By Jorge Fuentelsaz
New York, Oct 19 (EFE).- New Zealand’s Susan Marshall and Finland’s Ashprihanal Aalto have spent the past month and a half running an average of more than 95.5 kilometers (59.6 miles) per day around a school in the New York City borough of Queens.
At that rate, their goal of completing the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile (5,000 km) Race – the world’s longest certified footrace – over a period of 52 days is well within reach.
This extreme ultra-marathon, which was created in 1996 by Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy and is being contested this year by nearly a dozen runners, is a physical, mental and spiritual test, its organizers say.
Aalto told Efe without breaking stride that he has run an average of 70 miles (112.6 km) per day for the past 20 days and that, at that pace, he will finish the race on Wednesday (Day 46).
That will give him a second-place finish behind Italy’s Andrea Marcato, who reached 3,100 miles on Monday after just 44 days to win the race for the third time.
A Finnish postal service employee, Aalto set the world record in this ultra-marathon in 2015 with a time of 40 days, nine hours, six minutes and 21 seconds.
Race director Sahishnu Szczesiul told Efe the course opens every day during the 52-day race at 6 am and closes at midnight. Within that window, the runners can manage their time as they wish.
Marshall, who is competing for the sixth time and still has several days of running ahead of her, finds herself in fourth place overall and the highest-placed woman.
A cook at a cafeteria in Canberra, she told Efe that she didn’t think she would make it to 2,500 miles yet already has eclipsed the 2,700-mile mark.
Marshall, who said a person needs to feel a calling to take on a challenge of this magnitude, told Efe she did not feel that well prepared and was terrified at the beginning of the race.
The runners complete a 0.55-mile (883-meter) loop around a sports field, playground and high school in Jamaica, Queens, New York City.
The course is located in a residential area filled with single-person homes, with the runners sharing the sidewalk with the students and local inhabitants.
The only indication that the world’s longest certified footrace is happening are a few stalls alongside the sidewalk offering water and food to the competitors.
Sanjay Rawal, director of the documentary “3100: Run and Become,” in which he explores running across different cultures and the discipline’s spiritual component, is a resident of that Big Apple neighborhood.
He told Efe he embarked on the film project after living in the area and watching the race there for the past 30 years.
“I never could really understand what sort of inner power or outer power the runners were using to be able to complete this distance,” he said.
Ireland’s Nirbhasa Magee, who is in last place among the 11 remaining runners (one runner pulled out after just one day) and has no illusions about completing the 3,100-mile distance, stopped to talk to Efe on Day 46 of the race, which began on Sept. 4.
He explained that he contracted Covid-19 just a few days before the race and was unable to start until Day 4. Then he suffered a relapse 10 days later that left him bedridden.
Speaking about what it takes to run ultra-marathons, Magee mentioned discipline and concentration and the importance of achieving a state of relaxation and calming the mind as much as possible.