Inspiration from this year's 3100 Mile Race
After 52 days of self-transcendence, this year's Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race drew to a close, with seven of the eight runners completing 3100 miles within the allotted time. Between them, the eight intrepid runners covered a total of 27,577 miles, or 50,252 laps of the humble 0.5488 mile loop located in the Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens, New York.
For the outsider looking in, these statistics only give a partial insight into this unique race, which is a test of physical, mental and spiritual fortitude. During this summer, the runners had to contend with two mini-heatwaves which sent temperatures soaring to almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Yet every morning at 6 am, the runners came to the start line to begin their inner and outer quest towards personal self-transcendence. The race has no sponsorship or financial rewards; each runner and helper must give up their own time to take on this unique challenge. Asked why they come to the race, the runners hint at an inner satisfaction which can be gained from pushing themselves to the limits of what they think is possible.
“I think so often in our lives, that we fashion ourselves to be well within our comfort zone. It is only when you challenge those comfort zones that you find real fulfillment, but some times you can trick yourself into what a real challenge is. This race is definitely a real challenge. It brings out a lot of things in me that are challenging but also so extremely rewarding.”
Each individual runner undertakes his/her personal journey, but the race has also inspired many people around the world, who are captivated by the simplicity yet dauntless nature of this challenge. The race has been featured on many international news outlets, such as the BBC, Wall Street Journal and NZ's News Now - and this media coverage and online coverage has inspired many to follow the race and pick up on the inspiration of those running in New York.
Race director Rupantar Larusso says that this year there have been innumerable visitors to the race who came for a short time to visit out of curiosity. He says that in many cases, the visitors from around the world ended up spending much longer than planned because they felt a very special atmosphere at the race.
Another reason for the heightened interest in this year's race is the recent release of a documentary film based on this race (and other ultra-distance events) called 3100: Run and Become. For example, after a screening in New York City, the film director Sanjay Rawal described how a few young athletes left immediately to go and see the race and runners in action.
During the race, many runners recorded some kind of personal best or new achievement. For the overall winner, Asprihanal Aalto, it was his 15th finish and eight-time overall winner. Although off his course record, he was happy to finish another race, despite arriving with little training. Despite suffering heatstroke mid-race, 2nd place Nirbhasa Magee set a new personal best of 48 days+09:04:57 and with it a new Irish record. Speaking about one of the motivations for running, he said of the race:
“You have to sense that the race is your job. That while you are here, you are inspiring so many people. That you are doing something beneficial. You need a sense of dedication to that purpose.”
Vasu Duzihy has won the past two races, and this year finished in 3rd place in a time of 49 days+06:13:17. One of this year's most remarkable stories was Ananda-Lahiri Zuscin, who has started the race 15 times, making him one of the most prolific entrants - and yet has not managed to complete the 3100-mile distance in over 10 years. This year he managed to finish the race with some exceptional days of 80+ miles (including one day of 89 miles!). In addition, Smarana Puntigam finished in 5th place, coming back to successfully complete the race after his last two attempts in 2017 and 2018 fell agonisingly short.
Harita Davies was the only woman in the race, and she managed to also set a new personal best and New Zealand record. She summed up the attitude needed to complete such a daunting challenge.
"A huge part of the experience of this race is to just keep going forward. When challenges arise you face them and try to figure them out. Do your best and have faith, that everything will work out.”
First-time entrant Todor Dimitrov faced a real baptism of fire. With six days to go, injuries and sickness had left him 32 miles off the cut-off pace. Yet he kept going to the end and finished with just a couple of hours to spare. Speaking at the end, Todor said:
"The race was a great transformative experience. Thank you all here. It makes me to feel the world is going in a good direction. To proceed with that good direction. So happy to know the runners who helped me to finish. "
Ushika Muckenhumer faced innumerable challenges in the race with getting injured in the early part of the race. But, his battling spirit kept him going for all 52 days. He finished with 2,777 miles. Ushika illustrates the central concept of the race that it is about personal self-transcendence and doing what we can given the circumstances we are in. Towards the end of the gruelling race, he talked about the transformative potential of the race.
“At this stage of the race you go so far out of your mind, that it is difficult to think through answers. Life becomes very simple, especially the mind. It is not the usual way to function. But instead in a very cheerful and simple frame of mind."
The 3100 Mile Race was founded by Sri Chinmoy who initiated the very first race in 1997. In the past 23 years, only 44 different people have completed the 3100 Mile race - which the NY Times once described as "The Everest of distance running."
Sri Chinmoy believed that through ultra-distance running, individuals could discover unknown inner and outer capacities and gain a real sense of satisfaction from challenging their own limits. Sri Chinmoy was also a visionary who saw how the race could inspire many people around the world. Speaking at the first awards ceremony on 2 August 1997, he said of the race:
"This 3,100 miles is an unprecedented journey in our world-peace-manifestation-dream. World-peace can come into existence only when we are inundated with patience and perseverance. Infinite patience we need in our inner life and perseverance we need in our outer life.
These 3,100 miles remind us of one divine and supreme reality: we can and we must do everything at our command to transform the world of lethargy and unwillingness to be dynamic. Unwillingness we do not leave behind us. Therefore happiness remains always a far cry. Willingness to give, willingness to achieve, willingness to grow and glow should be the message of our souls. With our souls' blessings we can and will fulfil our earthly life."
Sri Chinmoy (Source)