The 47 Mile Race, 2011: A New Generation

The passage of time is usually never very kind to the human condition. As the calender keeps shedding each worn out month the discarded pages pile up into stacks of years.  It is then that the tap tap of age upon our shoulders seems to grow ever more insistent.  Trying usually, without calling upon much effort, to convince us that we can and should go slower and do less as we grow older.

Sri Chinmoy 1980 photo by Bhashwar

Yet Sri Chinmoy himself never surrendered to age and certainly hoped that his students would not listen to the braying frailties of our bodies, or the gibbering reluctance of our minds.  There can be no better examples of this philosophy in action then Gaurima, Arpan, and Dipali who even after 30 years of continuous competition have never found any excuse not to still step up and enter this most special and uniquely challenging midnight run. Their memories are rich and full with moments when Sri Chinmoy not only watched with admiration from the sidelines but even back to the 2 years when he ran this race himself.

The 47 mile race has never lacked having an enthusiastic crowd of eager young participants.  All willing to step off into the unknown realm of distance running and discover their own precious experience.  Some dreaming and training just for that moment when they can push off  from the starting line at midnight on August 27th.

Now over more than 33 years the track and road around Jamaica high school have tested and taught hundreds of runners some unique and fulfilling hard fought lessons.  Each participant is inevitably confronted  with not just the challenge of running an ultra distance but more importantly they are inevitably confronted by the simple truth, that by going deep within is also the answer to succeed in going not just 47 miles but also covering the total distance of one’s life.

High Fives at midnight

Kiwi boys signing in

Mostly new faces

some more familiar

counters getting ready

Counters getting it right

Then it all just begins.  Pratatyaya and all the 122 runners at the starting line.

From the beginning Garbitashri and Jayasalini found strength and comradeship by running together throughout the long night.

The counters ever attentive and watchful through the night, sharp pencils at the ready.

 

The scoreboard crew ever vigilant.

No reason to be hungry as you run

Music in the night.  Click to play

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Pushkar comes in first this year and I suggest for a man who has run the 3100 mile race that 47 miles is just a warm up.  “Yes, but the intensity is a little bit different.  On the other side of the street you know that you have to go on and go on.”  His effort tonight though was so grueling he feels as though he has really given his all.  “I am squeezed out like a lemon.”

“I started getting cramps at lap 25.  I started to stretch and thought,oooooh, this is very bad.  Fortunately I got rid of it, and I said, just keep moving.  I want to say the intensity is much higher but it is just different.”  He ran much of the race with Stefan but eventually he continued his own pace and Stefan had to slow down.

As we are talking an applause builds louder in the background as Satyamurthi finishes in 4th.  He yells out encouragement to him.  Pushkar tells me that for the last 3 years he did not run the 47 because he was still recovering each of those years from his 3100 mile experience.  In past years when he ran this race he had also participated in the marathon a couple of days earlier.  This year however he felt inspired just to run the 47.

It is also a very intense spiritual experience for him running this race.  He spent much of his time chanting and feeling real gratitude that he could offer this race to his spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy, in honor of his 8oth birthday.  He feels that his experience was all grace.  That he won the race in a time of 6:22 he says, “I feel very honored or humbled or whatever.”

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Sukhajata finishing

Stefan finishing

“I have prayed.  I have tried to feel the presence of my spiritual master, and to give him the result of my actions.”  Satyamurthi has come in 4th.  This is the 7th time he has run the race.  “This is my 4th time that I have come 4th.  I have not done my best but I am very happy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tomaz is one of the remarkable new generation of runners who enjoy doing both the marathon and the 47, back to back.  Less than 48 hours earlier he ran the marathon in 3:12.  He finishes the 47 with a time of 6:47, good enough for 5th place.  He says that during the marathon he didn’t push harder because he wanted to save his best effort for the 47.

Pushkar tells him that he once ran a fast marathon in 3:01 and then followed that up with a very slow 47, 8:51.   Tomaz says his double time was better last year.

He says that more training and preparation gives you more confidence.  “You know your body and your inner body better if you train.”

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“We are feeling great.”  This is of course more than understatement by Garbitashri, who moments earlier had just completed the 47 mile race with Jayasalini at her side nearly every step of the way.  Still a little out of breath the 2 girls are celebrating not just their combined victory in this years race but also that their first place achievement is the ultimate present they can offer on this most auspicious day.

What makes their run tonight even more impressive is that the girls finished 1,2 in the marathon less than 48 hours earlier.  Garbitashri in 3:11 and Jayasalini in 3:19.  These are both terrific times and tonight they have run 6:58 which is a superb achievement.

“We were running the same pace and in oneness we just ran together,” says Garbitashri.  “It was just a joy.”

For Jayasalini this is the second year in a row that she has found a companion to share the race and the win with.  Last year she and Dhavala had an historic race and sharing the win as well.  This year she says, “it just happened.”

“It was not on purpose.  We had so much joy.”  She tells me how they shared so much together through the night.  Particularly helping each other at water stations.  “It was so sweet.”

Both are in agreement that there can be no higher and deeper satisfaction on this auspicious day than to run this, their spiritual teacher’s most sacred race.  “It is the best way for me.”

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At 7:17 the next girl finisher crosses the line.  For her this day and this race is like no other.  Since 1981, and nearly every August 27th in between she has been at the starting line solely to honor her Guru, and offer him the complete and sum total of her inner life and her outer running capacity.  For 30 years she has shared birthdays with her spiritual teacher and this race has been her gift.  For many reasons this race is unique.  Simply by taking part in it has for her always been a total commitment, that blends in equal measure all parts of her being, from the physical to the spiritual.

The number of occasions  that she has not run has been miniscule and on this occasion, hard to recall.  Now without question running the race is for her and many others as well a sacred tradition.  Sometime during the long dark night she turned 52 years old.  Yet in the glow of this bright new day she, like Arpan and Gaurima show no hint or sign that this will be the last time to run throughout the night on August 27th.

“I feel very much full of gratitude, and exhausted.  But in that exhaustion, are the tears of gratitude are flowing.  I would say this race is the hardest of all my adventures in my running.”  She says that the other races are nothing in comparison.  “I am so grateful to have the same birthday.  I fell like my soul is just crying.”

 

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Sri Chinmoy 1980 photo by Bhashwar

Question: What does your slogan mean: “Run and Become, Become and Run”?

Sri Chinmoy: If we run, we see our capacities becoming fully manifested. Previously our capacities were dormant; they didn’t function inside us. But when we run, we bring to the fore our hidden capacities and are able to do something and become something.

But once we have become something, that is not the end. Still we have to go forward, because we are eternal pilgrims. Everything in us is transcending. It is like a child. To learn the alphabet is his first goal. He studies and learns it. But will he then give up? No. His second goal is to go to school. Then he wants to go to college.

A runner brings forward his capacity and becomes something. Then he looks around and sees some champion runners, and he gets the inspiration to try to become an excellent runner like they are. Perhaps he will one day excel and go beyond them. So there are always higher goals even after we have become something. Once we reach our first goal, we have to run towards a higher goal.

Sri Chinmoy, The Outer Running And The Inner Running, Agni Press, 1974.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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