Irishman Nirbhasa Magee is set to become the first Irish person to complete the world’s longest road race, The Self Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, finishing an epic 52-day run in Queens, New York.
Covering the distance by repeatedly pacing around a one and a half mile loop, there are places where Magee walks to take the pressure off the joints and feet. Apart from these brief interludes from running, and bathroom breaks, however, the runners continue around the same block from 6 am to midnight every day without fail.
He doesn’t even break to talk to IrishCentral but keeps running as he answers questions, barely seeming out of breath. Runners can’t afford to take breaks if they ever hope to complete the average pace of 60 miles a day; that is, they cover the length of two marathons every day for 52 days in a row.
Founded by meditation teacher and fitness advocate Sri Chinmoy in 1977, The Self Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race is the longest certified road race in the world.
This week, Magee, a native of Summerhill, Co. Meath who holds a PhD in Theoretical Physics, is set to complete the 3,100 mile race which began on June 14.
Speaking to IrishCentral, last week, Magee had mixed feelings about finally reaching the finish line.
“There’s still four or five days to go; it's still so long away, so it’s tough mentally at the moment,” he said.
“I take each day the same as any other day and try not to think about the end because it’s too much to comprehend.”
The race is a mental and physical struggle with runners constantly eating on the go and keeping their minds occupied. Helpers pass Magee a cup of water or a cup of food each time he completes a loop, amassing the 7,000-10,000 calories he needs to keep going every day.
Keeping the body in tip top shape is not the only concern of the multi-day runner. Spending long stretches of time running with only your thoughts for company is tough mentally as well.
“I try to keep my mind as silent as possible,” Magee admits. “I practice meditation and keeping the mind still, being grateful and happy. That’s preferred, but sometimes it’s different. I’m running for 18 hours a day so I have my mp3 player and sometimes I have music or an audio-book but in general it’s spent meditating.
“It’s one of the nice things about running around the same loop because there’s no external stimulation, it’s very peaceful.”
“You need mental concentration on the road as much as possible and to stay on the road as much as possible,” Magee tells IrishCentral.
“Certain things you have to do; you have to go to the bathroom, look after your foot but apart from that you need to stay concentrated all the time.”
Magee began meditating some years ago under the tutelage of Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy is a great advocate of sport and the healing it can have on the mind and he would often organize long distance runs. It was through this that Magee came to attend his first multi-day race.
“I would have thought you were crazy,” he says, when asked whether he ever thought he would ever find himself running such long-distance races.
“I didn’t think I was much of a runner,” he says. “I had friends who competed in them and I admired them, but I didn’t think of myself doing that even three or four years ago.”
That was until he attended a race organized by Chinmoy in Flushing, Queens in 2012 and the atmosphere and the spirit of the multi-day races got into his system.
“I had a very strong feeling and something about the atmosphere struck me,” he recalls.
He began running multi-day races in April 2013, running 622 miles in a 10-day race in New York, and 702 miles the following year, before deciding to undertake the longest race in the world.
To date only 37 people have completed the exhausting Self Transcendence race (compared to 4,000+ people that have climbed Mt. Everest and over 1,400+ people that have swam the English channel) which its founder Chinmoy sees as an opportunity for self-discovery and inner progress.
The race is open to anybody with a proven multi-day race record with many of the great ultra distance runners of the last 20 years competing. The race’s record was smashed this year by Asprihanal Aalto from Finland who finished the race on July 24 after just 40 days and 9 hours.
You can find out more about the race at http://3100.srichinmoyraces.org.