April the 19th 2009 almost 4 months of multiday running will begin with the return of the Trans-Europe footrace starting in southern Italy and finishing in Northern Scandinavia 64 days later on June 21st, the summer solstice.
Race organiser Ingo Schulze knows what it takes to spend 64 days on the road. He organised the 2003 Trans-Europe race – a monster 5,000 km long from Lisbon in Portugal to Moscow.
That event was such an experience that Ingo decided to put it all down on paper and produced a book about the event. Such a massive project with so many runners under intense pressure for 64 days was bound to produce ‘significant emotional situations’ and so many unforeseen events that even Ingo doubted whether or not it would take place again.
However ultrarunners are known for their determination and persistence and after producing the Deutschlandlauf, a 1200km run from North to South Germany, for several years the dream of staging another such race is about to become a reality.
About 50 men and women from a dozen or so countries have signed up for the chance to test themselves in Europe’s longest race and with the 2003 event as a reference point and an enormous source of experience, this years event has every chance of being a smoother running race and some idea of what can be expected is posted on Ingo’s website.
The logistics of providing food and accommodation every night for 50 people is a daunting challenge in itself. Some points on the route will not be in big cities and Ingo discusses the possibility of having a mobile kitchen run ahead of the runners each day.
The first stage will begin in Bari, Italy and the stages average about 70km a day.
Logistics is not such a big issue for the Worlds longest certified footrace. The Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race takes place around a city block in Jamaica, Queens in New York and all facilities are driven to the half mile loop every morning and driven away again at midnight under the watchful eye of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team Race Director, Rupantar LaRusso.
Every day the runners have 18 hours in which to cover as many miles as they can before the course closes and the runners go to home to sleep in apartments provided by the race organisers.
Conceived in 1996 as a 2,700 mile race, Sri Chinmoy created the event as a further option for the ultrarunning community taking the race distance to new heights. The SCMT had been hosting the Ultra Trio – races of 700, 1000 and 1300 miles respectively for several years and in 1997 Sri Chinmoy extended the distance of the worlds longest race to 3100 miles.
Since then several of the world’s top ultrarunners have been to test themselves on the concrete course in Queens including Rimas Jakelaitis, Ahprihanal Aalto, Wolfgang Schwerk who set world records at this distance and Suprabha Beckjord who, incredibly, has run in every edition of the race.
The physical demands on the body in these events are intense and some preparation is needed. But the demands are not just physical. To overcome the challenges and problems of a minimum 60 mile/100km a day, a clear mind is prerequisite and a positive and determined attitude to discover what needs doing is an essential component of the overall strategy to get the runner beyond the horizon, beyond the mind, to a new state of being that is the finish line. For no-one who runs these races, remains the same.