Peace Run inspires kindness, connection locally

Peace Run inspires kindness, connection locally

Deirdre Bird, of Lincoln, hoists a torch while addressing a group of local runners who participated in this year’s Sri Chinmoy Peace Run. The runners met on the Sri Chinmoy Peace Bridge that runs over the Blackstone River in Pawtucket. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

PAWTUCKET – There’s nothing quite as empowering as running with a torch held out before you, but Brian Mulligan, of Providence, said it’s not the torch that energizes him to run mile after mile, but the positive energy coming from his fellow runners that encourages him to keep going.

Mulligan was among a small group of local runners, including Cumberland Mayor Jeff Mutter, who participated in an altered version of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness Home Peace Run this year.

The global torch relay was founded in 1987 to spread Chinmoy’s message that “world peace begins within the heart of each of us,” a message this year’s participants said is gravely needed.

The event is typically held every two years, relay style, with participants passing the flaming torch from hand to hand and community to community. This year, due to the coronavirus, small groups of runners from around the world have organized more condensed events, and individual runners have dedicated their miles to the Peace Run.

“All peace-loving people and those who want to spread more harmony and kindness in the world,” said Sharika Maria Xavier, of Pawtucket, who organized the event locally.

Standing on Pawtucket’s Main Street bridge overlooking the falls near Slater Mill last Thursday, international Peace Run advocate Harita Davies spoke about the significance of the run, especially during such turbulent times worldwide. The bridge is one of several Sri Chinmoy Peace Bridges, including the historic Broad Street arch bridge in Cumberland and Central Falls.

Davies, a New Yorker originally from New Zealand, said participating in the Peace Run helps her remember that “if we start with finding peace within ourselves and then share that pace with the community, we can take responsibility for making the world a better place.”

“Peace is not out of reach when we start with ourselves. As individuals, we can make a difference instead of being at the mercy of world leaders,” she said.

Davies said the run has introduced her to “amazing people every day who are doing so much good for their communities, connecting people and bringing them together.”

She said more than 100 runners from around the world participated this year, dedicating miles to the Peace Run. In all, she said the event usually covers about 10,000 miles, but this year covered about 20,000.

“We had people in 20 countries continuously dedicating their miles to the run and sharing their messages of hope and peace,” she said.

Deirdre Bird, of Lincoln, said she and Mulligan have participated in the run every other year for more than a decade.

“I really enjoy the energy that comes from carrying the torch. You can keep going and going, running across the state as we’ve done before,” she said. Her participation in the run, she said, helps remind her that “when we feel better about ourselves, we feel better about the world around us.”

Mutter, who ran from Cumberland to Pawtucket for the dedication ceremony, said when researching the Peace Run, he realized that the event has both an athletic component and a spiritual one.

“We’re advocating for peace globally, but the only way to do that is to have that inner peace within ourselves first, and to be more tolerant, empathetic and understanding of the things happening to all of us,” he said.

Carlos Lopez Estrada, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien’s deputy director of administration, welcomed the runners to Pawtucket and said an event that promotes peace and understanding is “something we need a lot more of in this world.”

“The Peace Run highlights the need for understanding and dialogue, and finding peaceful ways to deal with situations in our cities and towns,” he said.