Question: How careful should I be about choosing a running coach? What qualities should I look for?

Sri Chinmoy: Some coaches know many things worth learning, but they lead a very undivine life. If a coach has some spirituality in him along with his coaching capacity, then consider him. However, even if he is a good coach, if he is also full of aggressive, lower vital qualities, then be careful. Indirectly or unconsciously you will invite his undivine qualities into your own life.

We unconsciously try to emulate people. Many, many students ruin their lives when they are learning something from their teachers. A teacher may be good in his specific field, but when students become enamoured of the teacher's capacities and the teacher is not spiritual in the vast sense of the term, then unconsciously the students suffer. They lose their ideals. That is why very often I do not advise my students to take special instruction.

You have to be very careful and determine how much you can learn from a teacher without affecting your spiritual life. If you are very good in the spiritual life and start learning from a coach who is not very spiritual, even though you may start shining in your outer running, your life may be adversely affected. It may happen that your goal in life becomes totally different and you start to ignore your spiritual life. That would be a bad mistake. But again, you may be lucky enough to get a good coach. He does not have to be a disciple of a spiritual Master — far from it. He may be a spiritual person and not even be aware of his spirituality. There are many like that. If he has goodness, kindness, a clear mind and a sympathetic heart, then he is more than spiritual.

A runner may develop a very strong inner relationship with his coach. Then what happens? At the start of a run, or even during the race, if the runner invokes the presence of his coach — his style, his encouragement, his inspiration and dynamic push — at that time the runner can draw extra energy and extra force from his coach. Again, suppose there is some great runner that you look up to and idolise. Even if he is not your coach, if you consciously invoke his soul during the race, you can get added strength and added inspiration from him.