Sri Chinmoy's love of sport began in his youth. After the loss of both parents when only twelve years old, the young Chinmoy left Bengal and went to live with his elder siblings at a spiritual community in South India. Here, at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the ashramites practised an "integral yoga", which included western sports such as track and field athletics, volleyball and football in addition to the more typically eastern practises such as yoga meditation, devotional music and writing spiritual poetry. Sport was seen as an essential ingredient in a holistic way of living, bringing the optimum health required for a dynamic spiritual life.
Sri Chinmoy soon became the champion decathlete at the ashram, training at the track for a long time each day in addition to the many hours he spent in meditation. Although he competed with all his ability, he always did so in the spirit of "Self Transcendence" - competing with himself rather than the other athletes, striving to reach personal goals and then go beyond them, setting ever new and challenging targets.
After coming to the west in 1964, Sri Chinmoy became a spiritual teacher to a small but dedicated group of students in the mid to late sixties. His following grew to many hundreds through the early seventies, and the Sri Chinmoy Centre began to expand internationally. Around this time, Sri Chinmoy began to introduce sports as a centre activity. He had resumed his running career, focusing now on road running rather than track work, and training for marathons and later ultramarathons. Again, the philosophy was one of Self Transcendence, each individual seeking to go beyond their own limits and bring forward their inner, spiritual potential. As well as the obvious health benefits that running brings, Sri Chinmoy saw an inspiring spiritual dimension in running. To quote from his writings:
"Running offers us the message of transcendence. In our running, every day we are aiming at a new goal....every day we are running towards a goal, but when we reach that goal, we want to go still farther. Either we want to improve our timing or increase our distance. There is no end. Running means continual transcendence, and that is also the message of our inner life".
In 1977 the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team was founded, and we began to host public races from one or two miles right up to marathon and ultramarathon. These events were held as a service to the running community - to give something back to our fellow athletes, to inspire, to provide opportunity for Self Transcendence. Sri Chinmoy and his students have always seen competition as a positive thing, provided it is taken in the right spirit - as a vehicle for achieving one's own full potential. In Sri Chinmoy's own words:
"Competition is good, provided it is the competition of Self-Transcendence and not the competition of ego-demonstration".