History of Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team 2

As the number of competitors  began to grow so did the number of races. 1979 saw our first marathon and half-marathon offered in Flushing Meadow Park, as well as shorter races and even triathlons. 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.

       Branches of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team were formed in 20 other countries, and have expanded to nearly 100 around the world. Today,  the Sri Chinmoy Triathlon  in Austrailia is the National Long Course Championship, as well as the 100km road race. Our  24 hour races in Europe are highly respected, particularly in England, France, Germany, and Switzerland. In the 1993 24 hour event in Basel, Switzerland, some 120 runners from 15 countries took part, with the President of the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), Malcolm Campbell, calling it ” the best 24 hour event ever staged”.

    The cornerstone of Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy is the expression of self-transcendence- going beyond personal limits and reaching new levels of inner and outer perfection. This vision of the complete seeker-runner was also practiced by his students, many of them discovering talents they didn’t know they possessed. Some began to train for marathons and ultramarathons, others began long distance swimming training.

         As the enthusiasm for running began to grow, Sri Chinmoy felt that standard procedures for his races must be kept. We began to organize races on one-mile or two kilometer loops, using flat courses, so that runners could always expect a chance to do well. Water and refreshment drinks were to always  be available, as  well as accurate scoring and enthusiastic support. The number of our races began to grow, as  weekly two mile events and sprints for children and seniors were offered. We also began to offer much longer races- 70 miles, 100 miles, 24 hours and 5 days.

         I984 saw the appearance of the Greek legend Yiannis Kouros at the New York Road Runners Six Day Race, in which he set new standards for 48 hours, and broke the 100 year record for six days by running 635 miles. A few months later Yiannis came back to New York to run our 24 hour race, in which he established new road bests for 100 miles in 11hours 46 minutes, and smashed the 24 hour absolute best by 7 miles with 177 miles. A year later in the same race, but running in the teeth of high winds from Hurricane Gloria, Yiannis broke his own record with 178 miles.  In the 1997 Adelaide Sri Chinmoy 24 hour Race, Yiannis Kouros set the new and probably unbreakable  world record of 188+ miles( 305 km).

    In 1985 we offered our first 1000 mile race in Flushing Meadow Park, the first of its kind in this hemishere in this century. Three runners actually completed the distance in the allowed  timeframe. Leading the group  was American distance pioneer Don Choi from San Francisco, California.

     The Marathon Team also began holding monthly marathons at Flushing Meadow Park, hoping to inspire the runners to increase their capacity at the 26.2 mile distance. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team also developed a special and unique relationship with the New York Road Runners Club, the largest running club and organization in the U.S.  We would often help them with the scoring of their National championship 100 mile race, as well as their 6 day affair at Randall’s Island. We have often participated in the New York Marathon, having had over 350  SCMT  runners the last several years, as  well as offering support in its organization and providing  aid stations along the course and clean-up in Central Park after the race. This service has been in place since 1978.

         Sri Chinmoy took up weightlifting in 1985, slowly  working his  way up to eventual massive numbers of pounds with his special one arm lift, plus adding unusual lifts and feats of strength. His chronic knee injury prevented long distance running, but did not terminate his boundless energy for excelling at any sport. We had a special 200 mile race in honor of Sri Chinmoy’s 200 lb one arm lift, in March of 1986, in which over 30 men and women ran 200 miles in his honor. In January of 1987 he eventually lifted 7,063 lbs in a miraculous one arm lift.

    We  began to offer track and field meets for athletes over age- 40, men and women, with our annual Sri Chinmoy Masters Games in 1985. Many former regional and national champions and some former Olympians including discus legend Al Oerter have taken part in the Games. Similar events are now held on the West Coast and in Europe.  Sri Chinmoy himself still practices sprints and throwing events at age 69, as  well as weightlifting, of  which he is a record holder for a number of one -arm lifting and calf-raise events. In 1991 Sri Chinmoy surpassed his best times in this  country  for the 100 meters, 200m and 400m  set in Puerto Rico in 1984. He feels  faster  times are still within reach.

       In 1987 Sri Chinmoy increased his vision of the running world. He felt that a longer race of 1,300 miles would inspire a challenge for the ultramarathon  runners. The Ultra Trio was born- a set of three ultra races of  700, 1,000 and 1,300 miles. World class distance specialists began to attempt the increasingly difficult mileages. This unique race still exists  today.

    That same year a new running adventure was born- the World Harmony Run, a relay run through 55 countries around  the world, carrying a flaming torch for peace. The public was encouraged to participate, and local and national officials embraced the event. Over 250,000 people ran with the torch and took part in  ceremonies that designated peace as a primary objective for world harmony- one person at a time,  one step at a time. The Peace Run is now a biennial event, attracting millions of participants in over 70 countries. The U.S. event runs through all the 50 states, with thousands of runners joining in.

            Sri Chinmoy’s students began to excel in running and swimming as well. To this day  17 of his students have swum the English Channel, and several  others hold or have held distance records for running in various countries, including the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Hungary, and Japan. Others have recently taken up  mountain climbing as a means of testing their limits.

         The Marathon Team held  national and world championship events in 1988 and 1989 at Flushing Meadow Park.  The 1988 1,000 mile event was the I.A.U. (International  Association of Ultrarunners)  World Championship.  Yiannis Kouros of Greece ran 1,000 miles in 10 days,10 hours, breaking the previous record by 1 1/2 days. Suprabha Beckjord of Washington D.C. won the women’s 700 mile race in American Record time. Sandra Barwick of New Zealand set a new world standard for women  at 1000 miles in 14 days,20 hours. In 1989 Rae Clark of California set a new U.S. standard for 100 miles and Ann Trason did the same for the ladies in the 24 hour event, besting the entire field for the National Championship, as well as setting a new world women’s standard for 100 miles. Later that year Al Howie of Scotland became the first person to complete the 1,300 mile distance in a certified race (17 days 9 hours).

    1989 saw the women’s world best for 1000 miles claimed by Suprabha Beckjord as she broke Sandra Barwick’s time by a mere 27 minutes. In 1991 Ann Trason broke the women’s world best for 100 miles in 13 hours  47 minutes in our 100 mile road race. The 1991 Ultra Trio had a field of over 60 runners for all three races- unheard of considering the great distances being attemted. Al Howie came back to break his own record for 1,300 miles by 13 hours and Sandra Barwick became the first woman to run 1,300 miles in a certified race; enroute she smashed the 1,000  miles standard by two days!  In 1992  Suprabha Beckjord returned  to join the super elite group who have run 1,300 miles in a certified race, which currently totals eight men and five women. In the 1993 1,300 miler, Istvan Sipos of Hungary broke Al Howie”s record by nearly two hours. In 1994 Antana Locs of Canada won the 1300 miler overall, and was the first person to ever complete the 1300 three times. In 1995 Georgs Jermolajevs of Latvia broke the world mark for 1300 miles in 16 days 14 hours.

        In 1996, the Marathon Team increased the Seven Day Race to 10 days. Latvian Georgs Jermolajevs won by a slim margin over Australian Dipali Cunningham, 725 miles to 723.  A more astounding event took place in the summer of 1996.  Six runners toed the line on a flat paved course around a park and a school in the neighborhoods of Jamaica, Queens, New York, only a few blocks from our Headquarters. The worlds’ longest race of 2700 miles lasted 47 days, with a remarable five finishers out of six runners. Georgs Jermolajevs of Latvia again prevailed, setting new world marks for 3000km and 4000km as well as  2700 miles, in 40 days 11 hours. Suprabha Beckjord of Washington ,DC finished first for the women in 43 days, one hour.

     In 1997 Sri Chinmoy increased the world’s longest certified race to 3,100 miles, hoping the runners would again transcend their capacities and inspire the running world . Edward Kelley of Huntington Beach,Ca. won the race in 47 days, 15 hours, even running an additional 7 miles to reach the magical 5000 km barrier. Suprabha Beckjord followed Kelley two days later to finish the 3100 miles as the first woman ever to run that great distance in a certified race.  1998 saw Istvan Sipos of Hungary smash the 3100 record in 46 days, 17 hours. Miss Beckjord repeated as women’s champion with another sterling effort in 49 days, 14 hours. In 1999, in the heat of a record hot July, Edward Kelley  won the 3100 mile race in 48 days, 12 hours. Suprabha Beckjord also completed the distance for the third time. 2000 had only four starters, but  the youngest finisher in Asprihanal Aalto, a 29 year old Finn who dominated the race in 47 days, 14 hours.. Beckjord  again finished, making it four in a row. Rimas Jakelaitis, a native of Lithuania, set a new 1300 mile world best time of 16 days+00:28:10 in another remarkable performance at Wards Island Park. In 2001, Dipali Cunningham  from Australia returned to break the women’s six-day road record with 510 miles. Ultra pioneer Ted Corbitt, 82, astounded the world  by running 303 miles, an octegenarian record thst exceeded the previous record of his own by 63 miles. Rimas Jakelaitis set a new 10 day event  best of 901 miles as the field for the two events swelled to 59 runners. A month later, Asprihanal Aalto repeated his 3100 mile victory in 48 days 10 hours. Suprabha Beckjord continued to amaze with her fifth finish in a row. In the last race of  2001, Paula Mairer rewrote the women’s 1300 record  with an astounding performance of 17 days,21 hours, breaking Sandra Barwick’s ten year old record.

    2002 was a banner year for the 3100 mile race. Madhupran Wolfgang Schwerk smashed the world best for 3100 miles with an epic performance of 42 days,13 hours., taking four days off the previous record. In the fall, Surasa Paula Mairer broke the 1000km and 700 mile world records at Flushing Meadows Park, reaching 700 miles in 8 days,15 hours. Martina Hausmann of Germany  won the 1300 mile race in 18 days,23 hours.

    2003 saw  Hubert Muckenhumer dominate the Ten Day with 631 miles. Paula Mairer dominated the 1000 mile race in 14 days 12 hours, winning the race overall. Namitabha Arsic won the 3100 miler in 49 days 2 hours. In 2004, Ashprihanal Aalto dominated  the 3100 with a 46 day, 6 hour victory, the second fastest alltime. Rimas Jakelaitis won the Ten Day for the fourth time with 653 miles. Dipali Cunningham won the Six Day overall with a new age-group(45-49) world best of 479 miles. Dipali came back to win the 700 miler in the fall in 9 days 21 hours. Last year, Danny Ripka  from Naples ,Florida won the Six Day with  478 miles, ahead of women’s eight-time winner Dipali Cunningham’s 474 miles. Srdjan Stojanovich became the fastest first time winner of the 3100 miler, and third fastest alltime in 46 days 10 hours. Suprabha beckjord finished the 3100  for the ninth time, a truly remarkable achievement.

     The horizons of the running world are still expanding according to the remarkable vision of Sri Chinmoy: Run and Become. 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 is the greatest gift and the best opportunity at true satisfaction in human life. Our oneness with their efforts is our true joy.        

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