3,100 miles (4,989km) – that’s New York to San Francisco with a few miles to spare. It’s a long way, but perhaps made bearable by the varied scenery captured along the way, right? But what about running the distance by completing 5,649 laps of the same tiny route in Queens, New York, running for 18 hours a day – and in a record-breaking 40 days, nine hours, six minutes, and 21 seconds.
That’s what Ashprihanal Aalto has just achieved, oh, and did we mention this is the eighth time he’s won the race known as the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race? That’s a lot of running around the block! We spoke to him to find out what drives a man to go to such lengths.
Crossing the finish line
So, first things first, why run such extreme distances?
I started off walking long distances, I completed the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail and they are 3,500km and 4,286km long. I heard about multi-day running races and I thought it sounded nice, to run all day and night so I decided to take part. I also do meditation and running long distances is a good way to train your mind.
All those miles take their toll
You must have to rack up the miles during training, right?
I don’t do so much running during training, I do all types – a 45 minute cycle one day, a 10km walk, running, core training for an hour or some swimming. The idea is to do all types of sports. I also have a paper round so that’s good exercise, walking up and down stairs. In winter I don’t run so much. I cycle more and go to the gym as winter in Finland is very dark and cold and I start running again in the spring. Although I run quite a lot just before a race, the longest distance I ran was 40km. I have run so many years I don’t think I need to run such long distances in training.
Running round the block – literally
Running around the same block must get monotonous, what keeps you going?
I’ve been doing this for many years and keeping going is just part of the race. It’s like you go to work every day, you need to get up and run. When you commit to the race you go there to run so that’s what you do.
Braving the rain
What did you eat during the race?
Before the race I lost 2kg, so I started about 58kg and by the end I think I was about 56kg, so actually in the end I was a little light. As for nutrition during the race, I ate whatever they gave me, then when I started losing weight I began taking high calorie shakes, which also included protein and other nutrients. I also ate a lot of chocolate bars and that was a good way to take on calories.
And, we need to know, how many pairs of trainers did you go through?
I went through eight pairs of trainers. It’s always the heel that wears out because of the concrete. I needed a new pair about every 800km. Some people went through more though!
Racing can be lonely
So what’s your best times for distance races?
I started running multi-day races seriously in 1999. My first 700 mile race was in 1999, and my first marathon was around 1995. My best marathon time is 2h 57m and my 24 hour race best is 214km and those times are nothing special really. My six day time is 505 miles and for 10 days it’s 833 miles – that’s where it starts to get good. For me longer distances are best, I think my recovery is good.
What’s next for you then?
My next real goal is to climb the highest peaks in Alaska and Canada – they are very difficult. Last year I climbed the Matterhorn and many more in Europe. I don’t know yet what my next running race will be, I am still recovering from the 3100. I will go back to the 3100, maybe not next year. It’s the ultimate race, once you’ve done it you don’t want to go back to other distances.