By the late 1990s, Sri Chinmoy was nearing the completion of his decades-long running career, from champion sprinter in the Ashram where he grew up in the 1940s and 50s, to marathoner and ultra-runner in the 1970s and 80s. Just as in the epic Indian story, the Mahabharata, when Arjuna could no longer utilize his bow, Sri Chinmoy’s days of sprinting and competing in races were coming to a close. What remained of Guru’s running career were only walking and a handful of the 2-mile races that we hold every Saturday.
At that time, the 2-mile races in New York were being held in Captain Tilly Park (also known as Goose Pond Park), which is very close to Sri Chinmoy's home, and also to Aspiration-Ground, the meditation garden where Sri Chinmoy would meditate with all of his students. On 2 December 1995, Guru ran his first recorded 2-mile race in many years. In previous years his sporting focus had been on weightlifting and tennis, and then on his beloved sprinting; nearing 61 years of age, he had reached 13.67s for 100m in 1992, his best time in 40 years.
Guru completes the race on 2 December 1995
The photos of Guru in this article are from his participation in that first 2-mile race in Goose Pond Park, and two subsequent ones on 9 December 1995 and 10 February 1996.
Guru’s times for these three races in Captain Tilly Park are:
2 December 1995: 27:56 (2 miles) / 13:58 (1 miles)
9 December 1995: 24:25 (2 miles) / 12:13 (1 miles)
10 February 1996: 23:31 (2 miles) / 11:41 (1 miles)
2 mile race, 9 December 1995
Between December and February, Sri Chinmoy and his students visited South Africa for their year-end Christmas Trip, and there were many races during the South that Guru participated in, which might account for the 10 February race having a faster time then the previous two.
After returning from South Africa, Guru ran 8 more races in Goose Pond Park (all 2-mile races), as well as a handful of unofficial runs on the remaining Christmas Trips, but the 10 February race would remain his fastest time for those remaining races.
Often when Guru ran, there would be monitors/helpers on the course as well as photographers and/or someone videoing his running. The special 3-wheeled bike used by Mridanga required quite a bit of effort by whomever was peddling as it was an industrial model and very heavy. Needless to say, with all the hills in the Park, that was quite a workout for the peddler. The bike was purchased by Mridanga specifically for this purpose, of videoing Guru running. Good thing the boys tested the bike before videoing Guru, as they got a flat on its test voyage. So to prevent this from happening again special puncture-proof tires were purchased.
If you look closely at the above photo of Guru running in the snow you will see a red bicycle ahead of Guru: that’s Mridanga sitting in the back facing Guru while videoing.
During one of these 2-mile races a photo was taken of me kneeling next to Guru. As I remember, this was the time when Guru asked if we could have our ultra-races in Goose Pond Park. At that time the Queens Park Commissioner was our dear friend Richard Murphy. After consulting with Richard about the feasibility of the project, alas, either because of a lack of enthusiasm or faith on my part, nothing happened. But, maybe Guru’s wish was fulfilled when our annual 12-Hour Walk was moved to Goose Pond Park many years later.
Even after Sri Chinmoy could no longer run, he would often walk in Goose Pond Park. Sometimes he would share with his students the meditation experiences that he would have during his walks:
"This morning at 5:20, Vinaya was driving me to Goose Pond Park. Vinaya is very fond of the ducks there. I started my one-mile walk. Right from the first step, Swami Vivekananda was walking with me inwardly for one full mile. A very thin crane was watching us. On the earthly level, I saw one Indian, a Hindi-speaker. He was lying down most comfortably on a bench, speaking on the phone. God alone knows whether it was his wife or someone else that he was speaking with. I passed by, and when I came back, he was still talking. I went around again. I walked comfortably for over eighteen minutes, and Swami Vivekananda was with me inwardly, chatting and chatting.”
Swami Vivekananda was a famous Indian spiritual figure; one of the main people responsible for introducing Eastern spirituality to the West.
"Yesterday morning, I went to Goose Pond Park. It was drizzling and I was running slowly. Five times I passed by a man sitting on a bench who was heavily drunk. Each time I came by him, he smiled at me. I could not understand what he was saying, but each time I passed by him, he said something encouraging to me. Now if I had had to consciously try to see the divine in him — if I had said, “He is also God’s creation. Although he is drinking heavily, let me see the divine in him” — I would have been wasting my time. But each time I came by, spontaneously I got such joy. If I had identified myself with his outer life, I would have been disgusted. I do not care for drinking at all. For me, it is something abominable. But while I was passing him, I was seeing the divine in him. His inner divinity immediately attracted me. His heart entered into me and my heart entered into him. Therefore I sincerely got joy."
Later on, Sri Chinmoy found it increasingly difficult to walk long distances, and would often instead travel in a motorised cart, which he would refer to as his 'chariot'. He would regularly come to Goose Pond Park and drive there:
“And here is a cute story. As you know, we have our Goose Pond Park in Jamaica. The manager of that park has appointed me and Rupantar to be his supervisors, so that I will not have any problems when I am riding there!”
One final note: is it Goose Pond Park or Captain George Tilly Park? Most disciples, and Guru included, know the Park as Goose Pond Park, but technically it is Captain George Tilly Park. The Park is named for a local son of a prominent Jamaica family who was killed while fighting in the American subjugation of the Philippines in 1899. At the turn of the century the bulk of the land and the pond (called Goose Pond) was owned by the Highland Park Society and in 1935, city officials renamed the property Captain George Tilly Park in his memory. It is the same with the big marathon in New York City. Everyone calls it the New York City Marathon, when technically the name is prefaced by whomever sponsored the race that year.
In this image, Guru can be seen running the other side of the lake.