Imagine running 3,100 miles — that’s New York to San Francisco with a few miles to spare. It’s a long way, but perhaps it's made bearable by the varied scenery captured along the way, right? But what if you ran that distance by completing 5,649 laps of the same 0.55-mile route in Queens, New York, running for 18 hours a day?
That’s what Ashprihanal Aalto just did, and he managed it in a record-breaking 40 days, 9 hours, 6 minutes and 21 seconds. Oh, and did we mention that this is the eighth time he’s won the event, 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.
RedBull.com: So, first things first, why run such extreme distances?
Aalto: I started off walking long distances. I completed the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail and they are 2,200 miles and 2,663 miles long [respectively]. 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.
You must have to rack up the miles during training, right?
I don’t do so much running during training. I do all types [of activity]: a 45-minute cycle one day, a 10-kilometer walk, running, core training for an hour or some swimming. The idea is to do all types of sports. I also have a paper route 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. I start running again in the spring. Although I run quite a lot just before a race, the longest distance I ran [in training before this race] was 40 kilometers. I have run so many years I don’t think I need to run such long distances in training.
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.
What did you eat during the race?
Before the race I lost [about 4.4 pounds], so I started at about 128 pounds and by the end I think I was about 123 pounds, 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, that was a good way to take on calories.
And how many pairs of shoes did you go through?
I went through eight pairs. It’s always the heel that wears out because of the concrete. I needed a new pair about every 500 miles. Some people went through more though!
So what are 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 2 hours 57 minutes and my 24-hour race best is 214 kilometers 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, but maybe not next year. It’s the ultimate race; once you’ve done it you don’t want to go back to other distances.