Imagine running around the same half-mile city block, in the stifling summer heat of Queens, New York City, for 52 days. Since June 17, that’s exactly what ten individuals from seven countries have been doing as they compete in the world’s longest (but possibly smallest) ultramarathon, the 22nd annual Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100-mile race. This year’s race will end tonight at midnight for those who have not yet completed the distance.
Vasu Duzhiy, 52, of St. Petersburg, Russia, won the race for the third time, around 10 p.m. last Tuesday (day 45). It was his seventh straight finish. Duzhiy works for a lumber company back home.
Kobi Oren, a father of four from Israel and the first Israeli ever to complete this race, finished the next day, in the third-fastest time ever for a first-time runner. And Ushika Muckenhumer of Salzburg, Austria finished yesterday in third place, also his first attempt. Yesterday was day 50.
Sopan Tsekov, a graphic designer from Sofia, Bulgaria is expected to finish late this evening. He was the youngest person ever to finish the race when he ran it in 2005 at age 24.
None of the women has yet finished, but two are in a position to complete the distance by midnight tonight. Surasa Mairer, a secretary from Vienna, Austria is in the lead and expected to finish around 6 p.m. Mairer has three previous wins under her belt and holds the women’s course record. Kaneenika Janakova, 48, of Bratislava, Slovakia, is in second position among the women. Janakova holds numerous records at this event. Last year she broke the women’s record by 17 hours. She faced numerous setbacks this year, and at one point was 46 miles off pace by day 22, but managed an impressive comeback.
The race was founded in 1977 by Indian spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy, who moved to New York City in the 1960s and died in 2007. There is one well-stocked and well-staffed aid station. Runners must log 95.36K per day in order to finish in the allotted 52 days. Unlike most ultramarathons, the course closes every night at midnight and re-opens every morning at 6 a.m., so runners are forced to rest, and space is provided in a camper for that purpose. The course changes direction daily. Runners may bring crews to assist them.
This is a highly unusual race. Participants are selected based on previous experience with this and other ultramarathons. The race website states that “no particular beliefs are required… but applicants should feel comfortable blending into a spiritual environment where most of their fellow runners and crew will be spiritual seekers.
“While a race is by definition a form of competition, the self-transcendence aspect means that runners should feel they are competing with themselves, to run the best race they can, while relating to fellow runners in a spirit of cameraderie and good decorum.
“It’s our hope that for all the runners, the 3100-Mile Race will be both a physical and spiritual journey–a joyful and enlightening experience. After the hero’s journey comes the supreme knowledge that one has accomplished the unimaginable.”
Read more about the race here.