WHY DO ULTRA-RUNNERS DO WHAT THEY DO?
Christchurch woman Harita Davies chose the “Mt. Everest of ultra-marathons” to find out for herself.
The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race is the longest certified foot race in the world and was founded in 1997 by spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007), who is also sometimes referred to as the Marathon Guru. The gruelling race is held every year between June and August, around a half mile block in Jamaica, Queens, New York.
This year ten intrepid runners and one race walker began this epic journey, an ultra which only a few actually finish. To cover the distance of 3100 miles (4988.9km), the runners need to average 95.9km per day – that’s more than two marathons a day for 52 days straight, running between 6am and midnight.
42 year old Harita Davies from Christchurch is the first New Zealand women to ever attempt such a distance. Lying in 4th place overall, she is on track to finish by the cut-off time at midnight on August 8th, making her a New Zealand record holder.
Davies came to running through Sri Chinmoy, her Indian spiritual teacher who brought his particular form of spirituality from India to America in 1964. Sri Chinmoy’s principles of meditation and self-transcendence are practiced by his 7000 plus students around the world, with running being a large part of their spiritual training.
Whether it’s 2kms, a marathon or an ultra-marathon, Sri Chinmoy saw physical fitness, particularly running, to be a perfect way to go beyond the mind’s limitations, to challenge ‘impossibility’, and to develop the necessary qualities of discipline, determination, will-power and perseverance which are essential for the spiritual journey towards happiness.
Harita is no super-human athlete, just an ordinary Kiwi girl, brave enough to attempt extraordinary things. When asked if she ever imagined that things would have worked out the way they have, heading towards a 4th place finish in the world’s longest race on her first attempt, she says “No - I had no idea. I didn’t have any goals, It was always just to do my best. Every day brings challenges, a pain here or an ache there. So I am learning to accept that and be cheerful and just push on.” “Just to keep going is an incredible lesson for life, and not being deterred by obstacles. They make you stronger and really help you develop faith, confidence, patience, and perseverance, qualities that are so essential for life.” Harita has been running one marathon a year since she began to follow her spiritual teacher’s guidance almost 20 years ago. She has run 4 multi-day races, with a best of 380 miles for six days in 2007, and 540 miles in ten days in 2015. She has been running long miles in another epic relay as well, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run held over the past five years.
“3100 MILES SEEMS DAUNTING AND IMPOSSIBLE TO THE MIND SO I AM REALLY TRYING TO FOCUS ON LIVING IN THE MOMENT, TO BE HAPPY IN THE MOMENT. THAT IS PROBABLY MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE.”