On the 11th of June, the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race begins for the 10th time in New York. Smarana Puntigam is participating for the fifth time. In an interview he explains why he is participating in this race.
Hi Smarana: You have just won the Self-Transcendence 12-Hour-Walk in New York. Soon you will fly again to New York to participate in the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile-Race. You seem to be in good shape? How do you feel?
Smarana: For me the 12-Hour-Race was a very special experience. I have participated in many ultra events and made often the second and third place. Often I was lacking the last consequence to win and now for one time I have managed to win. For me it's not so important to be in the spot light, but to have the experience to be able to keep the concentration and be 100 percent focused on the goal, even if it's going to be a hard fight. This was a beautiful experience.
It gives me of course a lot of self confidence for the race in New York, but first and foremost the trust in a source of energy, which exist for everybody and everybody can be opened to.
Before the 12-Hour-Walk I was sick the whole time and had a light frontal sinusitis. Until the start I didn't know if I would manage to complete the 12 hours. As race started, I felt this energy I know that comes from outside, above or how ever you want to call it.
The secret is to open oneself to this energy and allow it to flow. In the psychology they call it "flow-effect". If you are a tennis player for example, in this situation you feel to be a spectator and an energy is flowing through you, in a way everything is working out by itself and seemingly effortless.
This is a very nice feeling.
The race has been founded by Sri Chinmoy on 1997. What is your goal during this race?
Smarana: To put it in one sentence: To learn to know myself better and become a better person. I wrote an article about this, it can be found under following link: Why run 3100 miles?
How do you prepare yourself for such a multi day race? How do you train for it?
Smarana: Above all I do longer runs. Earlier I made also projects, like running around the Neusiedler lake (110km) or to run over the Grossglockner and on into the city of Salzburg.
Now I make foremost two to three and a half hour runs and of course races, like the 12-Hour-Walk or 6-Hour-Race.
How does a typical race day look like?
Smarana: At 5:30 am is wake up, at 6 am is the Start, at 1 pm a 15 minutes break, at 6 pm a second 15 minutes break and at 11:30 pm mostly I go home. In between there is running and eating.
The race is taking place on a round course and you can set your breaks and running times between 6 am and 6 pm as you like.
During 51 days you run ever again the same lap of one mile. What do you do to keep yourself busy?
Smarana: Last year we were 12 runners and you always find a running partner, with whom you can run for a view laps together and talk about god and the world.
But I also like to run alone, because running is for me a going within myself, it becomes for me meditation. The longer the race is becoming, the more intense it gets for me.
But I also like to listen to music or audio books about all kind of subjects.
What do you feel and think if you cross the finishing line of such a race?
Smarana: It's a very nice feeling to finish something after such a long time. It's a feeling of relief and joy, for you have completed a long way rich of experiences. You have won many new insights and experiences and suddenly a new life is beginning, the life after the race and it takes some times until you adapt to it again.
It's already the fifth time you participate in this race. What did you learn from all this races?
Smarana: There is a kind of leitmotiv for each race. Was it maybe patience in the first race, so another time it was the trust in myself and a higher power…
If my knowledge is correct your best is 49 days 4 hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds. Did you set yourself a particular goal for this time?
Smarana: Of course everytime I would like to reach beyond myself a little further, this relates not just to the timing but also to my inner capacity to solve problems in a better way and become stronger within.
Actually you are performing pioneer work. After all you were the first Austrian to manage this distance. Can you imagine to run even further one day?
Smarana: Yes, why not?
You work in a known gift shop in Vienna and organize also a 100 kilometre race. How do you manage all this?
Smarana: The one is not excluding the other, but completes each other. I love diversification and it would be to less just to run.
At the end maybe a few suggestions for our readers. What advice do you have for a hobby runner who likes to change over to ultra distances?
Smarana: It's important to listen to the inner voice. Everybody is different and you can get a lot of precious suggestions from others, but at the end you have to trust on your inner feeling. I don't race against myself, but running is a tool for collecting experiences, for strengthening our body, for becoming a more balanced personality. Therefore anabolic substances or stimulants for an increase of performance should have no place in the running sport.
Thank you Smarana for this talk.
Interview by Jalarka Roby Schiltz.
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3100 Mile Race 2004 - a personal story by Smarana
Smarana at the 3100 Mile Race
Twelf runners, among them also three Austrians, ventured to this year's start of the longest precisely measured race of the world, the Self-Transcendence 3100 Milerace.
The distance of 3100 miles equates to a east west crossing of the North American continent.
51 days is the time available to manage the distance, this means you have to do close to 100km per day to be able to finish on time.
The start was at 6 am and every day the runners had time until 12 pm to manage the distance.
From 12 pm to 6 am there was a compulsory break; this way the race was build up by single 18 hours days, which every runner could plan on his own. Interestingly in most cases a 15 minutes break was good enough to fairly recover mentally and physically.
Some runners were content with one break per day and again others would have more breaks. This way you would be 17 hours a day on the road, 7 days per week and for 7 weeks.
Of course the question will arise how one can bear such thing, as this burden is not only physically but also psychically quite extreme.
Every ultra runner knows that the longer the distance is getting the more important the mental condition is growing, to be able to deal with the monotony, the stress and one owns thoughts.
I observed that nearly all participants meditate or have a very positive philosophy of life.
For me personally it is an extremely important symbiosis, where one aspect can help the other.
Running gives me the opportunity to keep my body fit and meditation helps me to bring peace in my thoughts and to direct them to a higher goal.
After some time running becomes also a kind of meditation that allows me to dive within, there unexpected strength reserves can be tapped which are nearly inexhaustible.
So for me also Sri Chinmoy is always a source of inspiration, if I think for example at his one arm lift of a 3,2 tons heavy dumbbell or at his calf raise machine with which he lifted a full grown elephant.
Within ourselves an unbearable treasure is hiding, this diving within can help us a lot in our outer efforts.
This way I also experience this race much more as a travel to my world within instead of a race to beat the others.
It was a long journey, I have won a lot of friends and run together with Kuranga for nearly 1700 miles.
It was a very beautiful and transforming journey, where the body have grown strong but first of all it was a transforming, purifying experience that allowed me to mature on the human level.