A Window Into the Infinite

guru-walkingIn August of 1978, when Sri Chinmoy turned 47 he initiated the first 47 mile race.  It was the first ultra distance event in the center and was created solely to inspire his students and give them an opportunity to challenge their notions of what their perceived limitations might be, both inwardly and outwardly.  He loved the sport of running himself so it created as well, a unique opportunity for his students to identify in a close and tangible way, with his unique and ever evolving vision of self transcendence.

Throughout his sporting life he himself trained often and trained hard.  There were times when injuries prevented him from his favorite sport of running but he still would go out and walk, often several times a day.  In April of 1980 he invited his students to take part in a new and unexpected challenge for the first time, the 12 hour walk.  In this first event he himself will take part and he will complete 45 1/4 miles.

Sri Chinmoy walking at Night

Click to play Movie….courtesy of Abakash

cimg2020In its early years the race would start at midnight.  The number of participants was small enough in number that the little dusty Jamaica High school track was good enough to accommodate all participants.  The race of course has continued almost uninterrupted over the past 29 years and it still attracts an enthusiastic field, that represents a broad cross section of Sri Chinmoy students that have come to New York for April celebrations, from all over the world.

cimg2019I also took part in the first race and did so for many years afterwards.  I see old film of myself taking part which I can now barely recognize the young man striding along.  There is a look of hard concentration etched across my face as I move through the still dark night.  I look at film of Sri Chinmoy and he is also moving with intensity and with effort.  On this cool spring morning with the race about to start at 7am there is nothing but joy and fresh faced enthusiasm in the expressions of the 80 plus participants and those who will count and help them on their long long journey ahead.

cimg2022cimg2033Pratyaya and other Canadians have been organizing the race since its inception.  The race of course takes lots of manpower to allow it to operate smoothly and there are no shortage of volunteers from many other countries who look forward to helping.

In 1993 Pratyaya made some notes about what Sri Chinmoy said at the start of the race.  He said, “Today you will be walking along eternity’s road.  As you are walking you will be encouraged, guided, and inspired, by divinity’s beauty, and fragrance.”



For the counters, their job is to remain cheerful and focused for their entire 6 hour shift.  For the walkers it is an opportunity to embark upon a modern day pilgrimage.  One, in which they may or not defy or challenge their previous bests, but still they will be required to step boldly forward towards new horizons within their own consciousness.

cimg2017cimg2025Tarit has entered this race many times himself.  Today he is acting as an official but understands as well as most what takes place in the bodies, minds, and spirits of those who enter the 12 hour walk.  He says, “What you have here is very inspiring.  What you have here is a big mix between the talented and the well trained and the not so talented and the not so well trained.”  He has always participated as one who is both well trained and talented.  But he describes the cimg2026inspiration he receives from those who still participate cheerfully without preparation.  He says of those, “it is inspiring to watch because it is hard for them.”

Tarit interview


Despite the cool weather the walkers will be drinking lots of fluids over the 12 hours. 

cimg2035cimg2036“It’s very tough because it is long, and if you want to be competitive you have to be fast.”  Smarana is doing this race for what he believes is his 10th time.  The last 3 years he has won the event and so for him the race will provide a challenge that most in the field will not experience.  Across the street, is where for the past 7 summers he has participated in the 3100 mile race.  This summer he will not return.

Start of 12 hour walk

cimg2042cimg2043Lauren Armstrong from New Zealand is in many ways typical of most of the walkers here today.  Her quest is less about miles and more about her  own inner journey.  She says, “It is not about the distance.” She was able to participate in the walk when Sri Chinmoy was still alive and says emphatically the experience for her now without him is no different. She still feels the same sweetness and strength he was able to inspire her with then, now.

cimg2055cimg2056“I am trying not to expect anything,” Emma says and laughs with open delight.  She is from the Czech republic and this is the first time she has done the race.  An injury kept her from participating last year and this year she has trained for walking because she knows that one uses different muscles than when one runs.  Her goal is simple, “I want to be happy, and be happy at the end.”

Emma interview

cimg2041Jogyata admits that he was trapped by his own wisdom into doing the 12 hour race this year.  This 60 year old plus New Zealander had been giving a talk about the spiritual importance of the race when someone asked him if he was going to do it.  He admits that he was caught and had to reply that yes he was.  Telling this story he laughs with delight.  Prachar, who is walking along to briefly support his friend enjoys this as well.  It has been 4 years since he last did the race and describes that when you train for it you can be amazed at how well your body can do during the race.  He does confess that when he entered in the past without training, it was quite a different story.


He says that when one participates in ultra events like this it can give you confidence in any other field of endeavour. He describes the 12 hour walk like a metaphor, “of the infinite possibilities that each and every human has.  It is like a window into the infinite, the possibilities of the human spirit.”

Jogyata interview

cimg2049 Ashanka from San Francisco has been doing the walk for so many years she has forgotten the number.  She once held the women’s record in the event of just over 58 miles. She has no expectation today regarding her mileage, just that she stay and be happy for 12 hours.


cimg2052“There are 3 phases.  The first one is the cheerfulness phase.  Then there is the determination phase, and then the surrender phase.”  Pataka is recounting what Sri Chinmoy once said happens to those who participate in marathons.  For the most part he is one of those rare individuals in which the cheerfulness realm is the place he most often can be found. He admits to not having any ambitions regarding the distance he will cover this day.

cimg2054Pataka interview



The hours pass and the day remains pleasant.  It is a far cry from the days when there was a midnight start and many could not wait for the dawn to come. The budding brightness of those hours brought new strength to tired legs eager to make the final push until noon when the race would end.

Vladimir (Moscow) seems to be tireless and full of life and energy all day long

cimg2126“I am a kind of person who loves to reach goals,” says Sergey from Donetsk.  He is moving along strongly in the very late afternoon and is very solidly in third place.  He says he does not pay attention to the board to see who is in front of him or behind. He just concentrates on his own race experience.  He says he would like reach 60 miles but more importantly, “I want to be happy along the way.”


Sergey interview

cimg2122“It was so difficult for me,” says Darya (Moscow), describing the first time she entered the 12 hour race and it started at midnight.  She also admits that she had not trained enough as well.  It was 3 years ago and she still managed to complete 86 km or 53 miles.  She says her race was very consistent, “it was a scimg2125urprise for me.”  She also says she feels very clearly the presence of her late teacher Sri Chinmoy inspiring during the time she has been out here walking.

Darya interview

cimg2130cimg2129Smarana, like the true champion he is will, in the end, win his 4th straight 12 hour walk.  An unprecedented feat.  During the day he will experience much, both highs and lows.  His distance covered today will be 60.87 miles.  Yet what he will best remember is the intense sense of devotion and gratitude that he experienced today which is the goal of everyone who walks here.

Smarana interview

p1020466cimg2133The counters will have faithfully kept track of each walker’s laps.  As it gets closer to the cut off some have no time for one more lap and so celebrations of the finishing walkers come at dfferent intervals.

Jwalanta is ecstatic.

cimg2134cimg2139Elena from Skopje will finish the race with 51.21 miles.

Darya will better her previous best of 53 miles by coming in second with 56.72 miles

cimg2141cimg2131Emma who walked here today for the first time will finish with 47.86 miles.  She will be in 11th place for the girls.

Garima who has done this race perhaps more than anyone else will finish with 43.61 miles.  Just 2 miles less than what Sri Chinmoy completed when he did the race.


The day is now spent.  The sun nearly gone over the horizon, dusk is offering its last few glimmers of light.  It is 7pm and the race is now over.

Pataka, cheerful throughout, will finish with 48 miles.

We celebrate all those who came here and walked and helped and inspired this brave group of walkers.  Those 12 hours are so brief compared to the great eternal journey that all of us must take.  For those who walked just a few weeks ago, and for myself, whose races are now years ago, the memories will start to dim and fade but never go entirely away.  What remains of course is always the most important thing, the beautiful and sacred experience of participating, is now safely enshrined within our hearts.

The picture below shows Sri Chinmoy finishing the 12 hour walk for the first time.  The joy on his face is clearly evident. Just a very few will recall what it was like to share his dynamic presence churning along the dusty cinder track for 12 hours.  Inwardly that inspiration is of course still available, and will eternally remain available, to all who push the limits of their beings and search for divinity’s beauty within their own hearts.

Sri Chinmoy completing 45 1/4 miles in the first 12 hour walk….courtesy Abakash


To me, life is not

A leisurely walk

But a constant


Excerpt from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 19 by Sri Chinmoy.

One Comments to “A Window Into the Infinite”

  1. Nirmala says:

    Sri Chinmoy walking at Night courtesy of Abakash is fantastic. Also the Sri Chinmoy completing 45 1/4 miles in the first 12 hour walk….courtesy Abakash is suberp. And you Utpal, doing this report .. once more a great inspiration for the up one’s coming.

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