Sandhani Fitch has been marking and certifying courses for Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team races ever since the very first race in 1977; here he shares a few interesting details about how the now-famous course for the 3100 Mile Race - a half-mile loop around a high school, sports field and playground - came to be chosen.
I have worked on Sri Chinmoy’s running races since the very first Sri Chinmoy 10.6 mile race in Greenwich, Connecticut. Sahishnu (Sczeziul, associate race director) and I plotted a scenic course in northern Greenwich that was a hilly single loop. Sri Chinmoy had just begun his own personal distance running career and by the following year, with one more similar Sri Chinmoy race in New Canaan, Connecticut, we got some feedback from him. The first directive was to select flat courses! Secondly, Sri Chinmoy wanted aid stations at one-mile intervals for the runners. A year or two later he recommended using a one-mile loop for most of our races, no matter the overall distance.
These outer conditions that he proposed laid the foundation for the multi-day ultras he asked us to stage in the following years. The race directors in short time evolved into the team we have now. Sri Chinmoy always had faith that we had the willingness to do what he asked. We never questioned his requests, and with the amazing help provided by so many Marathon Team members in so many ways, his vision became a reality.
Sandhani congratulates 3100 mile race finisher Smarana Puntigam.
In the early 1990’s Sri Chinmoy asked if his students could stage a 2700-mile race! It took about 4 years of searching for staging areas for the race until we finally saw that no park was going to let us occupy an area around the clock for 47 days. He then said to stage it within 5 minutes of our neighborhood. We, in turn, asked about running for 18 hours and closing the course for 6 hours, and he said fine. We were then left with the choice between our current 2-mile race course around Jamaica High School, or what is now our 3100-mile course which I measured and submitted for certification. Our concerns were that it was only a little over a half mile and that it was a concrete sidewalk and not a softer “blacktop” surface. You know the course Sri Chinmoy chose.
Sandhani also has the job of patrolling the 3100 Mile course on his bicycle after dark.
Two general but profound things I have always felt about Sri Chinmoy’s races: First, he created them according to his vision, and was never bound by the conventions of the racing community. The distance or the time was always somewhat different, the previously mentioned conditions were applied to all the races, and the services and human contact with the participants provided by all the team members volunteering was very significant.
Second, and most meaningful to me, is what Sri Chinmoy brought to the earth consciousness in and through these events. God alone knows what he does, but I have always been able to feel it. The reason he could do this is because the races are totally his creation, and are made possible by the self-giving of all his students and volunteers and, most importantly, the willingness and determination of the runners to conquer these enormous distances. The Marathon Team makes the commitment to put on these huge races, because the runners themselves are so committed to complete the task put before them.