Salzburg, Austria, Sep 30 (efe-epa).- The world’s longest endurance race is taking place in the shadow of the Austrian Alps in a park in Salzburg, where competitors have to run 5,000 kilometers (3,106 miles) in 52 days — more than two marathons a day.
Five athletes have been taking up this challenge, known as Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, which is the longest certified foot race in the world.
After 23 editions in New York, this year the race is taking place in Glanspitz park in Salzburg, a city best known as the birthplace of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The runners set off in the early hours of the morning each day and thus start a shift of non-stop running, save for bathroom breaks and the occasional short rest.
The founder of this particular ultra-marathon, Indian-American spiritual guide and meditation specialist Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007), wanted to offer his followers a personal challenge in which they can push their body to the edge of human limitations.
The figures are dizzying. Participants must run for 3,100 miles in no longer than 52 days going around the same circuit, which is open between 6am and midnight. They can change their direction on alternate days.
Many of those taking part — as is the case this year — are disciples of Chinmoy.
For the athletes it is “the culmination of a very spiritual journey” Smarana Puntgam, a member of the Sri Chinmoy marathon team and joint director of the race, tells Efe. “Most of us meditate, and this is one more step in our learning.”
Puntigam has run the race 10 times, although he has only completed twice.
“It’s like going through a lifetime,” he says. “You go through so many emotions when you are running, you experience so much. All the problems you brought with you coming in seem insignificant when you finish.”
The runners in this year’s edition have already covered the distance of at least 35 marathons since the race began on 13 September in Salzburg.
The earliest anyone can complete the challenge will be the first week of November.
Although the race is normally held in the New York borough of Queens, where Chinmoy lived, every summer, Covid-19 forced a change in schedule.
Priyvadin Reisecker, who was responsible for transferring the event to Salzburg, said the competitors had requested the race go ahead rather than be canceled.
“They said they were running anyway, so we had to find a way to be here for them,” the organizer tells Efe.
He chose Salzburg as it was the first place he managed to secure a team of volunteers willing to help stage the almost two-month event.
In fact, without the volunteers, this race would not work, or at least it would be even more difficult for the runners.
Voluntary workers prepare food, manage the athletes’ timetables, document times, offer medical assistance as well as moral support.
They sometimes accompany the participants for parts of the running to keep them company.
Nirbhasa Magee traveled from Ireland with his brother, who is taking part in the event.