Saturday, 28 June 2008

Running the Silk Road

'Statistically, you live one minute longer for every minute you spend running,’ says one of the characters in Yellow Earth Theatre’s Running the Silk Road (Barbican, 24-28 June). There are at least two ways of taking that: one, that if you could keep running forever you’d have discovered the secret of eternal life; and two, that it’s hardly worth bothering to go through all the pain of running if all it does is to extend your life by the time you spent suffering.

Of course, as anyone can testify who has progressed beyond the pain of physical exercise, there is a reward that goes beyond the simple expedient of keeping fit and prolonging active life, as the dog food adverts used to put it. (Do they still make that claim for Pal? Do they still make Pal?)

It’s called self-transcendence if you want to get all zen and spiritual about it, and there are specific self-transcendence races organised by the Sri Chinmoy Athletic Club in London, Cardiff, Bristol, Oxford and many other places in the UK as well as by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team worldwide. These range in distance from one mile to 3,100 miles (yes, that’s a three, a one and two noughts). Running the Silk Road is based on the idea that one man and three of his friends have of doing a 5,000-mile charity run to Beijing, arriving in time for the 2008 Olympics. Sri Chinmoy and his acolytes, at least, would not have found the premise of the play outlandish.

I got my fastest-ever time in a 10k race (just over 38 minutes, in case you’re wondering) in a Sri Chinmoy event in Battersea Park back in the days when Mr Chinmoy was still running and Margaret Thatcher was on the throne. Chinmoy didn’t take up the sport until he was 47 (in 1978), but once he did he kept on transcending. So you can run a marathon? How about trying two? You can run 100 miles? How about 700? 1,000? 1,300? 3,100? You can run four hours non-stop? How about a day? Seven days? Ten days? The marathon team that bears his name organises ultra events at all these distances and lengths of time.

Neither age nor injury stopped Sri Chinmoy. When a dodgy knee curtailed his running at the end of the 1980s, he took up weightlifting instead. In September 2005, a year before his death aged 76, he lifted the bodybuilding legend Bill Pearl and world champion strongman Hugo Girard at an international bodybuilding event.

It’s probably a bit late to be thinking of running the Silk Road to Beijing in time for the opening ceremony on 8 August. But there’s a ten-mile self transcendence run in Battersea Park in a fortnight’s time if anyone fancies it.


Anonymous said...

"The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." Lao Tzu

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your article.

Germany / Richard

Run and become said...

July is almost upon us which means it’s time for our

Four races, four distances and lots of prizes to be won

Self Transcendence Grand Prix 3 Miles - 7th July 7pm

Self Transcendence Grand Prix 2 Miles - 14th July 7pm

Self Transcendence Grand Prix 1 Mile – 21st July 7pm

Self Transcendence Grand Prix 3 K. -28th July 7pm

Prizes provided by Helly Hansen and Run and Become

So come and have some fun, and test your speed

At Battersea Park this July.
registration from 6pm on West Carriage Drive (by Albert Bridge Car Park), all abilities welcome. Entry Fee £12 for full Grand Prix or £3.50 for individual races.

Full details at