Impossible Distance


How far can you walk, run or shuffle during 6 hours or 12 hours of continuous forward motion – or way out there on the far frontiers of impossibility, how far in 24 hours? How many miles or kilometres will your legs, lungs and heart carry you, how much determination can you muster in challenging impossible and frightening distances? These questions brought 47 athletes from as far away as Holland, Buenos Aires and the United States to the Millennium Stadium on Auxkland’s North Shore recently, a multinational, cheerful bunch bound by their shared quest for an inspiring and empowering answer.

Held annually around a 400 metre track and hosted by the supremely efficient Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team members, this year’s race started at 9am on an uncharacteristically sunny and windless morning, October 6th, a welcome change from the often fierce winds and relentless rain that visit this event and multiply the challenges facing the long distance runner. Behind this race, the life and message of its founder, the late spiritual master and sports lover Sri Chinmoy is evident, seen in the trackside aphorisms that speak of self-transcendence; the encouragement of the volunteers who themselves have run in ultra-marathons, even multi-day events; and embodied in the very nature of the race itself with its belief in the unlimited potential of each and every human being when body and mind are harnessed to will and spirit.

Newcomers to the world of ultra running start with the 6 and 12 hour event, a manageable distance – each will choose when to run, walk, rest; what type of nutrition and fluids work best; and draw too upon all of the knowledge honed through training. Veterans will come for another go at the 24 hour epic, a more grueling confrontation with oneself, with exhaustion and pain and the effort to pass beyond them into further realms of self-discovery.

In mild, sunny conditions men’s winner Greg Yee from Dunedin completed 188.28 km in 24 hours, and women’s finalist Kim Allen from Papakura ran 167.6 km to become the 2018 Athletics New Zealand 24-Hour national champions.

Rob Robertson (USA) and Joanne Aitkin both race-walked for the entire 24 hours, each covering 161.6 kms – observed by walking judges, they became New Zealand Centurion Walkers, having walked 100 plus miles in 24 hours and joining an elite band of athletes. For many, the experience of the race will be a life milestone, a time when everything else fell away and there was only that single-pointed determination to persevere, to push past the usual constraints of tiredness, the mind and body’s capitulation to comfort and relief, the constant challenge of exhaustion. Few venture to these shadow lands, but those who do are never quite the same again, experiencing very often an exhilaration that might best be described as the souls joy. And realizing that running is a life metaphor, that if one can overcome the restraints and hurdles here, one can achieve anything in any endeavor.

Sri Chinmoy founded the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team in 1977 as a service to the running community and to promote physical fitness and self-transcendence through sports. Over the years the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team has become one of the world’s largest sponsors of ultra-distance running, while also organising short races, triathlons and multisport events around the world.

For more photos please click here.