At the beginning of this semester, I was very skeptical on the subjects that I would be learning about in my Ultramarathon Running class. When I walked into the first class and received the syllabus, my head dropped down as I saw that I would have to attend one of these grueling ultramarathon races. Needless to say, I was less than pleased to see this, but being open to new experiences, I soon began to look forward to seeing a race in person, and I decided to go to one in New York that was being run by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team. I was puzzled to who this Sri Chinmoy was, and why he would possibly want to sponsor such a test of strength. That was the first instance that my attention was grabbed on the subject of Sri Chinmoy, and it didn't diminish my expectations at all for the time before the race.
The class and I journeyed to the Queens track on a dark and gloomy Saturday morning to see what the races were all about, and as we arrived we were greeted by a member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, and my curiosity was than completely peaked. Who was this man that had a following of hard-core runners? How did he come to have a spiritual-like following of loyal males and females? I was drawn to find the answers to these questions. What I found out was this and much, much more, including things that came as quite a surprise to me, and some things that I assumed from the beginning. Whatever the case, the information about the Sri Chinmoy was hard to come by, yet still an invaluable source to come to an understanding of the man, his followers, and the numerous races and contributions that he has made to our society, a society that he hopes will one day be one of peace and inner and outer spirituality.
"Sri Chinmoy is a man who has devoted his life to the singular pursuit of a dream: A world where peace, harmony, and oneness reign supreme. Towards that end, for over thirty years, he has tirelessly walked along the road of peace, firm in his conviction that through determination and perseverance, we shall inevitably reach our destined goal -- we, the sisters and brothers of the human family." This is the opening to the pamphlet that the Sri Chinmoy Society sent me in action to my request for any information that they had on the subject of their spiritual leader. This best describes the man that they look towards for the support that they need in order to complete the grueling activities that they participate in, as well as spiritual ascending the world in which we inhabit now. Sri is a man of great spiritual and physical ability, and has gained a following of some two thousand members over the thirty years that he has lived in New York. Over this time, he has gained great acclaim, as well as some bashing by his critics.
The Sri Chinmoy was born in India on August 27, 1931. As a young man he always had felt a connection with the Earth, and the spirituality that surrounded it. When still in his teenaged years, he had participated in numerous races and runs, and won almost everyone that he had entered. He felt that his spirituality was the main cause for his ascending into greatness within the running community of India, so he decide that he would take his message and teaching to others that have not yet been given the opportunity that he has been given. That is when he moved to New York, in the summer of 1964, in order to explore new ways of inner peace and outer harmony.
Sri Chinmoy established his first meditation center in Puerto Rico in the 1964. That first one was all that the Sri needed to set his dreams into actions. There are now Sri Chinmoy Centers in the United States and Canada, as well as various other locations throughout the world such as Japan, and islands in the Carribean. As the Sri had wanted, the members of these centers come from a wide range of people, from all walks of life. Most of the followers are under fifty years old, being that the entire group was only established around thirty years ago, and most middle-ages people have a hard time digging up their roots and following a completely new way of thinking and acting. The range of the participants are from toddlers to ninety years old, clearly taking in from the complete spectrum of ages. Of the two thousand followers of the concepts of Sri Chinmoy, around three-hundred of them live in the New York area, and roughly two hundred of those live right in Jamaica, New York, which houses the International Headquarters of Sri Chinmoy.
Along with being the spiritual leader of an entire community of followers, the Sri Chinmoy is also a gifted runner in his own right, as well as an artist, musician, and peacemaker. Over the years, Sri Chinmoy, as well as his followers, have held numerous world records for feats of strength. "Sri Chinmoy began weightlifting in earnest in 1985, at the age of 54. In a dramatic demonstration of the indomitable power of the human spirit, Sri Chinmoy performed several historic feats of strength soon after beginning his training. These lifts have been certified by official bodies such as the AAU and prominent individuals such as Wayne DeMilla, Vice President of the International Federation of Body Builders." (26, S.C.)
A few of these greats tests of strength that Sri Chinmoy underwent was lifting 7,063 3/4 pounds with one arm on January 30, 1987, doing 2,038 pound standing calf raises on December 4, 1986, and lifting a 3,362 pound seaplane on October 19, 1986. These lifts truly exemplify what the human spirit and mind over matter can do for a person, and they prove the Sri Chinmoy teaching that becoming one with your spirituality can cause you to do things that were once thought impossible, but now are a reality.
Sri Chinmoy is also an accomplished artist, who has a love for drawing birds that signify peace and harmony within our world. "Sri Chinmoy's vast outpouring of artistic woks have given joy and inspiration to people at galleries worldwide. He calls his life Jharna-Kala — "Fountain-Art" in his native Bengali— to signify art flowing from the Source of Inspiration. His acrylic and watercolor works number over 150,000, of which 100,000 were painted in one year, and range in size from three inches to seventy-one feet by thirteen feet."(10, S.C.)
In December of 1991, Sri Chinmoy began drawing what he has termed "soul-birds" — birds representing a universal symbol of peace and freedom. Over a span of four years, he completed four million birds, and he has entitled the ongoing series "Dream-Freedom Peace-Birds". In March and April of 1994, the first 1,000,000 of Sri Chinmoy's soul birds were displayed at what was penned the "Dream-Freedom Peace-Bird Gallery, which was located in Ottawa, Canada. Within this four story building every one of the Sri Chinmoy's birds up to that date were displayed, and a vast majority of them were accompanied by poems and the such to add to the spirituality.
Though Sri Chinmoy excels at many different areas in life, none is more covered than his accomplishments in running, and his contributions to the running world with his Sri Chinmoy Marathon team, and the various races that they have organized and supported for many years. While in his youth at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India, Sri Chinmoy was a seventeen-time 100m sprinting champion and a two-time decathlon champion. In the eight years between 1978 and 1986, he completed over 200 road races, including twenty-one marathons and five ultramarathons. Today he is an accomplished competitive jumper, as well as a world class jumper. Sri Chinmoy has been a key figure head within the ultra- running and athletic community for several years now, and throughout these years has given much to the sport, in means of both physicality and spirituality.
Sri Chinmoy founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon in 1977. At first, this group only organized races for those within the Sri Chinmoy community, but by 1978 they allowed all comers to join them in their runs, and to share their experiences and spirituality with the entire community of ultrarunners. The first marathon that was organized by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon team was at New York in 1980. They had so much success with this first race, that they decided to start up a twenty-four hour race in Canada the next year, which again brought great success and name recognition to the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. In subsequent years the team organized roughly one new race a year. In 19985 the first Sri Chinmoy 1000 mile race was run in Queens, New York. The next year a Sri Chinmoy 5 day race was organized, which led the organizers to thinking of a true test of ones endurance. This brain child eventually came to life, in the longest current track race in the world, the Sri Chinmoy Ultimate Ultra.
The first Ultimate Ultra was held in New York in the fall of 1987. It was, and still remains, the longest certified race in the world. It features three race divisions including the 1300 mile race, the 1000 mile race, and the 700 mile race. This event is held on a one mile loop track which the runners encircle for the entirety of the race. The current course is a road loop on Ward's Island in the New York borough of Queen's. The race has many facilities available for the runner's in the race including tenting ground, counting station, a kitchen, a medical unit, and showering stations. This grueling test of physical and mental strength usually starts around mid-September, and it finished up somewhere in early October.
From this race came yet another idea from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, a 2700 mile run, a run which came to fruition in the fall of 1996. The first running of this race housed a small, yet determined field of 6, from which four of them were mal and two of them were female. This run was a little different than the Ultimate Ultra, which is run on a secluded one mile loop, which is usually located deep within a park somewhere obscure. This was run deep in the heart of the city, with the contestants running a continuos loop of 84th street in New York. The goal of the runners was to keep a steady pace of 57 miles a day, in order for them to reach their goal within the allotted time period. After all was said and done, the winner of the first ever, and longest, 2700 mile loop race organized by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team was George Jermolajev. With his win brought much prestige to the race, and it will be put on again next year, with the organizers expecting more of a participant show out than the inaugural run.
Sri Chinmoy is a man a many talents, and likings. His is the rare type of person who excels at almost everything that he sets out to do. Over the years he has been one of the most respected figureheads in the athletic world, and is viewed with divine eyes by his followers. He stressed athleticism as the best way to open up one's spirituality, and he utilizes his own words, with proof such as the 70000 pound one arm lift, and the raising of a seaplane with his bare hands. Though Sri Chinmoy's actions have gone under fire as being done "for the camera", he always stays true to the message of peace and harmony that he has preached for the number of years that he has been in the United States. Even though some say that his "acts of faith" were all done implementing the use of levers, he has always been constant in the guidance that he has offered those who follow him, and those who choose to hear his message. In the grand scheme of things, the Sri Chinmoy has come a long way in his time here in the United States, and his Marathon team has taken the sport of Ultramarathon Running to a whole new level.