A unique quality of the races organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is their focus on self-transcendence, a philosophy powerfully advocated by Sri Chinmoy. In its simplest form self-transcendence involves seeking to do better than before - going beyond our previous achievements, capacities and results.
Self-transcendence can take place with different aspects of our self - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. They are many different ways we can seek self-transcendence, but the ultimate self-transcendence is integral; it comes not just from training the body, but also from developing all our mental, emotional and spiritual capacities.
Self-Transcendence in sport
Self-transcendence is an intrinsic aspect of sport. We practise to get stronger, faster, more skilled than before. In running, a great goal is always to set a new personal best - run a distance faster than before; this is something every athlete can relate to. To achieve this new personal best requires commitment, discipline, and all the different aspects of our being. Anyone who has attempted to improve their time has begun the process of self-transcendence.
Self-Transcendence and competition
“We compete not for the sake of defeating others, but in order to bring forward our own capacity. Our best capacity comes forward only when there are other people around us. They inspire us to bring forward our utmost capacity, and we inspire them to bring forward their utmost capacity”
– Sri Chinmoy 
When we participate in sport, we often see it as an opportunity to try and beat our competitors, giving us the joy of victory or the sadness of defeat. However, another way is to concentrate on our own self-transcendence efforts. In this way, our joy of sport is not dependent on winning or comparison with others, but whether we feel we have sought to do our best.
Self-transcendence does not mean we have to compromise our chance of winning. In fact, it can help if we are calm and focused on doing our best, and we don’t waste mental energy thinking and worrying about our competitors. Concentrating on our self-transcendence helps us achieve our highest potential, but also teaches us that we can enjoy sport even if we don’t come out on top.
“I do not have any set goal; my goal is self-transcendence. I always try to transcend myself. I do not compete with the rest of the world. I compete only with myself, and I try to become a better human being. This is my ultimate goal.”
– Sri Chinmoy 
Different ways for self-transcendence
It is a mistake to think self-transcendence only in terms of a personal best. These may come rarely - especially as we advance in age. Sport is a constant opportunity to transcend different things - the weather, difficult circumstances, learning to accept defeat with good grace, offering good will to other athletes, finding hidden capacities deep within, trying something new. All these are different types of self-transcendence.
The joy of self-transcendence
Sometimes athletes talk of that rare experience, where they are fully in the flow, the mind is quiet, but a seemingly strong inner will and energy carries them along. It is these transcendent performances that give the most joy.
Setting a personal best always gives a runner a smile, but PB’s may be few and far between. However, if we really gave the event everything, and if we were able to surrender the result, we can experience joy whatever the outcome.
“We have to believe in a higher Power.
Only by believing in a higher Power
Can we go beyond and beyond
Our limited, human capacity.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Self-transcendence means we can be open to hidden inner capacities. Not just listening to our own mind, which sets limits of what it can and can’t do. This is an inner spiritual force, which can help an athlete. From humble beginnings of running a couple of miles, who knows where it will take us?
Carl Lewis reads extracts on self-transcendence
Resources on Self-Transcendence
- The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race - The distance alone gives an insight into the possibilities of self-transcendence. This epic race has seen numerous occassions of unique individual self-transcendence.
- Quotes on Self-Transcendence by Sri Chinmoy
Personal experiences of self-transcendence
- Abhejali swims the English Channel
- Karteek Clarke swims English Channel for 11th time
- Spirit of a runner - video on homepage of 3100 Mile Race about Suprabha Beckjord who completed 13 editions of the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race
- Personal experiences of Self-Transcendence by Tejvan Pettinger
- Interview with Vajin Armstrong - trail distance runner