47 Mile Race 2012: A New Summit of Perfection

Start of the 47 mile race 1980

But before you start, if you can convince yourself that you are a divine observer and that somebody else is running in you, through you and for you, then fear, doubt, frustration, anxiety and other negative forces will not be able to assail your mind.

Once these thoughts occupy the mind, they try to enter into the vital and then into the physical. Once they enter into the physical, they create tension, and this makes you lose all your power of concentration.

But if you feel that you are not the runner, if you feel that you are observing the race from the beginning to the end, then there will be no tension, and these forces will not attack you. This is the only way to overcome these forces and maintain the highest type of concentration from the beginning to the end.

This is what I do. As a runner I am useless, but right at the beginning I try to become an instrument and make myself feel that somebody else, my Beloved Supreme, is running in and through me. Right at the beginning of the race I offer my gratitude-heart to the Supreme, and at the end, after I finish the race, I also offer my gratitude.

If I can offer my soulful gratitude to my Inner Pilot before the race and after the race also, then there can be no frustration, no decline of aspiration. The aspiration and power of concentration will remain the same throughout the race.

 

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

Everyone who has ever stood on a starting line of a race has felt themselves enveloped by their own unique blend of hopes and prayers and their almost unavoidable opposite companions, doubt and fear.  Felt that at last that what was now lying just before them, was a real opportunity to bring to life a dream that had yet to be realized.  One that they had felt steadily growing within, with each new day of training, and that now was at last the moment when they would really achieve and perform their very best.  That at the end of the day they would reveal something that they had felt already existed in a subtle way within, but that now it would at last take shape and form and become a new reality.

The irony of course is that while your life force roars and thunders throughout your physical frame, within you, the best part of you seeks out the still vast island of peace that is always present. To somehow keep a delicate balance between what we see, what we feel, and what we want to become.  There is a mystery in how it is possible to remain completely calm, despite the darting thoughts that swirl and buzz about like angry bees.   Trying to focus on really only one thing, that now you are about to commit to giving your all.  Unleash the power that comes from the relentless long miles of training.  Bring together all the discipline and all the sacrifice and focus all that you have over the distance that stretches now directly before you.  To now reach and attain a new goal.

It has just gone past midnight on August 27th 2012.  A large group of runners are preparing themselves for the 32nd running of the 47 mile race.  It is a perfect night to run.  The air is still but not hot and the humidity is low so it is an almost ideal conditions to run a personal best.  Tonight  the weather will be a friend to all and not a relentless silent adversary.

This race is not defined like most with thoughts of competition but by oneness.  Here, when one achieves something remarkable than that victory is not lost or withheld from everyone else, who has also dreamed and strived for self transcendence.  It is quality that can be shared and celebrated  equally by all.  For we all seek the same ultimate goal.  When one has inspiration it does not diminish when it is then offered to all those who also tirelessly seek out their own steps to transcendence and perfection.

Everyone who runs here or even helps out will all try and do their best this night.  Try to set a new mark for themselves by bettering their times or perhaps make the night one long sweet meditation.  Reach out for the luminous threads of promise that can pull us forward on our very long inner journeys.

Vajin stands at the front of this group of runners.  There is none around him who would dispute his right to stand there, and there are none who don’t share, a not so secret hope, that he in particular have a very good night of running.

You can sense from everyone present that there is a collective wish that Vajin will tonight at last break the race record.  One that is startlingly great but one that is also very old, and in many eyes stood for too long.

It has dangled so far above and out of reach for 32 years.  So long now that it has seemed to be for many an almost unimaginable goal to reach. Many think that tonight however it will be broken at last. Those that do, have good reason to believe that this is finally possible.

Vajin, 2 years ago showed everyone that he had the determination, strength, and skill to create his own new mark of transcendence, when he ran 5:15, just 6 minutes shy of the record. Over the past 2 years he has trained hard and ran well on many long mountain trail races.  He has performed superbly with top ranked trail athletes in races around the world, and now, on this August night has dedicated himself to not just transcending himself but also to offer a precious gift to his late spiritual teacher.

To create for runners, who run this race next year and quite possibly for many years to come, a new summit of perfection.

But each must find their own perfection as well.  For the track has to hold the hopes and dreams of many.

Everyone here tonight will find something new , work hard on something that requires transformation,  surrender themselves only to ultimately to receive more than they gave.

Everyone has to ready themselves in ways that have worked before.

For those champions of the 3100 mile race the 47 must seem so tiny.

The night so dark and yet there is light in so many places.

“The task in front of him now, an hour and a half into the race is that he just has to maintain the pace he is going at.  Which is easier said than done, as he is all on his own.  It is a tough record and this is a tough loop.  It will take an exceptional talent to beat it.  But Vajin is in the sort of shape.  He has shown consistency in ultras over the past 2 years.  He is in good enough shape to do it.  If he can just hold it together.”

“The lap is 1.175 miles and he is lapping at about a 7 1/2 minute pace, so he is doing about 6:30 miles.  That would give you about a 2:45 marathon.  It is all done to basic speed and he has the marathon speed.  The best ultra runners 9 times out of 10 have the best marathon speed.”

“It is hard to run it out in front on your own.  If you have a pack of people with you it is easier to run it but he is now on his own and he has to grind out the laps and keep it going, and keep focused inside himself.  And never forget what the goal is, and the goal is self transcendence, and try and not think too much about the distance.”

Tarit Interview early in Race

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It is a beautiful night to run

The light is so delicate and yet the task is so difficult

 

“Perfect.”  I have walked up to Nivedak just as Vajin has run by.  He has written something onto a sheet of paper and is clearly happy.  I ask him about what he is trying to do in order to help Vajin’s race.  “We prepared for Vajin a timetable for tonight’s race, and Vajin would like to run 7 minutes and 30 seconds per lap.  Which is about 1.2 miles and he is doing that a little bit faster.  We can project with 8 laps done he will run slightly under 5 hours.”

“Well actually this race is very hard.  Anyone who has done it knows how the course affects you.  How long it is.  How many factors come into the picture, how to get through with your full potential.  Vajin is doing this race for the 3rd time.  Since the last time, (2 years ago) he has acquired incredible experience. 2 years ago he ran it in 5 hours and 15 minutes.  Definitely with all the experience he has acquired with international trail races since then he has become much stronger.  He definitely has the capacity to run faster than that.”

“The record is 5:09:30 and the record as far as we know and it is 32 years old.  This might be the one time when it finally gets broken.”

I ask Nivedak what kind of experience he is having for himself.  “It is actually very very exciting.  I am not in good enough condition to actually do this kind of race and my heart is full of joy being able to participate trying to help him.  That he can do his best.  Bajin is extremely well prepared.  I really think this will be a great night with fantastic results.”

Nivedak interview

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Few sleep tonight.  Not when the candles burn and the light is so bright

So many new stories are being created tonight.  New goals of all kind being reached.

Help comes from many hands and from many hearts.

A large team of counters mark down the precious laps each time a runner comes by

“In essence it is quite simple.  Every half hour Vajin takes a jell with some water.” Abinandan is perhaps the most crucial of Vajin’s helpers.  He has scheduled a routine of foods and drinks and at what intervals to offer them.  “I am dealing with the nutrition side of things.  I have crewed with Vajin before.”

“Vajin is very methodical with his training, and with the races he chooses.  So he knew well in advance that this was a race he wanted to do.  And of course that record has been in his heart since a year or two ago when he did that 5;15.  So he has been gearing up for this for quite some time.”

He says when he crewed for him in an Australian race earlier this year Vajin needed little help with food.  Instead, “he just wanted some encouragement.  Some inspiring thoughts.  In these long races it is hard to stay constantly cheerful, that is how the beautiful companionship comes into it.”

It is still early.  “At this stage of the race it is very easy for him he is on autopilot.  He is so well trained.  As the race goes on I will share with him some of Guru’s aphorisms.”

“I love it.  It is priceless.  When I first crewed for him I was a little reluctant.  I had a busy schedule myself.  I thought, do I have time to do it.  I got so much out of the experience.  It is absolutely priceless.  I don’t think any other job gives you such a oneness with the athlete.  You really feel their achievement is your achievement.  This is magical.”

Abinandan Interview

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Dinesh group

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Many others are doing very well tonight.  Dhavala is running a fine race and is leading the girls.

Gradually the board makes clear what is happening on the track.

Some experiences can’t be so easily described.

“It is great.”  For the very early laps of the race Granatan was able to run along with Vajin.  Eventually though he cannot keep up the pace.  “I am slightly frustrated that I couldn’t do more.”  A few days earlier he had run the marathon in Rockland state park.  Also an old bike injury has been bothering him tonight and he knew he just couldn’t continue.

While we are talking Vajin runs by and the crowd around us erupts in cheers.  It is his 37th lap and has just 3 more to go.

He tells me that they both had stomach problems earlier in the race, around lap 7.

“It is historic.  It is in the balance now.  I think he has about 40 or 50 seconds to make up.  He was averaging 7:30 laps and now he is a bit over 8.  So he was a bit ahead of schedule at half way.  He had a bit of time up his sleeve.  Now he has had a bit of a rough third quarter.  He has done the training it is just a matter of feeling great on the night.”

At this point the clock is showing 4:47 with 3 laps remaining.  Arpan is nearby and says, “you have to go beyond the body.  You can’t think of any limitations, and then you have to say let God’s will be done.  I think he will do it.”

Granantan interview

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Then with the crowd in full support Vajin completes the race in 5:10:56, a new personal best and just a fraction behind the record of 5:09:30.  The difference in time less than a minute.

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“It is such a challenging race out there, and I pushed myself as hard as I could.  It was intense the whole time.  I knew I was on track and it was really close.  The intensity never gave up.  I am completely satisfied.  I did my absolute best and there is nothing more I could leave out there.  I think I would have to have a perfect day to get below 5 hours.  From the stat my stomach was a little bit off and my legs were a little bit off.  I was just going on a whim and a prayer, and hoping it was all going to hold together.

I ask what it is like to be handed the flag for the last lap of the track.  “It is so satisfying because you put so much into it.  It means so much having Guru run this race and Guru run with this flag.  This race has a special consciousness.  There is no other race that can compare to this.  It is a race purely for the soul and for the spirit, and for our Guru.  For me it is such a significant race to do.  I mean to come here and share it with my brothers and sisters from all over the world.”

“Every time I came by the counting tent especially in the last 10 laps I got such an inner thrill.  Tears came to my eyes because there was such a sense of oneness.  I was just the instrument.  Everyone’s aspiration and force was here today.  It is the perfect environment in which to challenge yourself and really push yourself to your limits.  A beautiful experience and I am just so grateful to be able to take part in it.”

Vajin interview

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A well earned rest

Oskar finishes in 6:18 and Nitish in 6:49

The other runners will gradually make their way to the finish line.

Each with their own story of gratitude and hard effort over many hours and miles.

Dhavala will be the first girl to finish the race and it will be her second victory in 2 attempts. She last ran 2 years ago.
“I am good. Today I found it a lot tougher.  But doing the 47 is about a special experience.  I am just very grateful.”

“This year is 6:54, and I think 2 years ago it was 6:41.”  Remarkably she ran the marathon just a few days ago.  “For me I guess my first focus is the marathon.  I almost don’t let myself think about the 47 until I have done it.  So if I think about 47 miles than I won’t be able to run the marathon.  So I got through that and I was okay.  The 2 mile race I find very hard.  Because you get up the next morning after the marathon and make yourself run a fast 2 miles.

And by the time you get to the start of the 47 there is almost a sense that you need help basically.(laughter) You are at a point where you have put everything into the marathon and if you think about you would just think that you can’t do it.  So there is a lot more surrender involved.  (marathon time 3:21)  It is a ways off my best but it is about as good as could be expected.”

“For me because it is Guru’s birthday it is something to be able to come out and celebrate it really.  You have a sense of everyone running and sharing it and everyone who has ever run over the years.  It is a very special thing.  Getting the flag at the end.”

Dhavala interview

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For many there are still many more miles to go.

Find inspiration and strength from whatever the source

Ilvaka will be the 2nd girl to finish.  When she comes onto the track she has Prasasta just in front of her.  She is running strongly when she gets the flag.  She offers to run together with her but Prasasta knows that Ilvaka is much stronger than her and lets her go.

Prasasta is the 3rd girl and is married to Vajin.  Miraculously she was able to witness his finish.  Happily she applauded like everyone else and then had to keep on running long into the night.  When she finishes Vajin is there to greet her.  But now the 47 mile race and running is over now for both.

“It was always good to see him come run but I had to focus on my own race.  I saw him finish so that worked out really well.”

“For me the first 3 hours are just so energetic, and so happy.  I didn’t really feel that I was running.  It was the best experience.  I didn’t regret going out fast, because it was just so special.  The hardest moments are when you have to really dig deep.  Go to places where you are not comfortable with going.  The real victory was coming through that.  I am so happy to get out of that and feel happy again.”

Talking about Ilvaka passing her.  “She said we will go together, and I said no.  You are running so much faster.  Please go ahead.”

Prasasta interviw

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1979 Photo by Bhashwar

In the spiritual life also, everybody is a winner—provided you do not give up. If you give up, you are not a winner. Slow and steady wins the race. Everybody cannot have the same capacity, the same standard. You will go according to your speed, and I will go according to my speed. If you and I can maintain our cheerfulness and reach our destination, it does not matter whether you arrive first or I arrive first. We are both winners because we are competing with ourselves on the strength of our faith in ourselves and in God.

Sri Chinmoy, Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 32, Agni Press, 200

13 Comments to “47 Mile Race 2012: A New Summit of Perfection”

  1. Satykarma says:

    This year was the first year I have been able to run the 47 mile race. Normally having completed the marathon a few days earlier I just havent been able to recover in time. This year for some reason things turned out differently. It really is a great event, with its history and amazing winning stories, its atmosphere and excitement, and its difficulty in covering the 47 miles on a tough, hot course in the 10 hr time limit. Unfortunately on my first attempt I could not complete the distance and pulled out after 7 1/2 hours. But I really did enjoy every minute of it! Its now in my blood and a new challenge looms ahead for next year when I will be 47 years old at the time of the 2013 race. Look out here I come! Somehow I dont think the race leaders will be at all concerned.

  2. Snehashila says:

    Utpal, I enjoyed reading this and seeing the pictures which had remarkable clarity. It was wonderful to relive this joy and excitement. I ran this race in my early days and there is no denying that it is a special one…running through the night celebrating Guru’s birthday this way is just about the best running experience I ever had.

  3. Savyasachi says:

    Very, very nice!
    Very, very inspiring!
    Thank you very, very, very much!

  4. Francesco says:

    Thank you very much Utpal,
    for share and inspire.
    We are so fortunate!

  5. Linda Cameron says:

    When I started reading this posting, I thought I was reading the words of Sri Chinmoy. After a while I realized it was someone else–apparently, Utpal. Very inspiring.

  6. Bhadra says:

    Short of being there for the whole time, this was the best, the most vivid and the most enjoyable way to get a taste of the 47-mile race experience.
    Gratitude to the runners, and to Utpal for capturing it.
    Bhadra

  7. Rathin says:

    Thanks Utpal!
    Let it be noted that I did help the Canadians set up and take down the race, so I certainly played quite a massive role in the proceedings (note: that is called writing with “tongue in cheek” for those who don’t know!)

  8. Arpan says:

    Fantastic photos and presentation of the story from various perspectives. I am sure it will inspire others to attempt the race next year or at least come to help and enjoy it in that capacity. I have run this race 25 times but this year I came to help as a counter all night. It was a really thrilling way to experience the race if one cannot run it on that particular night. Your coverage of the race and the runners and helpers brought that thrilling experience back. It also reminds us of why we put this race on and how much it meant to Sri Chinmoy, especially as a way to start his Birthday Celebration every year.

  9. kaushalya says:

    This is a great historical accoumt for us to divinely enjoy, time and time again. It takes us right into the heart of Guru’s self-transcendence JOY. That’s where joy is permanently located, and this is a powerful inner snapshot of that. Much gratitude

  10. Rathin says:

    PS next year I’m going to do this race again (I hope!) I have only done it twice and can’t even remember if I finished the first time (oh, now I remember… I didn’t finish). I remember finishing in 2002, the year that Stutisheel won. Since then I have been reluctant to start something I probably won’t finish within the time limit, but having seen so many happy runners just taking part, and continuing until the clock runs out, made me realise that maybe just being out there counts for something.

  11. Tarit says:

    Hey Utpal…I do actually read your e-mails SHOCK HORROR! fabulous ,fantastic, inspiring and MORE! Trying to describe the indescrible is always difficult but you have made the race COME ALIVE! And for those reading this who have never experienced the “magic of the 47 mile race” Start training or be there to help or support next year..it is always an incredible experience of “oneness, joy and self transcendence”that Utpals words and pictures can only give you a glimpse of..
    Thankyou so much and for younger readers, let it be known Utpal ran the race several times and ran it well too!!

  12. Utsahi says:

    This documentary is so amazing Utpal.
    Just as if we are re-living this race, as well as many previous races, with our Guru present in body or in Spirit!
    Utpal, you have great ways of making Self-Transcendance come true, in the runners and in all of us. Our Dearest Guru’s Spirit is alive and He is pursuing His Divine Dream through special moments like this race!

  13. uddipan says:

    Thank you so much Utpal. Your wonderful article took me right back to the race, I’ve still got goosebumps!

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