The inner meaning of the 3100 Mile Race
The Sri Chinmoy 3100 Mile Self-Transcendence Race is the world's longest certified footrace - however, the race is about much more than records and the outer competition. It is seen by the runners and crew to be more like a pilgrimage - an opportunity to transcend oneself and experience a reality of pushing the body and mind beyond their usual limits. This years race featured entrants from Russia, Israel, Austria, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Scotland and the USA.
Taking just under 45 days, Vasu Duzhiy was crowned the winner of the 2018 Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race. It was his seventh straight finish, and the third time he was the overall winner. The epic feat involved averaging 69.4 miles (111.693 km) per day.
The quiet-spoken Russian, who works as a foreman in a lumber company when not running, spoke at the finish about how winning the race is just one aspect of a much bigger picture.
“Everybody who finishes the race is the winner. I think the race is a game of the Supreme, and we just play our roles. It makes no difference if you win or you are second or last. It is just a game that you need to play your own role...
If by running here we are able to inspire others to go to to try new things and go to their limits. To do something in their own life. To be a better citizen of the world.”
Vasu Duzihy 1
The runners of the 3100-mile race have to contend with the hot and humid New York weather. In addition, they have to face the challenge of running on hard surfaces for up to 18 hours a day for 52 consecutive days. At this race, there is no prize money or commercial presence. Occasionally, some outside media do visit the race, but mostly it involves long days of running around a modest and diverse borough of Queens.
Outwardly, there is little reward for sacrificing two months of your year to come to this concrete block in New York. But, hidden behind the modest outer appearances, there is an inner pull which attracts runners to keep coming back.
Second to finish the race was first-time entrant Kobi Oren from Israel. At the finish line, he explained that during the race he felt the inner necessity to see the race more as a pilgrimage and less as a competitive event. By changing his attitude to the race, he feels he was able to enjoy a very profound experience.
"If it is just to run 1,000 miles three times more then it is worth nothing. So I thought to myself, I want to do something else. So when I decided to change after I had completed my first 1,000 miles. Which I did in a record time of 13 days I decided I had to live differently. Then came the change.”
Kobi Oren 2
While it may be hard to comprehend the inner and outer experience of immersing yourself in such an all-encompassing race, the runners suggest that being cut off from the stressful aspects of ordinary life and becoming dedicated to the goal of self-transcendence on the physical, mental and spiritual planes helps to bring about a very different inner reality.
“For me, it is almost like connecting to a different world. You become detached from all that you have experienced before. You become connected to a new world, a new experience.”
Sopan Tsekov 3
2-time finisher from Bulgaria
The 3100 Mile Race was founded by Sri Chinmoy in 1997, evolving out of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team's pioneering promotion of multi-day distance events. Sri Chinmoy was a great believer in the physical and spiritual benefits of running, and would come to the 3100 Mile Race course every day to offer encouragement and support to the runners. Sri Chinmoy saw this striving for self-transcendence as process which could give a real sense of satisfaction. As Sopan remembers:
“12 years ago when I completed my 2nd race here in 2006, he (Sri Chinmoy) was giving an interview to a journalist of a local TV station. It was four hours before my finish and, as I was running by, I heard Sri Chinmoy saying, 'we can be truly happy only when we constantly transcend ourselves, both inwardly and outwardly.'”
Every year, some of the runners will not be able to quite finish the distance within the allotted time frame of 52 days. The first past of the race took place during an intense heat wave, which challenged even the most veteran runners. Kaneenika Janakova from Slovakia is the women's course record holder, winning the female race in 2017 with a time of 48 days+14:24:10. However, in this year's race, physical difficulties mid-race caused her to slip, and at one point she was over 40 miles behind the daily average needed to finish the race. However, like the other runners, she approached this philosophically and saw it as a challenge to overcome.
“What I am observing is that my miles are not what they should be to finish the race. But just the same I feel that the more the race is happening, the more I want to continue.”
(after 3 weeks) 4
Over the past few weeks, she has steadily recaptured the lost ground and now seems likely to finish on the last day.
William Sichel hails from a tiny island in the Orkney Islands, Scotland with weather and conditions almost the complete opposite to a humid New York summer. At 64 years old, he is the oldest person in the race (in 2014, he became the oldest finisher at 60 years old).
He is also just a few miles off the finishing pace but is appreciating the opportunity of this unique race - which gives such a range of emotions and feelings - all within the same day.
“This is all such an unusual experience, in every possible sense. Both athletically, physically, and mentally. It is such an unusual thing to do. There are only a handful of people in the whole world that have ever done this.”
“But those are the experiences that you take with you to the grave. But you have to do them to get the benefit that they will always give back to you.”
William Sichel 5
- Jowan - Spontaneous Beauty
Quotes from the runners
- Utpal's blog - Perfection Journey