Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race

Photo: Spontaneous Beauty

We’re now 22 days into the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the planet’s longest certified footrace.

Yet it’s not so much the distance of the event that makes it so remarkable – it’s the route. While other ultramarathons such as the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc take runners over ever-changing mountains, contestants at the Self-Transcendence race circle the same half-mile loop in Queens, New York.

Over the course of 52 days, they’ll make this revolution some 5,649 times.

It’s the brainchild Sri Chinmoy, a deceased Indian spiritual leader who used to reside in New York City. When he wasn’t teaching meditation, Sri Chinmoy enjoyed testing the limits of human endurance. He first came up with the race in 1996, although that year it was a mere 2,700 miles. The following year, it was extended to 3,100 miles and has been that distance ever since.

The record is held by German ultramarathoner Wolfgang Schwerk, who completed the distance in a tad over 41 days – averaging 72.8 miles a day.

Why, you might ask, would anyone choose to put themselves through this? Many of the runners share Sri Chinmoy’s belief that “sports can be a powerful means to unlock the true potential of the human spirit”. As The Wall Street Journal put it: ‘Chinmoy found running to be a useful way of confronting – and ultimately surmounting – the physical boundaries of the body and the psychic limits of the mind. This race was an outgrowth of the philosophy.”

At time of writing Ukraine’s Sarvagata Ukrainskyi was in the lead, having covered 1,540 miles. But, needless to say, there’s still a long, long way to go…

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