Why Run 3100 Miles?

By | Jul 15, 2007

Two of the most common questions asked at the 3100 mile race are: Why? and What do the runners eat?

The eating requirements are easy to answer, see what runners eat. However, the question of why anyone would want to run a 3100 mile race is not so easy to answer. In fairness it can only really be answered by those who have actually completed the distance. The furthest I have run is a 7 mile cross country race, which I very nicely came last. That is another story, but suffice to say I am not the most qualified person to answer why people run 3100 miles. Nevertheless it is an intriguing question. On the face of it, running a 3100 mile race has many challenges:

  1. 2 months without working.
  2. Innumerable blisters and other physical ailments
  3. The weather: Hot, humid weather and thunderstorms.
  4. Lack of sleep. Runners run from 6am up until 12pm midnight.
  5. A good pair of running shoes can be worn out after just 10 days of running.

However, despite the difficulties inherent in such a race, it also touches a deep seated aspiration for self transcendence. There is no human who has not, at some time, aspired to achieve something better, more fulfilling than previously.

Why Run 3100 miles?

1. Be Free of daily distractions

Usually we get caught up in innumerable demands on our time. Bills to pay, calls to take, things to do. For the competitors of the 3100 mile race, the only thing to worry about is running. This can be a liberating experience, it allows us to get into a certain flow of thoughts and ideas. Suprabha Beckjord, the only woman to have completed the race, and only runner to have finished every race says it is like “a spiritual pilgrimage”, although as she also states: “It’s a little different from sitting in a temple and meditating,” [4]

2. Self Transcendence.

We all desire, in some way, to do something better than before. We get a sense of satisfaction when we surpass previous achievements. Running 3100 miles is in some ways the ultimate physical challenge. Each day is an opportunity to do more than before. Sopan Tsekov, mentioned in his report on the 2006 race:

I felt so many times on the edge of life and death really pushing the limits getting the ultimate experience of pushing and tiredness… In this way I feel that this race is so transforming, it makes you go beyond your abilities or, in other words, let the divine in you work on the physical and the mind.” [2]

3. Learn More about Self.

To the runners of the 3100 mile race, a common theme is that the race is more than a physical challenge. To run such a distance require the cooperation of mind, body and spirit. To run such a distance, inevitably means that we need to learn more of our self. It can help contact a part of us that remains hidden in daily activities. Srdjan Stojanovich, who completed the race in 2005, said that:

“After a few days, the body is totally exhausted and you have to rely on spiritual things because the body doesn’t work any more. It’s like being dropped in the middle of the Atlantic and then they say you have to swim to the shore.” [1]

Abichal Watkins, a 44 year old journalist from Wales, who has entered the 3100 mile race for the past 4 years says of the race:

We all have the capacity to go someplace inside ourselves, someplace where we haven’t been before,” Watkins said. “And, for me, that’s what this race is all about.” [4]

4. To inspire others.

Whatever we do has an impact on other people. When we see people achieve great things it gives us confidence that we can transcend our previous capacities. It does not mean that we have to run 3100 miles as well. It just shows us that, what was once thought of as impossible, need not remain impossible if we have the right attitude and determination. Sri Chinmoy explains the importance of gaining and sharing inspiration.

 I am a man of prayer and meditation. I feel inspiration is of paramount importance. If I can inspire someone, and if that person also can inspire me, then we can do many good things for the betterment of this world. ” [5]

5. Enjoy it.

It may seem  hard to believe, but the participants who come back every year say how they really enjoy aspects of running and the race. For many, the enjoyment or satisfaction becomes more important than the miles and the competition. Suprabha Beckjord says of the race:

You have to keep the inner and the outer parts balanced. Of course, physically you have to be focused on the road. But I can stay really happy if I do not get too involved in the mileage. Earlier, I really did, because I had the capacity to run faster. But to keep up the joy level, the less I focus on the pavement and the time, it is easier for me to stay in my heart, which is what we say in meditation.” [3]

[1] 2005 3100 Mile Race Report

[2] Imagine so many days 

[3] Suprabha Beckjord Ultra Runner  at Washington Post

[4] In this race the last 3000 miles are the toughest 

[5] Sri Chinmoy TV

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