The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon

 WHAT: The Self Transcendence Ultra Marathon

Chinmoy Kumar Ghose, better known in the west as Sri Chinmoy, was an Indian spiritual teacher, artist, and athlete. In 1964 he moved to New York City. Here, he spent his days writing and teaching. Meanwhile, he spent his downtime weightlifting cars, people, and baby elephants. However, his true passion was to lace up his sneakers, calm his mind, and run staggering distances. The quickest path to finding inner peace, claimed Sri Chinmoy, was to discover one’s physical and mental limits. Then, you simply dump them at one’s perceived breaking point and just keep running. From these casual thousand-mile jogs around the block was born the world’s longest ultramarathon. AKA, “The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon.” A 3100-mile annual footrace takes place in New York between June and August.

Sri Chimnoy weightlifting
68-year-old Sri Chinmoy, pictured lifting double his own body weight. Chimnoy died in 2007, aged 76


Runners inspired by Sri Chinmoy to transcend through exercise
Competitors claim the self transcendence ultramarathon is the gateway to out-of-body experiences.

How Long is The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon?

Imagine running one marathon. Imagine doing it 118 times and still not making the finish line. To clarify, the 3100-mile distance equates to running from the west to the east coast of the US. The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon is so long that the few who complete it still can´t comprehend what they achieved.

Running shoes for the Sri Chinmoy Self transcendence Ultramarathon
In 2017, New Zealander Harita Davies went through 45 pairs of shoes during the Self-transcendence Ultra Marathon.

The Everest of Ultramarathons?

To call it the Everest of long-distance running doesn´t come close. In the 22 years since Sri Chinmoy created the world’s longest ultramarathon, only 43 people have made the finish line. (A fraction of the thousands to have scaled the summit of Mount Everest.)

Transcending the Pain

Physically, runners will suffer from excruciating shinsplints, near-death fatigue and blisters growing atop of friction burns. However, the physical demands pail next to the mental toll of monotonously running around the same block thousands of times. Eventually, runners transcend the agony and the boredom. After that, it becomes a spiritual exercise – a seemingly endless moving meditation on the power of now.

runner reciving medical care during Self-transcendence Ultra Marathon
Medical professionals are on hand to treat runners during the Self-transcendence Ultra Marathon.

Think you’re tough enough to tackle the world’s longest ultramarathon? If so, you´ll first need to prove to organizers that you won´t die of a heart attack. For safety`s sake, only runners with proven ultra-running experience may compete. If you think think you’re up to it, apply online.

The World’s Toughest Postman

In June each year, the starting pistol sounds. After that, entrants have 52 days in which to run, walk, and limp toward the finish line. The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon distance is 3,100 miles. To clarify, this works out to around 60 miles per day. In 2015, Finnish postman Ashprihanal Aalto set the course record of 40 days, nine hours and six minutes. To do this, he covered around 77 miles a day.

Ashprihanal Aalto. Record holder in the Self-transcendence Ultra Marathon
Ashprihanal Aalto – a Finnish postman, set a new men’s record in 2015 of 40 days, nine hours, six minutes

The Physical Challenge

The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon is run between the hours of 6am and midnight. Meanwhile, in the six hours of downtime competitors must eat, drink, wash, patch up their feet, and sleep. It is as much a race of the spirit as the body. Many are physically capable, but only a fraction can handle the mental challenge.

man running through New york in the world's longest ultramarathon
Competitors share the New York streets with residents going about their daily life.

The Spiritual and Mental Challenge

The only way to make the finish line, say runners, is to shut down the mind. For example, if you hitch your thoughts to your next water stop, or nights sleep, or the finish line, or resulting glory, you have already failed. There is no past and no future. Only the immediate, pain-filled present. Embracing this agony is the only way to complete the Self Transcendence Ultramarathon.

The winner of the world's longest ultramarathon
In 2021, Italian Andrea Marcato Andrea Marcato won the Self Transcendence ultramarathon. He did it in 42 days, 17 hours, 38 minutes, and 38 seconds

The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon takes place in Queens, New York, from June–August every year. Runners must complete 5,649 laps of an extended city block. This incorporates 164th Place to Abigail Adams, and (84th) Avenue to 168th Street to Grand Central Parkway.

map of the self transcendedence ultramarathon. The world's longest ultramarathon

  • Physical problems.
  • The Self Transcendence Ultramarathon is held during overlapping seasons. Consequently, weather conditions range from blistering summer heat to torrential downpours.
  • There are no closed roads. Therefore, runners will be sharing the course with pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
  • Spiritual insights.
  • Connection with a higher force.
  • A vastly broadened outlook on personal potential.
  • A sense of achievement like no other.
  • Sri Chinmoy believed that grueling athletic self-flagellation was the greatest path to enlightenment. All those who make the end of the race will attest to the truth of this statement.


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