The expanse of the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence is so exceptionally unbelievable that even the runners who have completed it are perplexed with how they were able to partake in it.
If you travel from the West Coast to the East Coast by foot, you are still 11 marathons short to paralleling the 3,100-mile distance of this race. Hence the screening is very rigorous to ensure the safety of the runners.
One thing to look forward to in this race is the scenery of the route which includes going past 84th avenue, the Grand Central Parkway, Thomas Edison Highschool, 168 street, and then back to 84th avenue. The runners need to go through this route 5,649 times.
As the term implies, the Self-Transcendence race instigate s runners to transcend or exceed their previous personal records, attain insights about spirituality, and surmount the world’s biases of what is possible.
Runners complete the route by foot anytime between 6am to midnight every day for 52 days. When the course is closed, they tend to themselves as quickly as they can so they can get as much sleep as possible.
To complete the 3,100 miles in 52 days, the participants need to cover 59.6 miles every day.
In the span of 22 years, only 43 people who have successfully completed the race. Among them is William Sichel, a world record holder, who finished the race in 2014. He admits that the race was the most overwhelming point of his running career.
The race course is set in Jamaica, Queens, meaning runners must also deal with the unpredictable New York summer weather, to the point of carrying umbrellas during the race to protect themselves from sudden downpours.
The roads are not closed for the course, so runners must master how to dodge pedestrians and cyclists who are going about with their daily lives.
There have been no serious injuries recorded from the race, but the effect of the race on the body can be vicious.
But the real challenge is when the monotony of running takes a toll on the minds of the runners. This is where meditation becomes essential.
Shri Chinmoy moved to New York in the 1960s to become a spiritual teacher who performed long-distance running and weightlifting. He is known for increasing his outer strength by prayer and meditation. He has lifted elephants, cars and people, including Nelson Mandela.
The race runners cope in their own ways.
One runner imagined himself as a child running around in a garden, while one meditates on the food that she will eat next.
The runners can eat whatever volunteers and their support groups have prepared for them on every lap. It is also a challenge for most runners to sleep, and most of them just got used to feeling tired during the course of the race.
The Self-Transcendence is far from the elite marathons we know of. It has little media coverage and the materials and supplies for the whole event is meagre. The rewards are measly. A small crowd of cheerers meet the completers at the finish line. But for the runners, these things don’t matter much, because true to the essence of the race, the reward they get is intrinsic.