Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei

Posted on the Ultralist:

Mike Chiorazzi

Long ultra quote (and you think you’re an extreme runner!): There is an order of Buddhist monks in Japan whose practice is running. They are called the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei. They begin running at one-thirty A.M. and run from eighteen to twenty-five miles per night, covering several of Mount Hiei’s most treacherous slopes.

Because of the high altitude, Mount Hiei has long, cold winters, because it is so cold, it penetrates any kind of illusion or intoxication. The monks run all year round. They do not adjust their running schedule to the snow, wind, or ice. They wear white robes when they run, rather than the traditional Buddhist black. White is the Color of death: There is always the chance of dying on the way. In fact, when they run they carry with them a sheathed knife and a rope to remind them to take their life by disembowelment or hanging if they fail to complete their route.

After monks complete a thousand day mountain marathon within seven years, they go on a nine-day fast without food, water or sleep. At the end of the nine days, they are at the edge of death. Completely emptied, they become extremely sensitive. “They can hear ashes fall from the incense sticks….and they can smell food prepared miles away.” Their sight is vivid and clear, and after the fast they come back into life radiant with a vision of ultimate existence.

Natalie Goldberg’sLong Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America

Checkout the video Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei

See:The Marathon Monks: Stretching the Limits of Human Endurance by Don Allison
See also:The Spiritual Athlete’s Path to Enlightenment by Holly A. Schmid
Ultra Marathon Running
December 11, 1996 Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei The home of multiday running news and events.

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