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Inspiration from this year's 3100 Mile Race
After 52 days of self-transcendence, this year's Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race drew to a close, with seven of the eight runners completing 3100 miles within the allotted time. Between them, the eight intrepid runners covered a total of 27,577 miles, or 50,252 laps of the humble 0.5488 mile loop located in the Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens, New York.
For the outsider looking in, these statistics only give a partial insight into this unique race, which is a test of physical, mental and spiritual fortitude. During this summer, the runners had to contend with two mini-heatwaves which sent temperatures soaring to almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Yet every morning at 6 am, the runners came to the start line to begin their inner and outer quest towards personal self-transcendence. The race has no sponsorship or financial rewards; each runner and helper must give up their own time to take on this unique challenge. Asked why they come to the race, the runners hint at an inner satisfaction which can be gained from pushing themselves to the limits of what they think is possible.
“I think so often in our lives, that we fashion ourselves to be well within our comfort zone. It is only when you challenge those comfort zones that you find real fulfillment, but some times you can trick yourself into what a real challenge is. This race is definitely a real challenge. It brings out a lot of things in me that are challenging but also so extremely rewarding.”
Each individual runner undertakes his/her personal journey, but the race has also inspired many people around the world, who are captivated by the simplicity yet dauntless nature of this challenge. The race has been featured on many international news outlets, such as the BBC, Wall Street Journal and NZ's News Now - and this media coverage and online coverage has inspired many to follow the race and pick up on the inspiration of those running in New York.
Race director Rupantar Larusso says that this year there have been innumerable visitors to the race who came for a short time to visit out of curiosity. He says that in many cases, the visitors from around the world ended up spending much longer than planned because they felt a very special atmosphere at the race.
Another reason for the heightened interest in this year's race is the recent release of a documentary film based on this race (and other ultra-distance events) called 3100: Run and Become. For example, after a screening in New York City, the film director Sanjay Rawal described how a few young athletes left immediately to go and see the race and runners in action.
During the race, many runners recorded some kind of personal best or new achievement. For the overall winner, Asprihanal Aalto, it was his 15th finish and eight-time overall winner. Although off his course record, he was happy to finish another race, despite arriving with little training. Despite suffering heatstroke mid-race, 2nd place Nirbhasa Magee set a new personal best of 48 days+09:04:57 and with it a new Irish record. Speaking about one of the motivations for running, he said of the race:
“You have to sense that the race is your job. That while you are here, you are inspiring so many people. That you are doing something beneficial. You need a sense of dedication to that purpose.”
Vasu Duzihy has won the past two races, and this year finished in 3rd place in a time of 49 days+06:13:17. One of this year's most remarkable stories was Ananda-Lahiri Zuscin, who has started the race 15 times, making him one of the most prolific entrants - and yet has not managed to complete the 3100-mile distance in over 10 years. This year he managed to finish the race with some exceptional days of 80+ miles (including one day of 89 miles!). In addition, Smarana Puntigam finished in 5th place, coming back to successfully complete the race after his last two attempts in 2017 and 2018 fell agonisingly short.
Harita Davies was the only woman in the race, and she managed to also set a new personal best and New Zealand record. She summed up the attitude needed to complete such a daunting challenge.
"A huge part of the experience of this race is to just keep going forward. When challenges arise you face them and try to figure them out. Do your best and have faith, that everything will work out.”
First-time entrant Todor Dimitrov faced a real baptism of fire. With six days to go, injuries and sickness had left him 32 miles off the cut-off pace. Yet he kept going to the end and finished with just a couple of hours to spare. Speaking at the end, Todor said:
"The race was a great transformative experience. Thank you all here. It makes me to feel the world is going in a good direction. To proceed with that good direction. So happy to know the runners who helped me to finish. "
Ushika Muckenhumer faced innumerable challenges in the race with getting injured in the early part of the race. But, his battling spirit kept him going for all 52 days. He finished with 2,777 miles. Ushika illustrates the central concept of the race that it is about personal self-transcendence and doing what we can given the circumstances we are in. Towards the end of the gruelling race, he talked about the transformative potential of the race.
“At this stage of the race you go so far out of your mind, that it is difficult to think through answers. Life becomes very simple, especially the mind. It is not the usual way to function. But instead in a very cheerful and simple frame of mind."
The 3100 Mile Race was founded by Sri Chinmoy who initiated the very first race in 1997. In the past 23 years, only 44 different people have completed the 3100 Mile race - which the NY Times once described as "The Everest of distance running."
Sri Chinmoy believed that through ultra-distance running, individuals could discover unknown inner and outer capacities and gain a real sense of satisfaction from challenging their own limits. Sri Chinmoy was also a visionary who saw how the race could inspire many people around the world. Speaking at the first awards ceremony on 2 August 1997, he said of the race:
"This 3,100 miles is an unprecedented journey in our world-peace-manifestation-dream. World-peace can come into existence only when we are inundated with patience and perseverance. Infinite patience we need in our inner life and perseverance we need in our outer life.
These 3,100 miles remind us of one divine and supreme reality: we can and we must do everything at our command to transform the world of lethargy and unwillingness to be dynamic. Unwillingness we do not leave behind us. Therefore happiness remains always a far cry. Willingness to give, willingness to achieve, willingness to grow and glow should be the message of our souls. With our souls' blessings we can and will fulfil our earthly life."
Sri Chinmoy (Source)
Recitation of poems from 'The Golden Boat'
On 21 June, Mahiruha Klein, a student of Sri Chinmoy's from Chicago, recited the entire set of 1,000 poems from The Golden Boat, a series written by Sri Chinmoy in 1974 exploring the multifaceted nature of the spiritual life.
"Poetry is the short-cut to reach the subtle and tangible Goal of goals — Delight infinite. A poem starts in streaming tears and ends in soaring smiles."
Sri Chinmoy 1
During the marathon poetry reading at the Chicago Sri Chinmoy Centre, Mahiruha began at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and finished eight hours later, with just a two-minute break in between each set of 100 poems.
Speaking about the event, Mahiruha says he was physically tired at the end of the marathon poetry session, but also deeply moved by the experience.
"It took me three years to learn the one thousand poems of the Golden Boat. I practised the poems every day for at least an hour and a half to learn them. I divided the poems and typed them up by themes, like sincerity, gratitude, etc. That made them a lot easier to learn. I further organised them in my mind by the first letter and also by picking a key word from each poem. Then I just practised and practised them until I knew them all by heart.
At work I’ll often ask customers to give me a topic or key word and I’ll give them a poem from the Golden Boat based on that key word.
For example, one customer asked me for a poem on happiness. So I recited this poem:
Speak without words.
You will be happy.
Dedicate without proclaiming.
You will be happy.
Love without being loved.
You will be happy.
Surrender without being subjugated.
You will be happy.
Become without being known,
without being caught,
without being sought.
You will be happy.
Sri Chinmoy 2
The customer really enjoyed that poem immensely! These poems have transformed my life. I feel I have grown and changed with these poems.
If I had to pick a poem that I feel expresses the loftiest height, it would be this absolutely immortal gem:
“My heart conceals
The pangs of ages.
My heart conceals
The failures of human races.
My heart conceals
The indifference of God’s faces.
My heart feels
Only one thing:
Sri Chinmoy 3
Previously, Mahiruha had recited all 843 poems from Sri Chinmoy's poetry series Transcendence-Perfection at a recent edition of Challenging Impossibility, an event organised by the Sri Chinmoy Centre where individuals are invited to try and transcend their limitations and achieve some challenging task (and where quite a few Guinness records have been set). These can be sporting, musical, test of skill or – in Mahiruha's case – a test of memory and devotion to poetry.
Mahiruha works at a health food store in Chicago, US.
More of Sri Chinmoy's poetry is available at Sri Chinmoy Poetry.
Start of the 3100 Mile Race 2019
On 16 June 2019, eight intrepid runners took to the start line of the world's longest certified road race - the 23rd edition of the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race. Over the next seven weeks, the runners will aim to complete a daily average of 60 miles or more in order to finish the race within the official time limit of 52 days. The runners have to contend with the hot New York summer, a hard concrete course and the many physical and mental challenges of competing in this epic of self-transcendence.
The race was founded by spiritual teacher and ultra-running pioneer Sri Chinmoy, who saw distance running as a vehicle to enable runners to bring to the fore their physical, mental and spiritual capacities to complete this unique challenge.
“He is happy
Because every day he tries
And actually does
A little more than he thinks he can.”
– Sri Chinmoy 
In this year's race, the runners include Asprihanal Aalto from Finland, an eight-time winner of the race and current course record holder in a time of 40 days+09:06:21. Also returning to the race is three-times winner and 2018 champion Vasu Duzhiy from Russia. Other returning 3100 Mile runners include Smarana Puntigam (Austria), Nirbhasa Magee (Ireland), Ushika Muckenhummer (Austria) and Ananda-Lahari Zuscin (Slovakia).
The only woman running this year is Harita Davies, who returns after a gap of two years, to see if she can improve on her first time finish of 51 days+12:48:14. Todor Dimitrov from Sofia, Bulgaria completes the field and he will be making his first attempt at 3100 Mile Race.
As well as the eight runners, there is a crew of dedicated volunteers who put on the race, including counters, medics, cooks and the organising crew.
Video of day one
To follow the race
Songs of the Soul tour Germany and Austria
Songs of the Soul, a concert tour dedicated to Sri Chinmoy’s music, travelled through Austria and Germany from 5-10 May. The concerts were organised and performed by Sri Chinmoy’s students from many different countries.
On this particular tour, concerts were given in Graz, Vienna, Munich and Augsburg. A total of 1500 people came to watch the concerts, which are offered free of charge.
Participating groups included Shamita and Dohai (violin and cello), Mandu and Visuddhi (harp and erhu) and Agnikana’s Group (instrumental ensemble). Each group performs the compositions of Sri Chinmoy with their own musical perspective creating a varied and soulful evening of uplifting music.
Sri Chinmoy himself gave close to 800 public concerts during his lifetime. He felt that spiritual music had a unique capacity to bring people into the heart and away from the mind. He believed that by immersing ourselves in music, we can experience a great sense of inner peace and joy.
Music helps the spiritual seeker to go deep within to get the utmost satisfaction from life, from truth, from reality. The spiritual life, in turn, helps music to offer its capacity and its strength, which is the soul’s light, to the world at large.”
Songs of the Soul is an going series of concerts offered by the Sri Chinmoy Centre since 2008. The aim of the concerts is to share Sri Chinmoy’s musical legacy and give the public an opportunity to experience this unique musical offering.
Oneness-Dream in England
Recently, the Oneness-Dream international group of male singers toured England to offer several concerts at sacred venues across the country. The group, which includes members from 11 different nationalities, perform exclusively the songs of Sri Chinmoy without any instrumental backing. The group was formed in 2011; they seek to offer seekers the unique experience of Sri Chinmoy's songs in a meditative and prayerful environment.
Listen to Oneness-Dream
Highlights of the tour included a performance at Kings College, Cambridge directly after Evenson, and performances at Ely Cathedral and Wells Cathedral. The songs of Sri Chinmoy touched many in the audiences who were moved by the simplicity and soulfulness of the singing.
At Dorchester Abbey, near Oxford, the concert was attended by the Rev. Marcus Braybrooke, a long-time friend of Sri Chinmoy who shared his dream of interfaith oneness. In 2003, Sri Chinmoy honoured him with the Lifting up the World with a Oneness-Heart award at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. After the concert, he generously appreciated the singers for their soulful songs and for continuing Sri Chinmoy's work of offering peace and goodwill around the world.
Towards the end of the tour, the group visited Bristol where they performed in the open air and recorded several songs for a future album.
- Oneness-Dream in Scotland - album at Radio Sri Chinmoy
Photos top and bottom: Kedar
3100 film events around the world
3100: Run and Become was released last year in the US and since then has been opening in countries around the world. The documentary explores long-distance running in cultures around the world, including the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race. Here are just a few of the things that have been happening around the world:
There have been screenings of the documentary all over the US during 2018 and 2019. Scott Fauble, a top American marathoner (2:09), came to a screening in Flagstaff in September; he published a top-selling diary of his fall training season and mentioned that watching the documentary made his workouts seem a lot easier! Chris McDougall, author of the famous ultrarunning book Born to Run, hosted a screening of the movie in New York in February and commented that the film was one of the best running films he had seen. Dr. Dan Lieberman, a subject of Born to Run and one of the world's pre-eminent evolutationary biologists, hosted a screening at Harvard University the weekend of the Boston Marathon. He absolutely loved the film and how it linked running to prayer, remarking how there also exists tribal communities in India who run long distances with that very attitude.
In January, Sofia was the first European capital to present the premier, which was screened in the National Home of Culture. The premier was attended by Ashprihanal Aalto, the men's record holder and Ushika Muckenhummer, who competed in the race last year for the first time. They were joined by some of Bulgaria's best ultrarunners: Hristo Tsvetkov, 12 and 24 hour Bulgarian recordholder; Krasse Georgiev, the only Bulgarian to finish Badwater; Todor Dimitrov “El Capitan” national record holder for the 6-day race. After the movie, Krasse Georgiev commented “While I was watching the movie I thought to myself: 'What I do is a summer vacation in comparison with what these boys do.'" The film has also been invited to screen in the International Red Cross Film Festival in Varna this summer; the festival director, Bozhidar Manov had some very nice things to say about the film. The premiere was broadcast on the national TV station, along with an interview with Ashprihanal and Ushika.
In February, the Indonesian premiere took place in Denpasar. The film's director, Sanjay Rawal, was on hand to answer questions, along with many 3100 mile runners, including the women's record holder, Kaneenika Janakova from Slovakia.
New book: plays based on stories by Sri Chinmoy
This month marks the release of a new book of ten plays by Sumangali Morhall, based on stories by Sri Chinmoy. Each play contains between one and thirteen stories, set to rhyming verse. Sumangali comes from York, UK and this is her second book, her first being Auspicious Good Fortune, an account of how she came to the spiritual life.
In the introduction to the book, Sumangali explains how she began writing these plays:
"These rhyming plays began on a Christmas Trip with Sri Chinmoy in China, December 2004. On our winter retreats, as well as meditating with Sri Chinmoy in person, we had the privilege of immersing ourselves in his new creations: songs, prayers, aphorisms, stories and artwork. In the evenings it usually fell to us, his disciples, to entertain one another on stage. Much of the programme consisted of plays based on the Master’s stories – some of which are tales retold from Indian folklore, others anecdotes from Sri Chinmoy’s own experience, others born of his own creative imagination, and many seemingly from delightful worlds between.
I rarely involved myself in plays up until then. I was – and still am – terrible at acting. My self-consciousness and inability to handle pressure led to a chaos of forgetfulness on stage. It saddened me not to contribute though, so that year in China I decided to take a risk and play to my strengths. I like to write. I could reliably read something out from paper. I could draw some faces on card, cut out holes for eyes, and tie them back as make-shift masks. The characters would mime, while others – including myself – would read their lines into a microphone off-stage. Hence everyone was hiding, which suited me well. The actors did not need to memorise their lines verbatim, which suited them too.
I was quite sure it would end in disaster even before it began, but to my surprise there were no accidents, even amongst the short-sighted, and any confusion was only a minor distraction. Sri Chinmoy was attentive, and I dare say even seemed quite pleased, which astonished me no end. So a new tradition began, and has continued beyond the Master’s passing, as the Sri Chinmoy Centre meets each year for Christmas Trips."
While striving to preserve the original teachings, the plays are embellished – often in a humorous way – and sometimes carry a modern interpretation.
As the actors mime behind masks while the poetry is recited off-stage, the plays perhaps combine two ancient spiritual traditions – rendering spiritual stories into verse, and masked performances.
The Ramayana, one of the great epics of the Hindu tradition, is known as the adi-kavya, or first poem. Great spiritual writings – for example, the Mahabharata and the Christian Bible – have been wrought into poetry through the ages, as an act of spiritual discipline and devotion. Sri Chinmoy himself set to verse the works of Sri Aurobindo, his own Guru - at the age of fifteen, he created 188 lines of Bengali verse from Sri Aurobindo's short story Ksharma Adarsha. In 1956 he translated it into 107 lines of English iambic pentameter verse. He set the Bengali poem to music in 2002, and it remains his longest song.
The use of masks in spiritual ceremonies dates back thousands of years, and later extended to various theatrical traditions throughout the world. In Asian countries such as India and Indonesia they are often used in elaborate performances of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. In the Middle East, folk theatre includes masked acting and puppetry, which has been a part of religious occasions for centuries. Actors in Ancient Greece wore masks, especially when depicting a powerful character such as a god. In Japan, Noh theatre evolved from more ancient forms of masked acting.
Book available for purchase
- Plays based on stories by Sri Chinmoy at Amazon
The spiritual value of running marathons
Sri Chinmoy encouraged running as a complement to meditation and the spiritual life. He saw how it could help people transcend themselves, both inwardly and outwardly. Running helps both our physical health, which is needed to meditate well, and also helps to bring forward qualities such as concentration, discipline and a quiet mind.
Running is a symbolic sport in the sense that it reminds us of spiritual seekers continuously running towards the goal; it resembles the seekers running inwardly to achieve the ultimate goal in meditation.
Many members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre run as part of their daily spiritual practice and often complete one or more marathons a year - the gold standard of distance running. They also organise marathons and other distance events for the general public as part of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. Sri Chinmoy events are well known for creating a friendly atmosphere and seeking to maintain high standards of service to runners.
Sri Chinmoy himself took up long-distance running at the age of 47, showing that age need not be a barrier to running and physical fitness. He completed his first marathon on 3 March 1979 in Chico, California in a time of 4:31:34, and went on to do 21 more marathons and 5 ultras. This weekend, members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre around the world completed marathons to mark the 40th anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's first marathon run.
In Melbourne, Australia, around 50 students of Sri Chinmoy took part in a marathon event. They were joined by an international team of runners from the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run who had recently run from Brisbane to Melbourne as part of a global torch relay which began in February and will run until November, visiting all the countries in the Southern Hemisphere along the way.
In Chico, California, 70 members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre took part in celebrations to mark the anniversary. The Chico marathon - called the Bidwell Classic - is still run as an event 40 years later, albeit over the half-marathon distance. Some runners then proceeded to do the half-marathon a second time to complete the full marathon distance.
In addition, marathon events were held by Sri Chinmoy Centres all over the world, including in Augsburg (Germany), Bristol (UK), Dublin (Ireland), Zlin (Czech Republic), New York (US), and Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Sri Chinmoy on marathons
Long-distance running gives us a real feeling of accomplishment. We can run 100 metres forty times during the year and not feel the same sense of accomplishment as when we run one marathon. But speed and endurance are both important, especially in the spiritual life. If one has only speed, then one cannot ultimately succeed; we need endurance because the goal is quite far. Again, if one has only stamina and no speed, then it will take forever to reach the goal. Only if someone has both qualities will he be able to make very good progress in his spiritual life and achieve something really great in life.
How running and meditation go together
More on our other sites
- Video: Samunnati on meditation and running - Samunnati Lehonkova is a marathon runner who took up running at an early age after becoming a disciple of Sri Chinmoy, and ended up competing in the Olympics in 2016.
- Seven Steps to a Successful Marathon Arpan DeAngelo has been a student of Sri Chinmoy since the early 1970s; he has completed over 300 marathons.
- Sri Chinmoy's Philosophy on Running - at the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team website
Quotes by Sri Chinmoy are taken from his book The outer running and the inner running.
Sri Chinmoy's esraj anniversary
Sri Chinmoy began playing the esraj on this date - 17 February - in 1976. Despite being fluent in many instruments, the esraj soon became Sri Chinmoy's favourite musical instrument, and he would frequently play specially constructed esraj at his Peace Concerts offered around the world. Quite often Sri Chinmoy would give an esraj concert on 17 February to mark the date when he began to play.
The esraj, an Indian stringed instrument played with a bow, emerged in India over 500 years ago during the time of the Moghul Emperors. Compared to other Indian instruments such as the sitar or tabla, the instrument is relatively unknown, but can create a haunting, reverberating tone - evocative of deeper realities.
Sri Chinmoy was rare in playing the esraj solo, unaccompanied by any other instrument. He would play his own songs or improvised extemporaneously. A few of his esraj instruments were hand-constructed by his students, who sought to create an ever deeper and richer sound. When he performed on one particular esraj for Maestro Ravi Shankar during a private performance in New York October 10th, 2002, the great musician was deeply moved by the music and he gave the instrument the name "Chinmoy Beena".
I pray, I meditate, I contemplate while I am playing. I try to be in close communion with my Inner Pilot, who is the Supreme Musician. And according to my capacity of receptivity, I try to offer His Light and Peace to the world through my music. So when I play, the esraj is not the real instrument; it is I who am the instrument.
- More on Sri Chinmoy's music at Sri Chinmoy Centre
- The esraj - Sri Chinmoy's favourite instrument at Radio Sri Chinmoy
Source of quote
Peace Run begins its journey around the world
Recently, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run started a new journey, in which it will visit all 44 countries in the southern hemisphere. It will be the first time the international team of runners will encircle the globe in a single Peace Run.
During its journey, the Peace Run gives countless people the opportunity to join in with the spirit of the run by holding the Peace Torch and spread a message of peace, friendship and harmony.
This momentous Peace Run began in Bali on the 1st of February and is now in Australia, having visited Vanuatu, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea. The entire journey will take the best part of a year and is scheduled to finish in Bali in November 2019.
The route will take in Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands, South America, Southern Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean.
The Peace Run was founded by the late peace visionary Sri Chinmoy in a spirit of love, harmony and oneness. This spirit permeates the relay and touches the hearts of all those who participate. An athlete, philosopher, artist, musician and poet, Sri Chinmoy dedicated his life to advancing the ideals of world friendship and oneness.
“We do not need
But just earth-born seekers
Who believe in peace
And want to live in peace.”
Sri Chinmoy 1