Running is likely to be the most ancient sport that exists, besides perhaps walking.
Long before people started playing tennis or football or even swimming, they ran. Spirituality and religion have also been in existence since the beginning of time. Nearly every race and culture has spiritual truths embedded in its earliest history. Until recently, the sport of running and the practice of spirituality have rarely been linked together. The Tendai Buddhist Monks in Japan, who practice a rigorous ritual of running 50 miles a day for 1000 days in a row, are one of the few exceptions.
Over recent years, the connection between running and spirituality has become more appreciated. Many runners are familiar with experiences of peace, ecstasy and profundity, just to name a few, which are actually spiritual experiences.
Using visualization and meditation techniques, runners have seen that the control over the mind that is gained through spiritual practices can be of enormous benefit to their performance. In turn, the discipline of a regular running routine has been shown to bring significant benefits to the personal practice of spirituality: good health, increased energy and dynamism, and lightness in the body as well as the mind, as running clears and purifies the entire being.
Sri Chinmoy is a living spiritual Master who has written and spoken considerably about the connection between spirituality and running. Born in 1931, Sri Chinmoy spent much of his early life in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community in southern India, where he was a running and decathlon champion for many years. When he moved to America in 1964, Sri Chinmoy actively encouraged his students and friends to combine the practice of meditation with a regular running routine.
In his book, The Outer Running And The Inner Running, Sri Chinmoy writes;
"Our inner running definitely helps us in our outer running. Through prayer and meditation, we can develop intense will power, and this will power can help us do extremely well in our outer running. Meditation is stillness, calmness and quietness, while the running consciousness is all dynamism. Again, the runner's outer speed has a special kind of poise or stillness at its very heart. An airplane travels very fast, yet inside the plane we feel no movement at all. It is all tranquility, all peace; and this inner tranquility we can bring to our outer life. In fact, the outer life, the outer movement, can be successful only when it comes from the inner poise. If there is no poise, then there can be no successful outer movement. Poise is an unseen power, and this unseen power is always ready to come to the aid of the outer runner... physical fitness and spirituality must go together. It is like having two legs. With one leg I cannot walk; I need two legs to reach the destination."