Most people believe Suprabha Beckjord either really likes to run or she's just plain crazy. Beckjord, a 48-year-old Woodley Park resident, recently completed the Self-Transcendence 3,100-mile race for the eighth time. She is the only woman to have run the race, which began in 1997.
Beckjord finished the race on Saturday night, 55 days 13 hours 13 minutes after she began. The race is run around the Thomas A. Edison Vocational/Technical School in Jamaica, N.Y. In order to complete 3,100 miles, the runners must circumnavigate the school, a .5488-mile course, 5,649 times. Beckjord has now run 45,192 laps around the school for a total of 24,801.37 miles.
"One thing I've learned," Beckjord said, "is that I'm pretty good at keeping going."
Beckjord was one of 12 runners, the largest field in the event's history. Nine finished the entire distance. Ashprihanal Aalto, 33, of Helsinki, won in 46:06:55:11. He received a trophy and a photo album. No prize money is awarded.
"Most people, if they are not into ultra distance, they think first of all it just sounds crazy and not even possible," Beckjord said. "Sri Chinmoy, who is the inspiration behind our marathon team, it is really his vision that it is possible."
The race is sponsored by the Sri Chinmoy marathon team. The distance was selected because 1931 is the year Sri Chinmoy, an author, artist, athlete and master of meditation, was born. The site was selected partly because it is near his home and partly for the broad sidewalks surrounding the building.
The runners began running each day at 6 a.m. and are allowed to run until midnight. Beckjord usually ran late into the night, taking two 20-minute breaks during the day. She went through 13 pairs of shoes. A team of handlers and friends supported her by bringing her food and encouraging her throughout the race.
"I actually get a lot out of it," Beckjord said. "Each year I kind of discover new things, not only about my own physical body but also inner things. For me, it's really like a pilgrimage."
-- Kathy Orton