they run around a half-mile loop on a sidewalk all day in nyc. it’s just a little race that almost nobody has ever heard about. the same people come back year after year. mile after mile. the object: first one to 3,100 miles wins.
it’s called the self-transcendence 3100 mile race. it’s run pretty much exclusively by followers of sri chinmoy, a spiritual-leader kinda guy who died a couple years ago. but the race lives on. and on. and on.
as a lad, i questioned organized religion but was always drawn to true believers. they were the ones who gave up everything and set out to follow their beliefs. many years later, with running taking on many of the same qualities as religion in my life, i look to the sri runners as the modern-day pilgrims. running in unbearably hot , sticky weather on an unforgiving sidewalk in an effort to reach the next level.
i only encountered the sri guys once. i ran a 24-hour run in seattle back when they were still having it there. the people were amazingly nice. a photo of sri chinmoy was placed lovingly on the infield. their hospitality was perfect, other than maybe the food table being a little too healthy. where’s a cheeseburger/oreo/pizza delight with a salt chaser when you need one. i remember worrying as the hours went on whether i would find myself in a vulnerable spot, ready to drop everything and follow. luckily it rained like crazy (what, in seattle?) and i retired early.
fast forward a couple years. i was eating at a tempe pizza shop, wearing that sri shirt, when my server looked at my icily and asked if i was a disciple. i explained i just ran the race and really had no dealings with the group. he sadly explained that his friend had become involved with the group a year previously and he had never heard from him again. he was not a fan. so i guess it all depends on your perspective.
one thing i AM pretty sure of — there’s always much talk about what’s the toughest race in the world. deca-ironman? badwater? barkleys? i guess it doesn’t really matter. they’re all a test. but so is the neighborhood 5k where your lungs are exploding and your heart is jumping out of your chest … and you’ve still got a mile and a half to go.
what does matter is that tomorrow this small group of true believers will get up again to pound out another 70 miles. and the next day. and the next. no prize. no publicity. just a journey around a half-mile sidewalk in the search for enlightenment.
i’m betting they find it…