Harmony torch, a powerful symbol of harmony that has been passed from hand to hand by thousands of people including Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.
At the City Hall ceremony, the Harmony Run’s Torch Bearer award will be given to the Regional Arts Commission for their innovative and forward-thinking work for the arts and community development. There also will be a special children’s Harmony Run program at The Magic House at 2 p.m., held at the outdoor Pavilion.
Nayana Hein, who was raised in University City and now lives in New York City, is the coordinator for Harmony Run activities in her former home town.
“I valued the education I got there, and I valued the diversity,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to bring the run to University City.”
Hein said the runners and their enthusiasm can infuse a city with the mission of harmony.
“That’s what I love about the run, is it’s dynamic and peaceful at the same time,” she said. “Our founder Sri Chinmoy always used to say that peace wasn’t something that is static or passive, that it’s something that you have to keep progressing in life.”
DeAngelo and the rest of the runners love spreading the word to people of all ages, but especially to children.
“You want to show the kids that, for the future, there is something inspiring adults are doing and thinking about and trying to (accomplish) to create a better world ahead,” DeAngelo said. “It’s all about hope and sharing that hope for a better world.”