Progress Is Not A Prisoner Of Time: The 47 Mile Race 2014

You tell the world:
Progress, progress, progress!
Progress within, progress without.
That progress is not and cannot be
A prisoner of time.

Sri Chinmoy, Gorbachev: The Master-Key Of The Universal Heart, Agni Press, 1990

Guru792

Photo by Shraddha

Sometimes there are moments that are so sweet and precious that we never want to let go of them.  But time, as it always does, and of course as it must do, eventually snatches at the edges of our memories.  The past cannot hold on to us for long.  At best we can only extract from our trans-formative experiences that which can enrich and prepare us for the next challenge.  In so doing we lighten our burdens and leave behind hopefully, at least some of our imperfections and doubt.

For those who want to dedicate themselves to living on a spiritual path there is no stopping, there is only progress and moving forward.  The beyond does not tire, the dream reality of tomorrow continually beckons to us, the summit of perfection will always be our ultimate destination.

In 1980 the 47 mile race was still very new and very challenging. For the students of Sri Chinmoy there was always a powerful incentive to run the race just as there continues to be one now.   At the stroke of midnight on August 27th it was Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.  There was no better offering to your spiritual teacher than to run the very race that he created.  One in which for 2 years straight, both in 1979, and again in 1980 he ran the 47 himself.

In that race in 1980 he ran 1 hour and 15 minutes faster than he had the previous year.  His time was 11:27:24 and because of his physical ailments he would never run the race again.

What also happened on that remarkable night was that Virendra ran a time of 5:09:30. As someone who came in 5th that year and was just a little more than an hour behind I have a very real sense of just how remarkable Virendra’s achievement really was.

virendra-finishing

Photo by Shraddha

Two years ago when asked about that night Virendra said,

“It is an offering from my side and it is grace from Guru’s side.  I couldn’t have done it without it.  I remember once about 2 hours in where I had my focus really solid.  I was kind of in autopilot, and I was running and running.  I didn’t have a single idea how many miles I had run or what the pace was.  I remember looking down at my legs and saying, wowwww, who is making these run?  They are just going by themselves.  I remember telling the counters, I don’t want to hear any splits.  I don’t want to hear my marathon time.  I don’t want to hear anything.  Just wake me up with one lap to go.  I had no emotional attachment to that race whatsoever.  It was a job that had to be done and that is it.”

“I am so happy to have that kind of treasure to put at Guru’s feet.  I really felt at that moment how big it was.  We were chasing 6 hours and then out of the blue comes this 5 hours. I remembered thinking, Guru is going to like this.”(laughter)

sign-vajin

Now it is 34 years later and no one has even gotten close in those many years, that is except Vajin.  Who 2 years ago at age 32 made a very serious attempt to surpass Virendra’s achievement.  “The funny thing was that I was hoping to break the record, than I don’t have to do it any more.  (laughs)

“But that’s not how Guru works.  He doesn’t want things to come easily.  He wants you to work for things.”

At the time he also said, ““I am definitely going to try it again. ” He was just 1 minute and 26 seconds off the record.

“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.”

 Progress:  A short film of Sri Chinmoy running the 47 mile race in 1979 and 1980

There is no end to our inner progress, no end to our inner progress. Progress, progress, progress! My Guru, your Guru, everybody’s Guru is the Supreme. I tell you in all sincerity, the Supreme Himself is progressing. Now, can we believe it? We cannot believe it. Our mind will not believe it. How can the Absolute Highest be progressing? Infinity we cannot measure, Eternity we cannot measure, Immortality we cannot measure. But when God, out of His infinite Bounty, opens up our third eye, we can see that God Himself is progressing. Not only on earth and in Heaven, but in His own highest Reality, I tell you, God is progressing, progressing.

.
You can say that God is absolute. That is true, absolutely true. But in His absolute Reality also, progress can be made. When God used His Vision to create the universe, His Vision was always Self-Transcendence, Self-Transcendence.

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Therefore, the terms that we use—Infinity, Eternity and Immortality—He far, far exceeds. God’s Infinity we cannot believe; our mind will never believe it. The mind can only believe so much. The heart, on the strength of its identification, can go very far. But if we are in the soul-consciousness, we see that the Absolute Supreme Himself is expanding, diving deeper and climbing higher.

 

Midnight is fast approaching. It is an almost perfect night to run.  Not hot, not humid, the air is instead sill and mild.  Granantan who ran so much of the race with Vajin 2 years ago is also running again.

sign-granantan

Pratyaya and her crew have been there carefully organizing the event since the first year in 1978

sign-pratyaya

The race is of course not just for the swift and strong.

sign-in-padmasini

There are some as well who just 2 days earlier ran the marathon at Rockland State Park.

sign-wide

A new figure to the starting line this year is Abhinabha.  He has had remarkable performances in the marathon but is running the 47 mile race for the first time.

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan

The clock is set

start-set-clock

The gate of the track is the place runners are funneled together.  The race is made up of 40 loops and so you go in and out of the gate many times.

Photo by Sharaddha

Photo by Shraddha

For almost 25 laps Vajin and Abhinabha run together.

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan

How the board looked early

board-early

Tonight also marks Dipali’s 56th birthday.

photo by Jowan

photo by Jowan

Gaurima who ran the marathon 2 days earlier now runs the 47.  She has never missed a year.

gaurima-road

“Indeed a very special night.”  2 years ago Nivedak was giving technical support to Vajin just as he is doing again this year.

“Vajin, after 2 years has decided again to try and run under 5 hours.  Which is his ultimate goal.  If that does not work then he will try and beat the current course record.  Which he could not beat 2 years ago.”

Nivedak said that breaking Virendra’s record then was within reach until the last 3 laps.  “He was still on pace very late into the race.”

He says that Vajin asked for his help to do this job back in April.  “I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run myself so I said definitely yes.  You can count on me.”

nivedak

“It is very important for him that he doesn’t need to think about time during the race.  He didn’t even bring his watch.  He completely relies on me taking time.  Especially in the later stages of the race.  To get the projection of the finishing time. He might get slower at some point, so he can know if he is going to do it or not. That will be very important.”

Abhinabha is running almost side by side with Vajin.  They had decided from the beginning to run the same pace.  “They will stay together as long as they can.  The funny thing is that they didn’t know about each other until basically 10 days ago that they will be racing together.”

As we are talking the 2 runners are approaching the track.   “They are doing perfectly according to schedule.  They are doing really well.”

The last laps were 7:25, 7:28, and this one is going to very close to that……….This one is 7:27.  Very very consistent.  As long as he is under 7:30 he is under a 5 hour pace.”

“He wants his gels.”  Danny is helping with nutrition and drinks.  Moments earlier Vajin had yelled out something as we was passing by on the sidewalk close by.   Whatever he request then can be ready for him when he makes his way around the track to pass by the counters.

He says that he takes a gel about every 3 laps.  “He carries it with him.  He has a water bottle which I give him on the 4th lap.  I run across the track and pick it up from him and refill it for him.”  It is less than an hour into the race and I ask him how he is enjoying the race so far.   “It is fantastic.  It is such a buzz.  He is one of the top trail runners in the world and a good friend.”

“This is an experience of a lifetime to be out here supporting these amazing athletes who are honoring Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.  I couldn’t think of anything more interesting to do with my time.  I feel very privileged to be here, and doubly to be supporting a runner like Vajin.”

nivedak-danny

 Click to Play Interview with Nivedak and Danny:

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Some old photos of Sri Chinmoy when he ran events at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram have recently been found.

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Agnikana is doing very well.  She has never completed the 47 before.  Yet 2 days ago she won the marathon and is now here running again.

counters-agnikana

There are 2 shifts of counters.

counters-girls

There are more than 80 runners on the course.

counters-medium

Granantan is running well.

granantan2

“I am doing a rough calculation on Vajin’s lap splits.”  Tarit is also very interested in what Vajin’s outcome will be.  “After lap 5 he was at 37:28.  It is 40 laps and then a lap of the 400 meter track.  So 40 laps at this pace will bring him in in 5 hours.”

Tarit says that 2 years ago he was doing about the same time for his splits.  “He planned this pace 2 years ago and went out a little faster.  The key will be between laps 20 and 30.  That is where he has to maintain.  To half way he should maintain this.”

tarit-clock

I ask him about Vajin running together with Abhinabha.  He doesn’t think they have any particular strategy.  “I think they will be going with the flow.”

He is quite confident, “I think it will go.  I think he will do it.  He is in shape and he is motivated.  Vajin has so much more experience.  He is now acknowledged as an international ultra runner in his own right.  He is not just winning races in New Zealand he is placing well in other areas of the planet.”

tarit-figures

I ask Tarit how important is it for Vajin to break the record.  “For the geeky runners in the center it is a life defining moment.  That has been waiting to be broken for years now.  It is not if it is going to be broken it is when.”

“You need opportunity and you need someone who is fit and has the capacity, and someone who is in sub 2:30 marathon shape.  You have to have speed and endurance. You have to have that capacity to hold that speed for hour after hour.”

Click to Play Interview with Tarit:

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runner-night-behind-jamaica

Vajin and Abhinabha run together for many laps.

vajin-abinabha-jowan2

Photo by Jowan

Excitement is building

counting-tent-wide-night

Taking part in any way in the race is a really significant thing.

bhauliya-water-stop

Vajin finishes with the new record which is 52 seconds faster than the old record.

vajin-finish2

The sound of the new record:

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vajin-finish

“This has been a dream of mine since I first did the race and since I first got inspired to do it.  In 2008 I first started thinking about the race.  So it has been 6 years of imagining and visualizing of this possibly coming true.”

“Then tonight for it to happen and it be this very special year for us, with it being Sri Chinmoy’s 50th anniversary.  It really means so much to me.  And the fact that it was so hard.  That record was really solid.  I could just never let up.  I never even had one minute in which I was really confident that I was going to get it.  Even in that last lap, anything can happen.  You can fade you can loose 30 seconds.  It is so tight to get the record.  You can’t afford any mistakes.  I am just so grateful to everyone.  The support and the love and oneness.”

“In previous years I have had someone to run with for 15 or 17 laps and today Abhinabha and I ran together for 24 or 25 laps.  So that really helps.”

“I just love the fact that with our spiritual family there is such a sense of oneness.  There is such a sense of selflessness.  When I come out here and run I am not doing it for me.  I am doing it for Sri Chinmoy, I am doing it for all my brothers and sisters.  I just love self transcendence.  For me personally trying to transcend myself, everyone out here is on the same page.  Everyone is trying to go beyond.”

vajin-finish4

Click to Play Vajin Interview:

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“It is a new level of suffering definitely, but also a new level of joy and gratitude.  I have never experienced so much gratitude in a race.”  Abhinabha completes his very first 47 mile race in second place with an incredible time of 5:19:55.

“There were a few times when my body was completely exhausted.  From nowhere this feeling came up, tears came up.  Just to be able to run and to do this for Sri Chinmoy for his birthday.  You feel that you are running for a greater purpose.”

“This race in the Sri Chinmoy center has always carried a special significance.  Because we do it on Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.  I always wanted to run it.  Since I was always involved in the marathon I was always concerned that my marathon would suffer if I did this race.  Because it is so long.  You have to have a different focus in your training.”

“Then this year in June the aspiration came from within to do this race.  A new challenge to do something different.  So I started training for this in June.  Now I am really really grateful and happy that I did it.”

“I am very happy that I could help Vajin in any way that is great.”

abhinabha-finish5

He is surprised to hear that Vajin did break the record.  He is very happy when he hears his final time.

“Wow.  That is fantastic.  That is really great.  I am so happy for him.’

“I had a vague hope that I would be able to run with him to the end.”  When he passed the marathon distance he says he could no longer keep up the pace.

“This is a whole new game a new adventure.”  He describes that there were a lot of things that he had to adapt to.  Because of the concrete he says that his feet are really sore.

“You have to really transcend and not focus on the pain.”

“I am just grateful.  I tried to surrender during the race.  Tried to go with the flow.  The flow was quite fast in the beginning, tapered off a little near the end.  I am really happy to do this time, 5:19 I believe.”

He mentions also how happy he was to put in and incredibly fast final 400 meters.  “I am under 5:20.  I am very happy.”

abhinabha-finish

Click to Play Abhinabha Interview:

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Vajin: “I laid a wager down earlier in the race to make it interesting.  Even if we weren’t together as to who ran the fastest last lap.  We never quite decided if it would be the last lap of the track or the last lap of the block.  So I think I was faster on the block and he was faster on the track.”

Abhinabha: “This is quite a race.  It is not only a race it is also a spiritual experience.  So many time tears of gratitude came to me while I was running.  It lifts you above the pain.”

Vajin: “It is a high speed pilgrimage.  It is a pilgrimage for the new age.  Not the slow slow walking from here to there.  The new pilgrimage is to get to the goal as fast as you can.  We are no longer in the Himalayan caves we are in the world, trying to go as fast as you can.”

There is some talk about how difficult the later stages of the race is.

Pushkar:  “It makes it more interesting.”

Vajin:  “Anyone can run for 20 laps it is the last 20 laps that are interesting.”

Abhinabha: “It is hard to put into words but I felt several times during the race that more is going on then just the running.  It is something greater than just a race. Very special.  As you said, a pilgrimage.”

vajin-abhinabha-finish

Vajin and Abhinabha discussion Part 1:

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Vajin: ” I didn’t want to have to run a 75 second final 400 meters to get the record.”

Abhinabha: “What did you do on your first attempt?”

Vajin: “5:27, then 5:15, and then 5:10. Then 5:08:38.  So 5:19 is a pretty auspicious beginning.

Abhinabha: “Maybe less than I hoped for before the start.  But during the race more than I hoped for.  At a certain point every lap is going slower. My slowest lap was 9:10.

Vajin: “On lap 24 I felt the rubber band (distance between them) stretching.  I knew that was the moment.  I am pretty comfortable running my own race now.  It was really enjoyable to have you there.  To have someone to push with and to have someone to share the pace work.  It is also nice in a race like this to have some time.  That you can really go deep within and really push yourself.”

Abhinabha:  “At a whole long time we were running together.  At a certain point it becomes a race.  After 22 laps it becomes more competitive. A really subtle feeling sneaks in.”

Vajin: “Unconsciously it is easier when you run behind someone.  When I went behind you the pace would feel really easy.  When I would come up beside you and take the lead it would feel then like I really had to work.”

Abhinabha: “I had the opposite feeling.  I felt easier when I was in front.  I like to have emptiness, space in front.  I find that comfortable.”

Vajin: “I enjoyed having someone to run behind because normally in the past Granantan and I, he would run beside or slightly behind me.  It is fun having someone else take the lead.”

Abhinabha: “The marathon feels really short now.”

vajin-abhinabha-finish2

Vajin and Abhinabha discussion Part 2:

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Morning arrives and there are still many more hours of running left for most.

gaurima

Still lots of smiles and for some many more hours yet to go.

water-stop

Shamita

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Atmavir is the 3rd runner to finish

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Some very awake counters

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Still running hard

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“The first 20 laps were relatively fun, and enjoyable.”  Says Dipali who has just finished the race winning once again the women’s side of the race and placing 4th over all.

dipali-final-straight

“Then, all of a sudden at 30 laps, my 56 year old legs started talking to me.” (laughs) “And I think this is either the 26 or 27 times running it.  I said right, well, thank you.  I had to dig deep like I always do.”

“Thank God my brother Kishore gave me a little bit of an idea how to maintain my strength, and Hridayinee was feeding me.  He suggested that I take some pancakes, soaked in heavy duty maple syrup.  I must say that it did save me, because I must say I do have a problem eating in these races.  I am not a 47 mile marathon runner any more, I am a 6 day runner.  So I don’t know how to eat in these kind of shorter events.  I don’t do gels and goos, so that was the secret.”

She has completed the race in 6:55:25.  Not certain, she believes she has only been over 7 hours once or twice in the past.  “My best is 6:14, but I transcended last year which was 6:59.  For me it is my birthday and I love running it for Guru, as hard as it is, and as difficult as it can be.”

“There is just the self offering of one’s self.  Having the same birthday as Guru can one ask for more.”

dipali-finish2

I mention how historic it is that Vajin has just set a new course record.  “I must say that when you are running these races and the boys go by you.  You get a lift, but you also realize how slow you are going.  But they are remarkable athletes.  They are in a caliber way above me.  I am not that kind of runner.   I am so proud of him.  That effort is remarkable.  I know what that feels like.  I have done a 6:14, a whole hour behind that.”

“I have great great helpers.  I must say that this is a very hard course, but a very amazing event.  Pratyaya, God bless her has been doing this for 40 years.  I am all gratitude to her.  It is so remarkable.  She keeps a high standard, looks after us, I am so grateful to her.”

Click to Play Dipali Interview:

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dipali-finish4

Feet that have paid the price of a long night.

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Agnikana is 2nd behind Dipali in 7:04.  She is 6th overall.  2 days earlier she won the marathon in 3:14.

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“This is our new champion,” says Dipali when she greets Agnikana.

Agnikana: “O no.”

Dipali: “O yes!”

agnikana-finish

I mention to Agnikana that it looked as though she was having lots of fun

Agnikana: “I am glad it looks like fun.  Actually I have to say that I was surprised, that it was very nice today.  The first hour I felt very tired, because of the marathon, but then it all went away.”

(this race compared to others) “For me it is completely different.  This is like an enjoyable race.  The marathon is too much pressure.  I don’t like racing at all.  That is why I enjoyed this run, much more than the marathon.  If I could choose I would always go for this one.  somehow i feel that Guru always wants me to do the marathon.  I have no choice.”

(the 2 races so close together) “I was determined to start but I wasn’t expecting to finish.  I was happy.  The legs were tired but they were running.  So we had a good deal.”

dipali-agnikana-2

Click to Play Agnikana Interview: 

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Girls performing music along the course to inspire the runners.

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Click to Play:

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Baladev, who not too long ago was running the 3100 mile race

baladev

Many still on the course

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Push-parani, still smiling

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Getting hotter..Francesco

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No giving up

priyavadin-janos

Palash the great

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The best gift of all…..Kalpa

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“She is so tough.”  Uddipan has just crossed the finish line in 7th place for the boys in 7:12, he was inspired to try and keep just ahead of Ilvaka.

udipan-finish

“I passed her about 15 laps ago….look (points across the track), she is only about a minute behind me.  She is as tough as nails.”

When asked how many times he has run the 47.  “I think 9 or 10, I can’t be sure.  My fastest is 6:51, that was 2 years ago.”  When he mentions that he is getting slower I suggest that we need more Ilvakas to chase him.  “The trouble is they keep on sprouting up  all the time.  I have never seen her before in my life and she is killing me.  She is young enough to be my daughter.”

uddipan-finish4

Click to Play Uddipan Interview:

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Not far behind, Ilvaka, who came in 3rd in the marathon in 3:28

ilvaka-finish

He makes no progress.
Why?
Because he wants to change
The Face of Reality.

He makes constant progress.
Why?
Because he surrenders
To the Heart of Reality.

3 Comments to “Progress Is Not A Prisoner Of Time: The 47 Mile Race 2014”

  1. Surasa says:

    Thank you Utpal! Again and again you are doing such a great job!

  2. Francesco says:

    Hi Utpal
    Thank you very very much!

    Our meditations
    Mile by mile
    Take us to God’s Heart.

    Sri Chinmoy, 57 My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 24, Agni Press, 2004

  3. Rasmivan says:

    What a wonderful read and the precious memories of that night will remain with me for a long time. The 47 mile race as Vajin said at the awards ceremony is such a special race – I love it! We all run it as a birthday gift to Guru. And for me it can be a gauge on my inner progress. This was a special year as I’m making progress as I set new PBs for my marathon and the 47 mile race. And this was on the back of injury and chronic adrenal fatigue in April/May. God works in mysterious ways 🙂

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