TODAY   |  August 11, 2011

3,100 mile race…around one city block

TODAY’s Natalie Morales reports on the Self Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, where participants run the distance from Boston to San Francisco around one city block in Queens, New York.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE reporting: Well, a group of runners in New York recently took that saying to the extreme.

NATALIE MORALES, anchor: That's right . It sounds pretty crazy, actually. It's been called the Mount Everest of marathons. The official name, though, is the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race . And its participants have truly unimaginable strength of body and mind. It is intense. It's grueling. And at 3,100 miles, it's a race like no other.

Mr. ASPRIHANAL AALTO: It's like a force. It's like determination.

MORALES: On a course that's just one city block in Queens , New York , a group of 10 runners have embarked on a seemingly impossible feat.

Unidentified Woman #1: It's just amazing.

MORALES: From 6 AM to midnight every day, they go round and round and around, 5,649 laps over 52 consecutive days. This is -- this is a spiritual thing for you.

Mr. AALTO: Yeah. Absolutely.

MORALES: To put this into perspective, it's like doing two and a half marathons a day for each runner.

Unidentified Man: Our top runners are averaging 71, 72, 73 miles a day.

MORALES: By the time the race is over, they will have run the distance from Boston all the way to San Francisco .

Unidentified Woman #2: It's very inspiring.

MORALES: In rain or shine, all day, every day, they battle heat, humidity, pedestrians, bugs, dust and fumes, lap after lap. Do you ever feel like a hamster on a wheel?

Mr. AALTO: Yeah. It feels life is one big circle.

MORALES: So why would anyone actually do this?

Mr. AALTO: This is kind of my meditation. It seems to soothe me.

MORALES: Asprihanal Aalto , who's from Finland , has won the race seven times. What's on your play list? What keeps you going?

Mr. AALTO: I listen to a lot -- to ABBA.

MORALES: ABBA. On this seven-week journey, each runner consumes about 10,000 calories a day and goes through about a dozen pair of sneakers. The race is the brainchild of Sri Chinmoy , a Bengali spiritual leader who believed running symbolized the search for inner peace of self-transcendence.

Unidentified Woman #3: This is the halfway point.

MORALES: The 10 runners hail from various nations around the world. The race's sole female runner is from Austria . It's mind over body every step of the way. Quite a lead. And for the runners , the volunteers and spectators alike, it's not just about a race to the end, it's about a journey.

Man: When you see the runners across the finish line, words can't express the look on their faces. It's really priceless.

MORALES: And the 3100 mile race finished up a few weeks ago with the winner, Sarvagata Ukrainskyi completing his 3100 miles in 44 days. Asprihanal Aalto , the runner that you saw in that piece, came in third place. Truly an incredible feat for all of those runners .

ROKER: That's just amazing.

MORALES: It's unbelievable to think what they put their bodies through. Not to mention up here.

ROKER: Wow.

MORALES: Yeah.

ROKER: Real, real...

GUTHRIE: And to do all that running on almost no sleep.

MORALES: Right.

GUTHRIE: Because they run from -- until midnight, right?

MORALES: Till 12, to midnight. And then they start at 6 AM the next morning.

ROKER: It's something.

MORALES: It's pretty rigorous.

ROKER: Some kind of determination.

GUTHRIE: That's amazing.