Sri Chinmoy was born in Bangladesh, (then part of India) in 1931. At the age of 11, he moved to the Sri Aurobindo ashram where he took part in the daily activities of the ashram as well as spending many hours in meditation. In the ashram, Sri Chinmoy, excelled in sprinting and in the 1950s won the ashram 100 metres title several years running.
On coming to America in 1964, Sri Chinmoy maintained his interest in running and encouraged his students to run and participate in races. In the early 1970s, Sri Chinmoy established the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team, which became well established as one of the foremost promoters of long distance running.In 1978, Sri Chinmoy took up distance running. He trained regularly and completed several marathons and a couple of ultra marathons. His best marathon time was 3 hours 54 minutes in the marathon at Toledo. A knee injury forced him to give up running, but he switched to weightlifting which enabled him to pursue his goal of self transcendence.
Sri Chinmoy entered mahasamadhi at the age of 76 on October 11th 2007. As a spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy was keen to highlight the physical and spiritual benefits of running. Sri Chinmoy taught that real spirituality is not a retreat from the world; everything we do can be done from a spiritual perspective.
The essence of spirituality is evolution and man’s conscious aspiration for his self transcendence. Spirituality teaches us to transcend our limited egoistic perspective and enter into higher state of consciousness. Thus, spirituality is the practise of inner self transcendence. In meditation we constantly expand our horizons and sense of self. This inner spiritual self transcendence also complements the outer self transcendence. Sri Chinmoy has often spoken of the benefit and nature of self-transcendence.
“Self-transcendence gives us joy in boundless measure. When we transcend ourselves, we do not compete with others. We do not compete with the rest of the world, but at every moment we compete with ourselves.”
At the beginning of the ultra distance boom of the 1980s, the Sri Chinmoy MT were often at the forefront. The SCMT organised 700, 1000 and 1300 mile races; in addition they organised 6 day and 10 day races. In 1996, Sri Chinmoy asked for a totally new race, the 2700 mile race. This was an unprecedented leap in distance. Furthermore, the race was to be undertaken around a 1 mile block in Jamaica, Queens. In the first race, 4 competitors managed to complete the race; including the race winner, Georgs Jermolajev and Suprabha Beckjord the first female runner. The next year, the distance was raised to 3100 miles and the race has been staged every year since.
Sri Chinmoy, took a keen interest in the race. When he was at his home in Jamaica Queens, he visited the race everyday, often giving prasad to the runners. To Sri Chinmoy, the 3100 mile race is proof that “nothing is impossible, when we live in the heart” The race has become an inspiring example of the individual capacity for self transcendence.