The race around… a block in 42 days: The Italian marathon runner won the world’s longest and craziest walking event on Sunday, covering nearly 5,000 kilometers in a month and a half around just a block of buildings in New York.
“It was really monotonous!” And Andrea Mercato crossing the finish line Sunday evening, holding the Italian flag in hand, screamed to the cheers of the crowd, after she circled a school complex in the northern New York borough of Queens 5,649 times.
So we traveled 3,100 miles or 4,888 km.
With a lap of 883 metres, an average of 116 kilometers per day – that’s more than two marathons – the incredible athlete, a nearly 39-year-old Superman, has been running and walking for 42 days, 17 hours and 38 minutes. Every day from 6 am to midnight.
The remaining six hours, Andrea Marcato and her six competitors – a New Zealander, Taiwanese, Japanese, Russian, Ukrainian and Slovakian – spent sleeping, healing, eating, washing and responding to natural needs, in building huts installed in the street during the ordeal.
The race, which was completely insane but internationally accepted, is supposed to run for another eight days, barely disrupting New York’s auto traffic, not to mention the dealers, residents and about 2,000 high school students in this famous corner of Queens called Jamaica.
– “Like every day” –
To break the routine and gray of the urban jungle, concrete sidewalks, and black high school gates, the seven runners run one day clockwise, and the next day counterclockwise.
“The first week is very difficult, especially for the mind,” admits Andrea Marcato. “And then you end up getting used to it and accepting that it will be the same every day.”
Whether it’s rainy and windy or the heat and humidity of sweltering New York, it’s been running like clockwork since September 5, nearly 5,700 times around Thomas Edison Technical High School.
The event was created and named in 1997 the “Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendance 3,100 Mile Race”, by Indian teacher-turned-New Yorker, Sri Chinmoy, who died in 2007.
He advocated a combination of extreme sports, self-transcendence and meditation.
– ‘Thinking of nothing’ –
On the physical side, organizers only accept super marathons who have already participated in races of the same type for at least six days. On the mental side, “With a focused mind, think of nothing else, neither fear, nor anxiety, nor doubt,” emphasizes Andrea Marcato.
“It’s a test of endurance, effort, determination and talent,” summarizes race director Sahichno Schizol, very proud to note that if the world’s 4,000 mountaineers could climb Everest, only 49 supersportsmen had completed their 3,100-mile race.
For New Zealander Harita Davis, the only woman in the 25th edition, the race is clearly horrific physically, but “incredibly, as the days and weeks go by, the body adapts and strengthens itself”.
At 47, she is working to “become a better being”. She listens to music, audio narrations, and meditation lessons. Harita Davies is expected to complete the distance before the October 26 deadline.
– no money –
Other New Yorkers, who were denied the show in 2020 due to an epidemic that has brought the city to its knees, sometimes barely understand what’s going on: “I live here but I didn’t know it was a race. I always thought they were just laughing Julio Quezada.”
And what does winner Andrea Marcato gain after losing thousands of calories a day and 16 pairs of shoes? Cup but no money, he reassured the organizers.
“It is the absolute, my dream and I have realized it,” rejoices the Italian, an employee of an agricultural trading company.
But Harita Davis warns that the hard part begins: “Back to normal.”
“Organizer. Social media geek. General communicator. Bacon scholar. Proud pop culture trailblazer.”