Historic Self-Transcendence Triathlon gets another run today

August 3, 2013
Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist


The sport of triathlon needs little introduction today.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Before Simon Whitfield and Peter Reid and Lori Bowden came out of Victoria to bask in their respective glory at the Olympic Games and Ironman Hawaii, an intrepid group of about 40 sports trailblazers took to the waters of Elk Lake and roads of the Saanich Peninsula for the Sri Chinmoy Triathlon in 1980. It was the first triathlon held in Canada and only the third in North America.

The 34th annual race, now renamed the Self-Transcendence Triathlon, starts today at 7 a.m. in Elk Lake and continues onto Peninsula roads.

Now, of course, cities and towns everywhere boast of at least one, if not more, triathlon races.

More than 400 racers will take part today, a far cry from the 30 when Ian Phillips competed in his first Sri Chinmoy Triathlon in its second year 1981. He has competed in 26 of the 33 races to date.

“We never even thought of hurrying through the transition areas,” Phillips chuckled, comparing those early years to the every-second-counts triathlon racing of today.

Phillips, now the technical co-ordinator for the Self-Transcendence Triathlon, embodies the spirit of an event, which advocates racing for inner peace and pushing beyond boundaries. The 65-year-old Phillips has also raced three Ironman events, but not until after retiring from his job with the City of Victoria engineering department.

Although there are several other hyper-competitive triathlon races on the Island, the Self-Transcendence Triathlon operates at its own pace and is billed as “Canada's longest-running and friendliest triathlon.”

That harks to the Sri Chinmoy philosophy and origins of the race. The late Sri Chinmoy was born in India and based in New York and grew to have a worldwide following. He believed in attaining personal and world peace through long-distance endurance sports and also music, dance and art.

A quote from Sri Chinmoy headlines the Victoria Self-Transcendence Triathlon website: “There is only one perfect road. And that road is ahead of you, always ahead of you.”

Phillips said of the event: “It's about self-expansion in every way.”

Sri Chinmoy attended his namesake race in 1985.

“Suddenly, there were hundreds out racing, and that’s when the event really took off,” said Phillips.

The name of the race was changed at the request of Sri Chinmoy himself.

There is a cairn at Elk Lake’s Hamsterly Beach commemorating the historic nature of the Self-Transcendence as Canada’s first triathlon, with a quote from Sri Chinmoy: “Nature’s beauty helps us to be as vast as possible, as peaceful as possible and as pure as possible.”

The Self-Transcendence racing today will include the Olympic distance (1.5K swim, 40K bike race, 10K run) as part of the B.C. Race Series and the duathlon (run-bike-run) as the provincial championship and qualifier for the 2014 world duathlon championships in Spain. There will also be the sprint distance (750-metre swim, 20K bike and 5K run) and relay race.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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