On the 11th of June, the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race begins for the 10th time in New York. Smarana Puntigam is participating for the fifth time. In an interview he explains why he is participating in this race.
Hi Smarana: You have just won the Self-Transcendence 12-Hour-Walk in New York. Soon you will fly again to New York to participate in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile-Race. You seem to be in good shape? How do you feel?
Smarana: For me the 12-Hour-Race was a very special experience. I have participated in many ultra events and made often the second and third place. Often I was lacking the last consequence to win and now for one time I have managed to win. For me it's not so important to be in the spot light, but to have the experience to be able to keep the concentration and be 100 percent focused on the goal, even if it's going to be a hard fight. This was a beautiful experience.
It gives me of course a lot of self confidence for the race in New York, but first and foremost the trust in a source of energy, which exist for everybody and everybody can be opened to.
Before the 12-Hour-Walk I was sick the whole time and had a light frontal sinusitis. Until the start I didn't know if I would manage to complete the 12 hours. As race started, I felt this energy I know that comes from outside, above or how ever you want to call it.
The secret is to open oneself to this energy and allow it to flow. In the psychology they call it "flow-effect". If you are a tennis player for example, in this situation you feel to be a spectator and an energy is flowing through you, in a way everything is working out by itself and seemingly effortless.
This is a very nice feeling.
The race has been founded by Sri Chinmoy on 1997. What is your goal during this race?
Smarana: To put it in one sentence: To learn to know myself better and become a better person. I wrote an article about this, it can be found under following link: Why run 3100 miles?
How do you prepare yourself for such a multi day race? How do you train for it?
Smarana: Above all I do longer runs. Earlier I made also projects, like running around the Neusiedler lake (110km) or to run over the Grossglockner and on into the city of Salzburg.
Now I make foremost two to three and a half hour runs and of course races, like the 12-Hour-Walk or 6-Hour-Race.
How does a typical race day look like?
Smarana: At 5:30 am is wake up, at 6 am is the Start, at 1 pm a 15 minutes break, at 6 pm a second 15 minutes break and at 11:30 pm mostly I go home. In between there is running and eating.
The race is taking place on a round course and you can set your breaks and running times between 6 am and 6 pm as you like.
During 51 days you run ever again the same lap of one mile. What do you do to keep yourself busy?
Smarana: Last year we were 12 runners and you always find a running partner, with whom you can run for a view laps together and talk about god and the world.
But I also like to run alone, because running is for me a going within myself, it becomes for me meditation. The longer the race is becoming, the more intense it gets for me.
But I also like to listen to music or audio books about all kind of subjects.
What do you feel and think if you cross the finishing line of such a race?
Smarana: It's a very nice feeling to finish something after such a long time. It's a feeling of relief and joy, for you have completed a long way rich of experiences. You have won many new insights and experiences and suddenly a new life is beginning, the life after the race and it takes some times until you adapt to it again.
It's already the fifth time you participate in this race. What did you learn from all this races?
Smarana: There is a kind of leitmotiv for each race. Was it maybe patience in the first race, so another time it was the trust in myself and a higher power…
If my knowledge is correct your best is 49 days 4 hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds. Did you set yourself a particular goal for this time?
Smarana: Of course everytime I would like to reach beyond myself a little further, this relates not just to the timing but also to my inner capacity to solve problems in a better way and become stronger within.
Actually you are performing pioneer work. After all you were the first Austrian to manage this distance. Can you imagine to run even further one day?
Smarana: Yes, why not?
You work in a known gift shop in Vienna and organize also a 100 kilometre race. How do you manage all this?
Smarana: The one is not excluding the other, but completes each other. I love diversification and it would be to less just to run.
At the end maybe a few suggestions for our readers. What advice do you have for a hobby runner who likes to change over to ultra distances?
Smarana: It's important to listen to the inner voice. Everybody is different and you can get a lot of precious suggestions from others, but at the end you have to trust on your inner feeling. I don't race against myself, but running is a tool for collecting experiences, for strengthening our body, for becoming a more balanced personality. Therefore anabolic substances or stimulants for an increase of performance should have no place in the running sport.
Thank you Smarana for this talk.
Interview by Jalarka Roby Schiltz.