Born in 1931, Sri Chinmoy spent his adolescence and young adulthood in a spiritual community, or ashram, in South India, where sports and meditation were practised as complementary disciplines. His main love was sprinting; he was the ashram champion in the 100m sprint for almost two decades in a row, setting a personal best of 11.3 seconds barefoot on a cinder track.
In 1964 he moved to New York, and began holding Peace Meditations at the United Nations at the request of then-secretary General U Thant. In 1977 he founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, to serve the growing running community by putting on races and helping at races organised by others. An avid long-distance runner, he completed 22 marathons and 5 ultra marathons. As well as establishing new standards in runner care and race marking, the Marathon Team also extended the distances of the races they put on, and in time became foremost organiser of ultra marathon races in the world.
In 1996 Sri Chinmoy founded the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the longest certified road race in the world. The race extends for over seven weeks between mid-June and early August in New York, and has been called the ‘Mount Everest of ultra running’ by the New York Times.
In 1985 he began weightlifting, and performed many remarkable feats of strength in a career that spanned over two decades. In particular, Sri Chinmoy used his weightlifting feats to encourage older people. His lifts were featured frequently in print and TV; for example, Muscle and Fitness Magazine listed his November weightlifting demonstration in 2004 as among the greatest feats of strength performed by anybody that year.
At the heart of Sri Chinmoy’s love of sports was the idea of self-transcendence – that you could get the most joy by focusing on bettering your own capacities, rather than trying to beat others. He felt that a more peaceful world could come about if more people became inspired to pursue the best within themselves.
We are all citizens of the world. If I can inspire others, and if they can inspire the rest of the world, then we can have a better world. It is by virtue of inspiration that we can do good things for mankind. We are all longing for peace, peace, peace. And I feel it is our inner strength that will be able to give us peace.
Sri Chinmoy passed away in 2007; his sporting legacy continues in the hundreds of races organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team around the world. In 2012 the documentary Challenging Impossibility, chronicling Sri Chinmoy’s weightlifting, was premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Learn more about Sri Chinmoy