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Runners who want to level up from a 42.2-kilometer footrace can try the ultra-marathon. Ultra-marathoners who want to go further than the multi-day, 50-kilometer-and-above race can try a more extreme version.

As the name of the world’s longest footrace held yearly in New York, USA suggests, participants have to muster self-transcendence aside from physical power to win.

To get an idea of how difficult the race is, only 49 runners have completed it since 1997. In contrast, thousands have summited Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak in the Himalayas.

For those who want to dare try it, the first challenge is eligibility. Only ultra-marathon veterans who have completed six-day races are allowed to participate. To the elite entrants, the next challenge is to have the ultimate “stamina, strength, inner determination and talent.”

The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race is nearly 5,000 kilometers long. Racers have 52 days to run the entire distance or 96 kilometers per day. If one starts at 6 a.m., that means running until midnight and eating along the way with the remaining six hours of the day are spent sleeping, washing and caring for blistered feet.

Six of seven foreign contestants in this year’s edition are still running as of this writing. They started 5 September and have to be done by 26 October.

The race route is also unconventional. Runners have to do it in an 883-meter loop around Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School in Jamaica, Queens. Obstacles include a busy highway and some 2,000 school children who flood the sidewalk. The monotonous scenery and alternating daily directions of clockwise and counter-clockwise add to the challenges.

Runners need more than one pair of shoes. Italian Andrea Marcato, the 39-year-old first finisher, wore out 16 pairs during 43 days of running, ending on 17 October.

Racers are provided with an aid station manned by a doctor and generous servings of food to help them replace the 10,000 calories their body loses per day.

Harita Davies, the only female competitor, said that while the race takes a physical toll, the body adapts and gets stronger as the days and weeks go by. So there is really no worry of physical breakdown.

Marcato added he felt spiritual strength.

“The last two laps I was completely disconnected from my body. I didn’t feel any pain. It was a really special sensation,” he said.

For all the strain and stress the runners suffer from the grueling race, the reward for finishers is only a trophy and bragging brights.

But for 47-year-old New Zealander Davies, the hardest part of the race is when it’s over and they have to get “used to being back to regular life.”

with AFP

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