What is the world’s longest footrace? The answer might surprise you. It doesn’t cross the Sahara desert, or follow the Iditarod trail. It takes place in Queens, NY, and covers only a tiny portion of that borough – one 883m block, to be precise.
The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race circles that block 5,649 times, and runners have 52 days in which to complete it. That’s the equivalent of running two marathons every day for 7 ½ weeks. Harita Davies has completed it three times, only the forth woman to achieve that feat, finishing it this year in 50 days, 13 hours, 23 minutes and 14 seconds.
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“After I had that physical movement and the kind of adrenaline and everything that the team sport and just the movement brings, I would feel great, you know?”
Harita struggled with depression as a teenager, but found relief in sports. There were times that she’d stay in bed all day, then drag herself to a 5:00 p.m. water polo match in her pajamas, thinking “God, we have to play water polo,” but within a few minutes of playing, her depression would lift. “I always remember,” she says, “how that to me was like a miracle.”
“Having this goal is so incredibly rewarding when you achieve it.”
Doing an Outward Bound course in her native New Zealand when she was 18 was a “huge influence” in Harita’s life. Learning how to do new things and working with others helped her find something strong within herself. The course culminated in a half marathon, and she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to complete it. When she did, “it wasn’t that I thought ‘I’m going to become a runner now,’ but I was like, ‘wow, that was an accomplishment.’”
“It was kind of a no brainer; it was like you start meditating and you start running.”
A couple of years later,she went to a meditation class that followed the philosophy of Sri Chinmoy. He advocated athleticism, and the combination of meditation and exercise resonated with her. “I just started meditating and I started running,” she recalls, “and the two of them have been the solid points in my life… from then on, I’ve never had the one without the other.”
“I really couldn’t run for more than a couple of miles for quite a few years. I would just be exhausted. And so that was a really, really challenging time for me because running had always been such an important part of my happiness and my peace and my identity.”
By 2007, Harita was running ultramarathons. After one multi-day race, she didn’t recover well, and the endometriosis from which she’d suffered for years became much worse. She was unable to run for five years, but it led to an unexpected discovery. Since she couldn’t run, she had to walk. “I was always like, I hate walking, you know, I’m someone who runs and I don’t like walking,” she says, but she realized that “yeah, well maybe you need to learn to like walking.” She wound up not just liking it, but loving it.
“We limit ourselves so much by the way we define ourselves without even really thinking that much about it.”
The mental shift that came about when she had to stop running made her realize how “we so often put ourselves into a cage in the way that we define our happiness and what we need in our lives.”
Despite her health issues, Harita decided to do the Sri Chinmoy Oneness Home Peace Run, the world’s largest peace torch relay. She spent three months running around the United States, and by the end of it, the endometriosis had gone away.
“It really all came down to being happy and following my heart and following my inspiration and not being bound by what I felt like I should do or what was the right thing to do.”
After the Peace Run, she no longer saw running as something that she needed to do, but as a blessing. In 2017, following her heart and inspiration led her to enter the 3100 Mile Race.
At the start line, she thought, “this is outrageous; I can’t believe it’s me who’s standing here,” and says, “I was surprisingly surrendered to just having a disastrous experience my first time.” Not only was it not a disaster, she completed it and did better than she had ever imagined she would. More importantly, it made her realize that by running it, she was part of something bigger.
It takes a huge village to put on the race, and the runner’s role, obviously, is to run. But as Harita points out, “there’s no way you’d be able to do it without all these other people playing their role. And in the end that is just such a beautiful thing and that’s a huge part of the beauty of this race is that we all play our roles and in the end it creates something.”
“I felt like this in a way added almost responsibility to womankind to do my best.”
The second and third times that Harita ran the race, she was the only woman and felt an added obligation to excel. She’d come to realize that as a woman there were elements that were very different than they were for men, but she couldn’t really identify what they were. She contacted Dr. Stacy Sims, an expert in human performance, particuarly sex differences. They worked together on Harita’s nutrition and hydration for the 2021 race, which resulted in her smashing her previous record by 20 hours and 11 minutes.
“There’s no way that I thought that I could do this and I could, so whatever your dreams are, whatever impossible fantasies in the back of your mind, just start and give it a go because you have no idea of your capacity until you try.”
Thank you to Tracksmith, UCAN, and athletic greens for sponsoring this episode.
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Thank you, UCAN. I have been talking about them for years and they are my ONLY source for fueling while I am training and racing. And without fail, I have a product of UCAN every day, whether it is a Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar or their delicious Cookies and Cream Protein Powder. I am also excited to share with you a NEW product, a gel! It’s fueled with Superstarch and ready to go wherever you are headed.
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“Thank you” to Harita. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.