NEW YORK (AFP) – It’s the world’s longest certified foot race – a 3,100-mile run that takes participants around the same New York block 5,649 times.
Thousands of people have climbed Everest ˗ but, organizers say, just 49 have completed the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race.
Runners finish more than two marathons a day for almost two months, on less than five hours sleep a night.
They can’t rely on changing scenery to keep them motivated as the route is a half-mile loop on a concrete sidewalk around a high school in Jamaica, Queens.
To mix things up a bit, they alternate daily between running clockwise one day and anti-clockwise the next.
“Definitely monotony,” said this year’s winner, Andrea Marcato, describing the biggest test of the race.
“The first week is quite challenging, especially for the mind. But after a while you get used to it. You have to accept that every day is going to be the same,” he told AFP.
Participants have 52 days to run 3,100 miles (4,989 km), meaning they must average 59.6 miles every day.
They run, walk and hobble between 6:00 am and midnight, eating as they go to make up for the estimated 10,000 calories they burn during every session.
For the day’s other six hours they sleep, wash and care for their blistered feet in nearby accommodation.
Only ultra-marathon veterans who have completed six-day races are allowed to enter.
– Meditation –
“It’s a test of stamina, strength, inner determination, and talent,” said race director Sahishnu Szczesiul.
Harita Davies, the sole woman of this year’s seven competitors, said the race takes a physical toll but “the kind of unbelievable thing is that as the days and weeks go by your body actually does adapt, you do get stronger.”
Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, who lived in New York before his death in 2007, founded the run in 1997.
He advocated “self-transcendence,” using spirituality to go beyond the limits of what an individual thinks they can achieve.
Runners in the 25th edition, which began on September 5, said achieving a meditative state was key to completing the race.
“If the mind is focused, you don’t have other thoughts or fears or worries or doubts,” said Marcato, 39.
Meditating while navigating the 883-metre loop around Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School isn’t easy though.
Runners go past a busy highway and basketball and handball courts. The route isn’t cordoned off from everyday life and twice a day 2,000 school children flood the sidewalk.
Forty-seven-year-old New Zealander Davies listens to music, audiobooks and recordings of inspiring quotes.