History of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team
The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team was formed in 1977 by students of the Indian meditation master, author, poet and philosopher Sri Chinmoy.
A champion athlete in the Indian spiritual community where he had lived for 20 years before coming to America, Sri Chinmoy felt that sport was a natural aid to well being.
How it started...
At the time of the Marathon Team's founding, Sri Chinmoy was encouraging his students to increase their physical fitness as a natural complement to their meditation practice.
A 33 member team had already completed The Liberty Torch Bicentennial Relay, a torch run covering all 50 states, in 1976. A team (including Sri Chinmoy) also entered the 24 hour cycle race in Central Park. In 1978, a 60-member team entered the New York marathon, a tradition that continued for many years.
Our first race
Sri Chinmoy felt that holding races for the public would give the running community joy and an avenue for friendly competition.
On October 2, 1977, our first 10-mile race was held in Greenwich, Connecticut. To make it special Sri Chinmoy had us offer split times every mile, water and refreshment drinks every mile, and to provide enthusiastic support along the whole course. These races quickly became popular - for example a 400-strong field for this 13 mile race in 1979.
Our first ultra race
In August 1978, Sri Chinmoy suggested a 47-mile race to take place on his birthday, which we hastily organised with help from Ted Corbitt, the 'father of US ultrarunning'. This particular race inspired us to pursue longer and more demanding events.
Vajin Armstrong (NZ) holds the course record (5:08:38) while Dipali Cunningham (US) holds the women's record (6:14:42) as well as having won the woman's division over 27 times. In 1979, Sri Chinmoy completed the race within the 13-hr limit.
24 hour race...and some world records
In 1980 we formed our first 24 hour race in Greenwich, Ct. In this race Marcy Schwam , the pioneer American runner, set three women's world track records for 50 miles, 100km, and 100 miles.
The following year in the same race Cahit Yeter from New York set a North American 24 hour best of 155+ miles, and Sue Medaglia set a women's 24 hour world record of over 126 miles. For more...
Expanding our races...
The number of our races increased - marathons, half-marathons, weekly 2-milers, sprints for children, triathlons (including the first East Coast triathlon), and longer races - 70 miles, 100 miles, 24 hours and 5 days.
As the enthusiasm for running began to grow, Sri Chinmoy ensured that standard procedures were always kept - flat courses (so that runners could always expect a chance to do well), water and refreshment drinks always available, accurate scoring and enthusiastic support.
...and going global
Over the years, Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team branches were formed in over 20 countries.
In Australia the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team has become synonymous with daring triathlon and multisport events including the Triathlon Festival and the Triple Triathlon. Our 24 hour races in England, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Switzerland are also highly respected. In Switzerland, the 26km Zurich Lake swim is a favourite amongst open water swimmers and English Channel hopefuls. More...
Swimming the English Channel
In 1985, Vasanti Niemz from Germany (interviewed in video) became the first Marathon team member to swim the English Channel. Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team members have completed over 45 crossings, the most of any team, led by Karteek Clarke from Scotland with eleven sucessful attempts.
In 2012, Sri Chinmoy was inducted into the Open Water Swimming Hall of Fame, in recognition of his inspirational role in promoting Channel swimming. More...
Masters track-and-field meets
Starting in 1985, we began to offer track and field meets for athletes over 40. Many former regional and national champions and former Olympians (including 4-time gold medallist Al Oerter) have taken part. Similar events are now held on the West Coast, and in Europe.
Sri Chinmoy frequently competed in these events, and in many other masters meets including the World Masters Games (Puerto Rico, 1983) and the World Veterans Games (Japan, 1991).
Sri Chinmoy's weightlifting
Sri Chinmoy took up weightlifting in 1985. He achieved many remarkable feats in his lifting career, including novel lifts of objects such as cars, pianos and elephants (see video), as well as honouring thousands of people for their service to humanity by lifting them overhead using a special apparatus.
To celebrate Sri Chinmoy's 200 lb lift in March 1986, we held a 200 mile race in which 30 Marathon Team members participated.
The 1000 mile race
In 1985 we offered our first 1000 mile race in Flushing Meadow Park, in which 3 runners finished. In 1988, the race served as the IAU World Championships, and legendary ultramarathoner Yiannis Kouros broke the world record in 10 days 10 hours.
In 1987, Sri Chinmoy initiated the Ultra Trio - an unprecedented set of three simultaneous ultra races of 700, 1000 and 1300 miles, which continued until 2003.
Running for Peace
Also in 1987, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run (also known as the World Harmony Run) began, which has now grown into the world's largest torch relay for peace. Using the universal language of sport, the Run carries the message that peace is something that can be achieved one person, one step at a time.
The Run has visited over 140 countries, and its message has been embraced by schools, communities, and local and national governments around the world. Find out more on peacerun.org
For many years, the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has been an integral part of the running scene in New York and abroad. Sri Chinmoy's philosophy of inner and outer running struck a chord with many people, and he formed friendships with many past and present athletic greats such as Emil Zatopek, Al Oerter, Fred Lebow, Tatyana Lebedeva and Tegla Laroupe. 9-time Olymic gold medallist, Carl Lewis, called Sri Chinmoy his 'inner coach'.
The Self-Transcendence Six and Ten Day Races
In 1996, the Seven Day Race was increased to 10 days, and three years later a Six Day Race was added to run concurrently. Rimas Jakelaites of Lithuania holds the 10 day record of 901 miles.
The races have seen many remarkable performances over the years, including Dipali Cunningham's 2009 women's world road record of 513 miles at the 6-day race (aged 53) and ultrarunning legend Ted Corbitt's 6-day 2001 mark of 303 miles, aged 82.
The world's longest race
In 1996, Sri Chinmoy initiated the 2700 Mile race, in which 5 out of 6 starters finished. The next year, the distance was increased to 3100 miles. The 3100 mile race is currently the world's longest certified road race. Race website »
The course record is 40 days, 9 hours, 6 minutes and 21 seconds set by Ashprihanal Aalto of Finland in 2015. Suprabha Beckjord was for many years the race's only female competitor, and has completed the race 13 times.
We have come a long way...
Sri Chinmoy passed away in 2007, but the Marathon Team has continued to be a standard bearer for his vision of realising human potential through sports.
In five continents, thousands of competitors get joy from competing in our races every year, and our ultra races feature as major news stories every year in media outlets all across the world.
...but our philosophy remains the same
Run and Become. Become and Run.
Run to succeed in the outer world. Become to proceed in the inner world.
As we attempt to manifest Sri Chinmoy's dream for the continuous progress of mankind in all endeavors, we offer our best wishes to all the seeker-runners who share a dream of going where few have ever gone. The challenge and the joy of transcending oneself is the greatest gift and the best opportunity at true satisfaction in human life.