The Sri Chinmoy 3100 Mile Self-Transcendence Race is the world's longest certified footrace. In this - the 22nd edition of the race - ten runners completed a combined total of 28,475 miles around a modest block of concrete paving in Queens, New York, a journey akin to running the entire circumference of the earth, plus an extra 4,000 miles. Yet, behind these impressive statistics is an even more profound inner experience, as the runners seek to discover untapped reserves to overcome the physical and mental challenges of running this 'Everest of ultra-distance racing.'
Outwardly, there is little reward for sacrificing two months out of the year to come to this concrete block in New York, and yet there is an inner pull which attracts runners to keep coming back.
“This race was challenging because of the weather. In the end, I am so happy and only grateful that I have done it. You know at the end that it was worth the struggle. I am just happy that I took the challenge and I could do it. So at the end, there is always gratitude and gratitude.”
Surasa Mairer, women's winner
After suffering through multiple heatwaves, Surasa finished in a downpour - but the rain could not dampen her spirits. Sri Chinmoy at the 3100 Mile Race
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 saw the innate human drive for self-transcendence as a process which could give a real sense of satisfaction.
“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.'”
Sopan Tsekov, Bulgaria, fifth-place finisher
After finishing the race on his first two attempts, Sopan returned five more times to the race and was unable to reach the 3100 Mile goal. Yet, the pull of the race is so strong, Sopan returned this year and finally managed to finish with little more than an hour to spare before the 52-day cutoff.
Kobi Oren from Israel is an ultra-running legend with an impressive palmeres. A third of the way into the race, he held a narrow lead over eventual winner Vasu Duzihy, from Russia. Yet as Vasu gained the lead and moved further out of reach, Oren began to experience that this unique race was about more than just winning, and he felt the inner necessity to live this unique opportunity to the full. He ended up finishing second, but the outer disappointment was more than compensated by the inner fulfilment.
"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.”
Vasu Duzihy, the quiet-spoken man from St Petersburg, retained his title from 2017, winning the overall race for the third time with his seventh consecutive finish. As he crossed the line, he spoke about the inner meaning of the race.
“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.”
The second women's finisher was Kaneenika Janakova from Slovakia. She is the women's course record holder, breaking the record in 2017 with a time of 48 days+14:24:10. However, in this year's race, physical difficulties mid-race meant that at one stage she was 40 miles behind the daily average needed to finish the race. For any runner to fall behind the daily minimum of 60 miles is challenging both physically and mentally as it means the runner needs to exceed their previous daily average, despite the increased fatigue as the race progresses. 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.”
Kaneenika Janakova, after 3 days
Her reward was to finish on the last day of the race, with less than an hour to spare.
Like Oren, Ushika Muckenhumer from Salzburg, Austria also joined the illustrious list of finishers on his very first attempt. He finished in a time of 50 days+07:34:46 after a very consistent race.
To run a marathon is a considerable achievement, but to complete a race like the 3100 Mile Race in 52 days, is beyond anyone's comprehension. Even after 22 years of running the list of finishers is very exclusive - just over 40 names.
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. In 2014, at 60 years of age, he became the oldest person to finish the race. This year, Sichel finished with a total of 2904 miles but still found time to appreciate the opportunity of this unique race - which brings the runner such a range of emotions and feelings, often all within the same day.
William Sichel running with fellow competitor Smarana Puntigam
“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.”
3100 Mile race 2018 - final results
Vasu Duzhiy, 52, St Petersburg Russia 44 days+16:03:53
Kobi Oren, 46, Kiryat Tivon Israel 46 days+03:24:48
Ushika Muckenhumer, 50, Salzburg Austria 50 days+07:34:46
Surasa Mairer, 59, Vienna Austria 51 days+12:47:37
Sopan Tsevtan Tsekov, 37, Sofia Bulgaria 51 days+16:46:38
Kaneenika Janakova, 48, Bratislava Slovakia 51 days+17:06:59
William Sichel, 64, Sanday, Orkney Isles. Scotland 2904.2496 miles
Smarana Puntigam, 47, Vienna Austria 2886.6880 miles
Ananda-Lahari Zuscin, 43, Kosice Slovakia 2874.0656 miles
Yolanda Holder, 60, Corona, CA USA 1210.6528 miles
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.