Behind Victoria’s oldest triathlon

by Travis Paterson - Victoria News
posted Jul 17, 2011

Sumitra McMurchy

Current race director Sumitra McMurchy has helped organize the Self-Transcendence Triathlon and Duathlon since 1981. This year's race is Sunday, July 31 at Elk Lake.

— image credit: Travis Paterson/News staff

Organizer with Elk Lake triathlon for 30 years

Thirty years later, Sumitra McMurchy didn’t see it coming.

Triathlons were something new when McMurchy volunteered to help with the Sri Chinmoy triathlon in 1981.

There’s already been a handful of triathlons this summer, including a half-Ironman at Elk Lake on June 18.

But it’s the Self-Transcendence, commonly known as “the Sri,” that was first in town and is the longest running in Canada.

“Back (in 1981), I heard what was going on and I thought ‘Oh boy, it’s pretty extreme isn’t it?,’” McMurchy said.

The 83-year-old has since taken on the role as race director for the Self-Transcendence Triathlon and Duathlon which runs this year on Sunday, July 31.

The triathlon was one of many short and ultra-distance, or extreme race events organized by the Victoria chapter of international Sri Chinmoy centres for meditation. But it’s the triathlon that’s become a banner of Victoria’s high-performance culture, and the Sri Chinmoy organization was at the forefront of the sport’s early days.

With an entire industry and subculture built around the sport, “a lot of people might be surprised to see just who it is organizing the Self-Transcendence event,” said Paraja St. Pierre, a race volunteer since 1989.

“Obviously it isn’t just me. It’s a lot of us, over 100 volunteers every year,” McMurchy said. “Nearly everyone who is part of the Sri Chinmoy Victoria meditation centre has a job and we get helpers from Vancouver and Seattle.”

Sixty people have already signed up for the newly added sprint distance, a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike and 5km run. The spring is half the distance of the Self-Transcendence’s traditional Olympic triathlon, 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. Both begin and end at Hamsterley Beach, as does the duathlon (a 5km run, 40km bike and 10km run).

Until the late 1990s the Victoria chapter of international Sri Chinmoy centres for meditation coordinated many local races, including an annual 24-hour endurance race, a 10-kilometre race and the Runners are Smilers, a two mile circuit at Beacon Hill that ended in 1998.

It was all done under the leadership of Chinmoy, who believed the sports was the key to unlocking spirituality.

For more information, visit www.victoriatriathlon.com