About the author:

Tejvan organises short-distance running and cycling races for the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in his home city of Oxford. He is also a very good cyclist, having won the National hill climb championships in 2013 and finished 3rd in the National 100 Mile Time Trials in 2014.

EFE – Spanish Press Agency
1 October 2020

This is the world’s longest race, a 52 day “spiritual” running journey

Salzburg, Austria.- A park in Salzburg, in the Austrian Alps, is the current location for the world’s longest race for long-distance runners: around 3,100 miles in just 52 days, or over two marathons a day.

Since September 13, five athletes have been participating in this special challenge called the “Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Race”, the longest certified race to date.

After the 23 previous editions were held in New York, this year the race took place in Glanspitz Park in Salzburg, a city famous as the birthplace of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Every day the runners start early in the morning, stopping only for toilet breaks or a few minutes rest.

SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND

The founder of this race, the Indo-American spiritual guide and master of meditation, Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007), wanted to offer his disciples a challenge for personal improvement which compels them to go beyond what is considered to be humanly possible.

The figures are quite striking: participants must run 3,100 miles, or 4,988 kilometres in less than 52 days, around the same track from 6 in the morning till midnight. Every other day, they can change direction.

Many of the runners, as is the case for this year’s five participants, are also disciples of Chinmoy´s meditation school.

The athletes see the event like “the completion of their personal spiritual journey”, says Smarana Puntigam to EFE, a member of the “Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team” and assistant director to the race.

It is therefore surprising that, once they have completed the race, most of them repeat the attempt. Puntigam himself has already run it ten times, but he makes it clear that he has only finished two of these races.

“It is like living an entire life”, says the athlete. “The number of emotions you experience and the physical effort involved… When you finish, all your problems look smaller, and you feel like just another person”, he adds.

FROM NEW YORK TO SALZBURG

Since the start 17 days ago, the five runners have already overcome 35 marathons, going around the same public park in Salzburg again and again.

If they keep up the same pace, the runners will complete the official 3,100 miles early in November. He who finishes the challenge can continue running for a few more days until reaching 5,000 kilometres (3,106 miles).

Although this race is normally held in the summer in Queens, New York, the borough where Chinmoy lived, the Covid-19 pandemic this year forced its cancellation and the organizers had to look for alternatives. Priyvadin Reisecker, in charge of moving the event to Salzburg, explains that it was the runners themselves who emphasized the need for holding the event.

“They said they would run anyway, so we had to look for a way to make it happen”, says the organizer. Salzburg was chosen as it was the first location where a team of volunteers was ready for managing an event which lasts nearly two months.

VOLUNTEERS ARE THE KEY

In fact, without the volunteers, this special race wouldn´t work at all, or at least it would be much harder for the runners. Volunteers are in charge of preparing the meals, organizing the athletes schedules, counting their distance, healing their injures and offering them moral support.

Sometimes, they even run a few laps with them just to chat. Sadanand Magee is one of the volunteers who supports the runners.

He came from Ireland with his brother, Nirbhasa Magee, who is competing in the race. His admiration for the athletes and the rest of the team is wholehearted. “People compare this event with climbing Everest; but if you make this comparison, Everest is a piece of cake”, the Irish confirms to EFE.

“Thousands of people get to the summit and wait in lines to take a photo. After 24 years of this race, only 50 people have completed it”, he notes.


AN ITALIAN IS THE FRONTRUNNER

Italian Andrea Marcato is leading the group now. Everyone agrees that this runner has an amazing display of strength and competition despite being a first-time participant.

Magee is behind him with three previous finishes, Austrian Ushika Muckenhumer with one, Slovakian Ananda-Lahari Zuscin with six races, and finally Czech Milan Javornicky who is taking on this challenge for the first time. All of them took leave from their jobs –mostly without pay- to compete in Salzburg.

The five participants in the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Race meditate at night in the Salzburg park before the next step of the race.

Without Ties

In spite of being one of the hardest events in the world, this race has a poor international following and is practically unknown. Bipin Lerken, an American who has been organizing the event since Sri Chinmoy founded it in the 90s, explains that this lack of knowledge is certainly due to the fact that it is not a very spectacular race when watched over the course of days.

Runners keep going slowly and many times they share laps at a faster pace with others. Volunteers prepare small portions of food for them, high-calorie snacks that they can eat without stopping. Some of them make phone calls while walking and, usually, they blend perfectly with the rest of people who walk around the park. In addition, the team has historically stayed far away from big sponsors as they want to maintain “absolute control” over the race organization. According to Lerken, this fits perfectly well with the spirit of the event: “they do not compete against others, but with themselves.

Translated by Suchana


A week later the same agency had another article about the race's winner.

Salzburg - Italian wins the world’s longest race

EFE – Spanish News Agency
27 October 2020

Italian Andrea Marcato has won the 24th edition of the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Race, the longest certified ultra-marathon in the world, having run 5,000 km in 43 days around a park in the Austrian city of Salzburg.

After 43 days, 12 hours and 7 minutes, the Italian athlete, taking on the Self-Transcendence Race for the first time, set a speed record for new participants.

The all-time fastest finish belongs to Finnish Ashprihanal Aalto who completed the race in 40 days, 9 hours and 6 minutes back in 2015.

Marcato, who destroyed 9 pairs of running shoes during the race, said after crossing the finish line that he was encouraged to compete in this race after experiencing a sense of “deep satisfaction, inner peace and happiness” after completing several 10 day ultra-marathons.

“I feel very happy to have completed all distances available in the world”, the runner stated in a press release from the organizers.

The remaining competitors are still eight days away from completing the 5,000 km (3,100 miles) race distance within 52 days, according to race requirements.

The race was founded in 1996 by the Indo-American master of meditation, Sri Chinmoy, a popular spiritual leader during the second half of the 20th century. The race was planned as a challenge for personal improvement by compelling participants to go beyond their possibilities.

In 24 editions only 45 people have completed it.

The race is usually held in a borough of New York where Chinmoy lived, but this year,

 

Cross-posted from www.srichinmoyraces.org
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