The spiritual value of running marathons

Sri Chinmoy encouraged running as a complement to meditation and the spiritual life. He saw how it could help people transcend themselves, both inwardly and outwardly. Running helps both our physical health, which is needed to meditate well, and also helps to bring forward qualities such as concentration, discipline and a quiet mind.

Running is a symbolic sport in the sense that it reminds us of spiritual seekers continuously running towards the goal; it resembles the seekers running inwardly to achieve the ultimate goal in meditation.

Sri Chinmoy

marathon runners in Brazil
Marathon runners in Brazil

Many members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre run as part of their daily spiritual practice and often complete one or more marathons a year - the gold standard of distance running. They also organise marathons and other distance events for the general public as part of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. Sri Chinmoy events are well known for creating a friendly atmosphere and seeking to maintain high standards of service to runners.

Sri Chinmoy himself took up long-distance running at the age of 47, showing that age need not be a barrier to running and physical fitness. He completed his first marathon on 3 March 1979 in Chico, California in a time of 4:31:34, and went on to do 21 more marathons and 5 ultras. This weekend, members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre around the world completed marathons to mark the 40th anniversary of Sri Chinmoy's first marathon run.

Marathon in Australia, where temperatures rose to mid 30s
Marathon in Australia, where temperatures rose to the mid-30s

In Melbourne, Australia, around 50 students of Sri Chinmoy took part in a marathon event. They were joined by an international team of runners from the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run who had recently run from Brisbane to Melbourne as part of a global torch relay which began in February and will run until November, visiting all the countries in the Southern Hemisphere along the way.

Running through the NY snow
Running through the NY snow.

In Chico, California, 70 members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre took part in celebrations to mark the anniversary. The Chico marathon - called the Bidwell Classic - is still run as an event 40 years later, albeit over the half-marathon distance. Some runners then proceeded to do the half-marathon a second time to complete the full marathon distance.

In addition, marathon events were held by Sri Chinmoy Centres all over the world, including in Augsburg (Germany), Bristol (UK), Dublin (Ireland), Zlin (Czech Republic), New York (US), and Sao Paulo (Brazil)

Sri Chinmoy on marathons

Long-distance running gives us a real feeling of accomplishment. We can run 100 metres forty times during the year and not feel the same sense of accomplishment as when we run one marathon. But speed and endurance are both important, especially in the spiritual life. If one has only speed, then one cannot ultimately succeed; we need endurance because the goal is quite far. Again, if one has only stamina and no speed, then it will take forever to reach the goal. Only if someone has both qualities will he be able to make very good progress in his spiritual life and achieve something really great in life.

Sri Chinmoy

How running and meditation go together

Vasudha from the San Diego Sri Chinmoy Centre talks about how running and meditation can go together.

More  on our other sites

Quotes by Sri Chinmoy are taken from his book The outer running and the inner running.

Cross-posted from