"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy 7 Hour Walk - 12 April 2022 - Goose Pond Park, Jamaica

I think this was my fourth attempt at The Walk in New York, though during lthe ockdowns of 2020 and 2021 I had taken part in virtual events, race walking flat out for an hour in one race and clocking up around 20 miles steady walking in the next. Here in Jamaica, New York I had taken part twice on the Jamaica Track loop, finishing with 53.75 and 50.2 if memory serves me correctly. I also took part back in 2014 when the race was held on the flatter but shorter 3100 course around Thomas Edison school, and on that  occasion I was aiming for my age in miles - 45 - and finished just just over.

For the 2022 version the distance and course were both different to usual and I am not sure what the story behind that is. For some reason it was a 7 hour walk instead of 12 and the course was a hilly figure-of-8 in Goose Pond Park. Well, that's not the park's official name but that's how we all know it. As per usual it was held on the 12th of April, the day before Sri Chinmoy's Arrival Anniversary. The start was at 8am in cool and cloudy conditions and around 60 brave souls had signed up. We had a briefing about the rules of walking (one foot always in contact with the ground and you must lock your knees with each stride) then at just before 8am we sung our Invocation and started the race.

In the run up to the event Suswara had been asking me if I was going to go for it (as in race flat out) or just make it a soulful seven hours of walking meditation. This even welcomes both approaches. I was undecided right up until the start, as I have always dreamed of doing well in either the Walk or the 47, our big annual Celebrations races, but I was aware that I was in no kind of form for an event this long. Since my injury 6 months before I had missed a lot of running and not got above 3 hours on the bike. In the 2 months of running I had managed my longest session had been 8 miles over to Combe Dingle from my house. In the first lap I made my mind up to make a race of it - Nirbhasa, Emanuels and Andrea had shot off at a crazy pace, with Pataka & Svara from Czech in pursuit and myself and Varsneya just behind. That meant I was in with a chance of making it on to the board (the top seven) and perhaps even staying there if all went well.

As I had no long events or training sessions behind me in the build up to the walk I was keen to feed a lot from early on - I was treating it like an iron distance bike ride, as it was about the same intensity and duration, and so I reverted to the same kind of plan as I had had for my triathlon the previous summer, taking on calories every half hour and trying to stay away from bars and gels for the first few hours. The aid station had peanut butter and banana sandwiches so I went for those. As usual I felt a dip in speed on each eating lap but it paid off as the hours ticked by and I found my energy holding up. I was in a tussle for 5th place with Varsneya and Svara, I soon worked out how to recognise those two as while I knew them by name I wasn't able to put faces to the names right away. I managed to chase them down and put laps between me and the two of them as the race wore on and that gave me something to focus on in terms of the race, helping me to keep myself motivated to push at that slightly-faster-than-comfortable pace you need to maintain to really give your best. I wasn't thinking much about the places up ahead but soon I realised that Nirbhasa was dropping back and Pataka had moved up into third. I kept on pushing the pace and at around 5 hours, just as I was getting close to drawing level with Nirbhasa, I started to flag a little. Straight away I switched to sugary fuel, mostly flat coke from the aid station, and that got into my system quickly and gave me a boost.

By now the early drizzle and showers had subsided and the sun began to come out, soon blazing down on us and drawing the turtles out of the pond to bask on the pavement. The rather wintry park with mostly bare trees soon became a summer paradise and I had to shed tights in favour of shorts and ditch the jacket. As far as I was concerned, the warmth was welcome and fortunately there was plenty of shade on large sections of the course.

Eventually I drew level with Nirbhasa at the aid station and eased into 4th, later discovering that the great ultra athlete had had some lingering after effects from covid, so I hope he is soon back to his best. He still finished on the board so he must be almost back to normal.

Things stayed the same for the last hour or so, but when we came through the finish/lap line with just a few minutes left on the clock, we were determined to squeeze in one last lap. Along with Giribu and Abhijatri I found myself thundering that last lap, which ended up being my fastest of the race, and finishing with a total distance of over 32 miles.


I have to say that despite the fact that the field was massively reduced compared to a normal year, and the duration of the race was shrunk to a mere 7 hours instead of the usual 4, I felt a huge satisfaction in getting myself on the board and then staying there. It's something I've always wanted to do - to have a success (by my standards) in one of our Sri Chinmoy Celebrations races, and this year the stars aligned so that I could do it. Recovery was dramatically easier than after a 12 hour race, as you'd expect, so the only lingering problem was a touch of tightness in the right calf that is still here 3 weeks later as I write this up.

April 2022 was a unique and special celebration, the centres from around the world coming together after such a long separation in the pandemic. After all those virtual races it was great to be on a loop course with comrade disciples encouraging me each time I passed and one of our unparallelled aid stations fuelling my endeavours. I'll always have fond memories of this race - the one where I got in the top 7 and stayed there.

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