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.

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47 Mile Race 1980: It Is An Offering

Sri Chinmoy: My longest distance was 47 miles. I did it twice. Now I no longer do it, but every year about three hundred disciples of mine from all over the world come here on my birthday and run 47 miles. Being the spiritual father of the family, it gives me tremendous joy when I see my spiritual children run 47 miles. The number 47 is very important to me because in 1947 India got its independence. With this run we are celebrating our inner freedom.

Sri Chinmoy heads out of the gate of the Jamaica High School track and then takes a sharp right turn that leads up a short hill.  It is just past midnight and on this hilly hard course, that meanders around the school.   He will make this same turn and run this same hill and all the rest of the the whole long course 40 more times before his journey will be complete.  When this photograph was taken It was just moments after the 47 mile race had begun.  This will be the 2nd time he has run the race and on this occasion he is trying to beat the time he ran in the race the previous year (12:41:48).  The year is 1980 and Sri Chinmoy, a  a few minutes earlier, had just turned 49 years of age.

The young men and women who now run beside and about him will also run on this same course with him throughout the long warm August night. Each one finding their own tempo and pace and each trying to give of themselves in every possible way, outer as well as inner, to the challenge of running this very unique 47 mile race.

The race is now just in its 3rd year but already has become a most important event both to Sri Chinmoy and to his disciples.  Each time starting at midnight on August 27th.  For some they are running it for the first time and for others it is a race they have tried to run every year, each time trying to improve upon their previous times.

No matter how you look at it, 47 miles is a long way to run. But there is something more important about this race that did not exist in any other running event throughout the rest of the year.

For each step taken here on the gritty cinder track and on and on over the winding asphalt road,was not just taking us to a hard fought finish line but also to some new found place within ourselves.

It was for something higher that we all reached for.  A yearning goal  that continues to beckon and inspire a new generation of runners now several decades later.   It is a destination that originates not in the mind but within the very depths of our own hearts.  An inner call that asks for all those who participate to extend themselves as much as they possibly can physically and to also, over the many hours and miles on the road, try as well to explore the unlimited dimensions of our inner world as well.

And then there is something more important still that made us run.   For all Sri Chinmoy ‘s students it was a chance for us to offer something deep and personal from within ourselves to our beloved Spiritual teacher.  Offer some small part of us to he who also ran beside us.   For no matter how difficult it was for us to reach the finish line he too was also out there with us, throughout the night and well into burning brightness of the morning.

Yet even as he ran on and on throughout the night we also felt that it was he who was running in and through us.  And further more it was he who was also leading us much further still, and continues to do so, on an endless journey that leads well beyond the distant shores of our own lifetimes.

I am not in this photograph but I too was there that night and also on many other warm August nights and on many other years, running this same course. There are some who might still recognize the faces of those who ran here that night, but if they do not, they cannot help but see the strength and power of a youthful fit Sri Chinmoy.  Witness just how much he loved the sport of running, and also how much he loved to inspire and be inspired by his students.

For myself and all the others  who pushed on through the depths of a long dark night there was no race or athletic event that meant more to us than running the 47 mile race.  From its very first year and for all the years that followed it felt like a way to offer gratitude and thanks to our Spiritual teacher.  That he himself was running the race himself was a priceless experience for us all.  One that demonstrated in a powerful clear manner, that in every way possible he would inspire, guide, and nurture, all those who followed his path.

Again, we have to know that there is a great difference between competition and progress. When we want to compete with others, sometimes we adopt foul means—by hook or by crook we try to win. Then we bring to the fore our feelings of rivalry and almost animal propensities, animal qualities. We are only thinking of how we can defeat others, how we can lord it over others.

But when we are competing with ourselves, we know that we have to purify our inner existence in order to improve. So here is the difference. When it is a matter of self-transcendence, we have to depend on our inner purity, inner love, vastness and oneness with the rest of the world. We try to develop universal goodwill, whereas, while competing with others, we may not have those feelings. At that time, we may see others as rivals, we are on the border of enmity with them.

It can be as if we are fighting with enemies when we are competing. But when we are trying to transcend ourselves, we cannot fight with ourselves. If we can go ten steps ahead today, tomorrow we will try to cover twenty steps, and the day after thirty steps.

Sri Chinmoy, Run And Smile, Smile And Run, Agni Press, 2000.

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