Sri Chinmoy’s 47 Mile Race 2017

It has taken me a lot longer than I hoped to gather up all the bits and pieces of the 47 mile race this year and I apologize to all those who have patiently waited to see pictures and listen to the voices of those who took part that wonderful night.

For me the race holds so many precious memories, particularly of course in the years when Sri Chinmoy not only came to watch and inspire the runners but also on those 2 historic occasions when he actually ran himself.

In 1980 Sri Chinmoy ran the race for the 2nd time with a time of 11:27, which transcended his time from the previous year.   I also ran the race that night for the 3rd time.  I was able to complete the race in 6:19 and then get out my film camera to record this footage.

New generations of runners have come and found their own love and inspiration for an event that is like no other.

They are building upon their own memories and yet the core of inspiration that compelled us to stand on the dusty track for the first time, to head off into the unknown 39 years ago remains intact and continually transcendent.  To honor our beloved spiritual teacher on his birthday in a profound and tangible way.

To take part means one sets off running at midnight.  To complete those sacred 47 miles means for most the necessity of  calling forth all of who you are and all that you have within.  To uncover and reveal all of your heart’s dedication and perhaps step up even one tiny rung on our timeless self transcendence journey.

Pratyaya and Mantrita

It is a perfect night

Tarit directing traffic

*Click Below To See Rest of Report*

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Sri Chinmoy’s 47 Mile Race 2016

The footage is less than 2 minutes long.  A mere fragment of much greater event that probably could never be captured adequately by a super 8 film very well anyway.

Yet it shows Sri Chinmoy completing the 47 mile race in 1980 for the 2nd time.  A performance that took him 11:27:24  to complete and which surpassed his previous best by  74 minutes.

*photo by Bhashwar

Now there is a new generation following in those same footsteps as their late spiritual teacher 36 years later.

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Many who have never even had the opportunity to see Sri Chinmoy little alone remember how powerfully he once used to run

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Pratyaya the race director remembers those early days

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Petra gets ready for a long night

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There is a profound sense of calm as people register

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Most have a clear sense of why they do this most difficult thing of running 47 miles starting at midnight on August 27th.

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The time of quiet does not last long

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Know that as much as it is gift to their teacher it is also something that will offer much more in return.  A dedication.

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Even for those who do not run tonight but who instead help there is a sense of purpose and dedication.

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The race is an opportunity for all to feel part of something great and beautiful that lies both within and without.

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*Please Click below to read the rest of this report*

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A Precious Gift

Can I Help You?

While I was running 47 miles, one person came up to me and said, “You do such nice things for people. Sir, can I be of any help to you?”

I said, “Thank you, I do not need any help right now.”

-27 August 1982

Sri Chinmoy, Run And Become, Become And Run, Part 11, Agni Press, 1983

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

This little story was first printed 30 years ago in a collection of running stories.  While Sri Chinmoy was still actively running he wrote dozens of stories about many of the experiences that would take place while he practiced his distance running.  Today there are hardly any recorded comments that he made about his own participation in the 47 mile race.

Yet we know, that not just for him, but for all of us who have participated in this most unique and challenging distance, that running those long hilly 47 miles was a golden opportunity.  That here on this dusty track and broken road one could experience and find something within that no other race could offer or compare.

How is it even possible to describe the sweet secrets that are to be experienced when you commit and offer all that you have, to the dark tranquil beauty of running throughout the night on August 27th, Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

Photo by Bhashwar 1979

For all those who have done so and now continue on this brave grand path, running the 47 mile race is the most precious of gifts.  One that is offered from within the subtle silent realm of the runner’s own heart. Based not on time or place but simply on the gratitude the runner has for their Spiritual teacher, who even now continues to shape and guide us on our marvelous and mystifying divine journeys.  An offering that cannot be packed or wrapped or explained beyond the simple understanding, that gratitude knows no measure and cannot be explained fully by either thoughts or words.   But if perceived simply as a selfless offering of oneself, then only can it be grasped and appreciated instantly and fully.

This act of running, this gift of body and heart is not without some pain, some of the discomfort of asking more of ourselves than we are used to giving.  But the greatest moments are those with a joy you can only experience when you discover that your gift of offering 47 miles to your teacher is in fact instantly returned to you.  Returned in only the way that Spiritual Masters are able to do for those who have taken their guidance and strength as we forge ahead into the twinkling realm of our own self transcendence.

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The Gift

Sri Chinmoy’s long distance running life started in a simple and spontaneous way.  On June 1 1978 while  visiting in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park where he had just planted and dedicated a Peace tree.  It was a typical late spring day, overcast and coolish.  A not untypical San Franciscan day.  After the formalities of the Peace tree inauguration he invited the small gathering of his students to go out and run with him in the park.  They did not run far and they did not run fast but it was something new and it was a clear sign that a great shift in life in the Sri Chinmoy center was about to take place.

Click to play Golden Time

After the run, and still slightly out of breath, he invited all who were there to come and run the New York city marathon in the fall of the year.  It was an invitation that would spread out far and wide, to all of his students everywhere.   Running the New York city marathon became a tradition that continued for many years until 2002, when the marathon team then sponsored their own race in August during the yearly celebrations.

There were of course many recent events in the year leading up to June 1 1978, that had given us strong clues that distance running would become the next big thing in the center.  The Liberty Torch relay had crisscrossed America just 2 years earlier and Canada’s Oneness Heart had traversed the country from coast to coast the summer before. From these events Sri Chinmoy’s students had received a small sampling of what running could accomplish both within and without.  He was obviously inspired to provide even more opportunities for the young men and women in the center so that they might find opportunities to excel and transcend themselves in sport.  No one realized of course that Sri Chinmoy the sprinter would soon become a distance runner himself.

Click to play Practice

What no one knew, on that cool spring day, was that an even greater opportunity for progress was soon to arrive.  It would come even before most could even digest fully the significance of running the 26 mile marathon in New York.

A few of us had been fortunate enough to be just slightly ahead of the pack.  A handful had run the 1976 NYC marathon and an even greater number, including myself had run in 1977. But a little more than a month after this recording was made, and probably less than a month before his 47th birthday, Sri Chinmoy offered us all a totally surprising and unprecedented invitation.  Starting at midnight, on August 27th, when his 47th birthday was to begin we were all invited to run in a 47 mile race.

Many years have passed since we all heard this news.  It is a distance now that is minuscule when compared to the thousands of miles that are now run regularly in many of the marathon teams scheduled events.  At the time however it was such a formidable number that even the young, trained, and very fit runners could not really comprehend how it could be done.  To make it even more interesting it was to be run on a course that started on the gritty cinder track of Jamaica high school and then meander around the outer block with its bumpy sidewalks, sharp turns, and the formidable Margaret Tietz hill.  It was an unbelievable challenge and most had no idea what to expect.  It was after all almost twice as far as a marathon.  It was hard to even imagine if we could make it to the track for that last victory lap and still be able to grab the flag and make it through to the finish line.

No one can truly comprehend the totality of a Spiritual Master.  Safe to say his task is to be but pure guidance, compassion and love for his disciples.  He never forces anyone to do anything beyond their capacity and, he has a clear insight of what course will take us most directly and speedily  to our goal.  We may not ever understand him, but we do have the obligation of understanding and developing fully our relationship to our spiritual Master.  This comes in many ways and over time.  Principally through spiritual practices and disciplines is it gradually and steadily nurtured and obtained. Over a life time it slowly evolves and blossoms.  Each day more and more is revealed but most of us have a limited capacity for serious and lengthy meditation.  To transfer sedentary  meditation to active distance running is another matter.  It is a unique way to occupy the mind and body with the challenge of long distance while simultaneously allowing the heart to come to the for.

What I, and most of us discovered that first night we ran the 47 mile race was that this race would be like no other. It was a unique and dynamic spiritual act in its own right.   True it would be hard, long, and difficult but the reward we all gained over the hours on the road were immeasurable.  For many it was but one long sustained meditation.  An opportunity to see that even in the most difficult things in life, our teacher, Sri Chinmoy, was in fact acting in and through us.  By simply letting go of our limitations he would open up our inner unbounded capacity and we would be able to see, that in fact. nothing was impossible, if it was truly inspired from within.

But there was something more about running throughout the long dark night of the 47.  Every moment you could not help but be aware that it was our Guru’s birthday.  That whatever inner connection you felt or held in your heart for your spiritual teacher was almost always constantly present with each step and with each additional mile achieved on our way towards the goal.  You could not help but be conscious of all the countless things that he had done to inspire your life, for the love and affection he provided,  and the guidance and care that can only come from one who has accepted a deep and personal responsibility for your spiritual life.  In other words it was impossible while running to not be aware of just how lucky we all were to have a true teacher, and be offered a unique and golden opportunity to help in our inner growth.  And to add to all this, on 2 occasions he himself ran the full distance running with us over the course of the long dark night.

I am not sure at what moment I really understood what the 47 really meant to me.  The first race was 32 years ago.   I seem to recall however, that even from my first step that took us all forward, about 12:07 that night, that for me this race would be my gift to Sri Chinmoy.  There was nothing I had that he needed or wanted.  He was all about giving to his his students.  In return the least I could offer to him was my absolute best effort and my heart’s dedication in this 47 mile race.  A gift that I gave for quite a few years and is one that many still find able to give even today.

47 mile photos by Bhashwar

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The 47 Mile Race 2009

sign-up-table----Somehow it was slipping away from me.  Like it always does, the 47 mile inspires and touches my heart like no other running event.  This year the night of the race was perfect.  The evening air was cool and light as the midnight start approached.  An impressive group had turned out to participate in a run that has now taken place on every August 27th for the past 31 years.

I had taken hundreds of pictures in and around the track lit bright by candles and dangling light bulbs.  Out on the still twisting streets I flashed even more shots of the smiling faces of the intrepid runners who ran with light and determined steps, at least during the early laps.

Throughout the long night more and more precious moments from the race where being captured by my camera and my microphone.  Those fragments of joy, of determination and of selfless service had inexorably gathered into a mountain of data stuffed onto digital memory cards.     After the race I faced  the daunting task of unraveling a story that now seemed much more difficult than tying on shoes and running the 47 miles itself.  A persistent case of nagging procrastination dogged my heels for weeks.  I felt myself almost uncontrollably sliding towards a precipice where the story was heading towards some digital oblivion.

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan

Then on a recent bright Sunday, which seemed to be gilded more by the soothing promise of Spring than the gray dullness of late Autumn, I found myself out running on the 47 mile loop.  On an afternoon flooded with light and warmth I felt myself caught up in fervent tide of sweet memory.  From whence it came I do not know but soon my dawdling middle aged footsteps were feeling the selfsame effortless lightness and unbridled hope of all those many times I had run the 47 as a much younger man.   It was though  my own countless cherished memories of running the race were reaching out to me from my own not too distant past.   But it was not just my own memories that were calling out to me it was as well as though the inspired experiences of those who had just run weeks earlier were calling out to me to bring that magical night back into focus.  To find a voice for a magical event in which impossibility itself becomes banished in the boundless enthusiasm of those who take part in this most sacred of Sri Chinmoy Marathon team running events.

Guru-in-47As I rounded the corner near goose pond and made the sweeping right hand turn, across from Jamaica High school and looked ahead, I had a profound moment.  It was a vivid experience in which I felt as though I could clearly see Sri Chinmoy running on the road ahead of me.  He had run the full race himself on 2 occasions and had run on the course during the race at least one more time.  I remember clearly, during one race,  coming round this same corner only to be shocked to see the familiar form of my Spiritual teacher bobbing along under the dim street lights in front of me.

At the time he would have been either 48 or 49 years of age.  I was in my running prime and gradually I was overtaking him.  As I came up behind him, each step I took I felt myself repeating his name in silence to myself.

This was after all his birthday and it was in honor of him that I ran.  It could not escape me what a beautiful experience it was to thus find him there on the course as well.  I can remember my slow and inevitable approach from behind him and then my sweeping pass on his right side.  I can remember saying something as simple as, “Way to go Guru, way to go.”  I am not aware of any comment or remark that he may have made in return.  Nor do I remember any other time that I passed him again, though most certainly through the night I must have passed by him a few more times.  What I do recall however is how so much I wished to carry him with me throughout the night and lighten the burden of his steps.  Yet inevitably in time I would understand, that all along that it was he who was actually carrying me.


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