By Kate Dzienis

The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race is an event that tests athletes more than you could ever imagine. They participate knowing that the goal is to hit 3100 miles (4,989km) in 52 days, with a minimum of 59.6 miles (95.9km) per day as they race along a .5488 mile loop along the streets of Jamaica, Queens in New York City.

This is not an event you do and move on from.

The Self-Transcendence is a race that is guaranteed to change your mindset, and impact you spiritually – and is one pioneered by the Indian spiritual guru, Sri Chinmoy, who moved to New York in the 1960s, teaching meditation.

AURA secretary Stephen Redfern was invited to run it earlier this year (September-October 2022), and he’s returned home forever changed.

But let’s turn back the clock a bit. Stephen’s been wanting to do the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race for about eight years, after discovering it very early on in his running career. Five years ago, he decided it was an event he would endeavour to do ‘at some point in my life’. Sitting on it for a while, keeping it to himself, Stephen knew it was race where in his heart, he had to go into it for all the right reasons.

“This isn’t a race for me where I’d think, ‘another event to tick off my list’. No…everything I knew about it was about the journey, not only the lead up but the race itself,” he explains.

“I’d done my first run with the Sri Chinmoy team probably about a year or so after I got into running, and I really got to know them; I really got to understand and thrive on their philosophy to running. Later on, reading up on what Self-Transcendence was all about, it was 100% something I wanted to do.


“Back in 2020 was the right time to start moving my way forward to get ready for Self-Transcendence, so I approached Prachar Stegemann (events coordinator, Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team) to let him know my intentions and question what the best path would be for me to get there. He was super excited, saying he knew I’d do the event one day.”

Prachar put Stephen’s name forward to the team in New York City, and from there an invitation was sent out, inviting him to race the 2022 event – the year he turned 50.

Believe it or not, Stephen had never gone over 600km before in a single event (his qualifier for Self- Transcendence was a solo 650km 6-day done locally). The invitation was all about whether or not the Sri Chinmoy felt Stephen was a good fit for the event, and also about the physicality of it all of course.

“Firstly, they need to know you’re going to be committed to the race, and secondly they need to know you’re capable of it – so you have to have at least one 6-day race under your belt, if not more,” Stephen explains.

“Because of the pandemic, I actually couldn’t get to any 6-day races so Sri Chinmoy allowed me to do my own solo 6-day ‘event’ which was done in October 2021. That was the longest I’d done in one hit, so coming into Self-Transcendence every day after I hit the sixth day was a whole new experience for me.”

Athletes, of which this year saw 11 take the start line, started at 6am every morning and could either stop or continue on through to midnight once they hit their minimum daily distance.

“Every day we’d start at 6am and have a minute’s silence beforehand to reflect on the thankfulness of everyone around you and what you’ll be embarking on that day,” he revealed.

“There’s no hard and fast rule about finishing at a certain time, it’s just about the commitment to get to the minimum kilometres on the daily so you can complete the race in 52 days.

“That means about 59.5km (96km) every day; for some people, that means they’d finish at about 10pm or 1030pm, and from there could choose to either stop or continue through to midnight.”

For his own benefit, Stephen recorded every day of his run onto Strava, where he would vary between 57 miles and 72 miles, and every time he’d reach a milestone he would make a note of it.

Through these long distances, Stephen discovered the issues he dealt with when it came to his feet, had to do with his style of running and his choice of shoe size.

“I should have started with bigger shoes,” he explains in hindsight.

“I had issues with my feet as the days wore on, and I was pulled from the race on day 22 until medics felt I was in a position to return to the course and continue, so I had four days off. I still had 26 days to do from that point, and there were plenty of ups and downs as you can imagine.

“I started on my normal size and it was evident early on, even after only 3 days, that my feet had already started to grow. Perserving with those shoes was something I shouldn’t have done. Coupled with my running style of hitting the pavement all day, it didn’t work well and I really should have trusted myself; I should have started with a bigger shoe and probably even before I went over, trained with the bigger shoe.

“Look, I was still consistent with my fellow runners at Self-Transcendence, going through about 14 pairs of shoes (HOKA, Altra and Topo) and also used 2 pairs of running thongs. Lo Wei-Ming, the Taiwanese guy, predominatly ran in his thongs and donated 2 pairs to me, so that was something completely new and exhilarating.

“I did about 500km in running thongs.”

To put things into perspective, Stephen’s feet went up 3 sizes of shoes within 2 weeks, and still to this day they have not returned to his normal 9.5 size. He had to purchase a couple pairs of running shoes, during the event, from another brand as the HOKAs he’d brought over simply couldn’t cater to the new width – he ended up finishing Self-Transcendence in Altras and Topos.

The foot pain, however, at no point ever made Stephen want to stop. He could focus on the pain in his feet and use it to focus past it, learning to accept it and make it his friend to a point as opposed to something he was fighting.

And his hardest day? Stephen recalls his hardest day would have been the second last day.

“They could tell I was really focused on just doing each lap all day long, and it was the only day that I felt the pain to me felt like it was a quitting level. Any other race at home I probably would have stopped, but over there I had no inkling I needed to stop. It was incredible, looking back now, how I could look past that and concentrate on the reasonings why I was there,” he says.

“At the end of the day, the goal for me was about that commitment to just last for the full 52 days of the race (even though I was pulled for four days, I knew I wouldn’t get to the distance I wanted). When I went over, all I knew was that I wanted to do the full 52 days – there was no goal distance in mind. That to me was the most important out of the entire journey.”

Stephen successfully finished Self-Transcendence with a whopping total of 2728 miles.

He returned home feeling complete, feeling like he’d achieved what he’d set out to achieve. He would like to return to Self-Transcendence in the next few years to see if he can get closer to the 3100 mile distance and reveals he would like to approach it all differently, and without the same foot issues he’d experienced.

Getting back into the swing of things whilst home has been a slow process too, Stephen saying he had been experiencing severe fatigue in his legs and not wanting to burn out was a priority.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever had fatigue in the legs after an event, I can feel it in my running,” he explains.

“For example, I did a 10km run yesterday but today there’s no way I can get out there. Every time I run at the moment, it feels like the Monday or Tuesday after a ‘normal’ race; I’ve never had that, this is incredible fatigue and I can’t push it or I’ll do long lasting damage.

“Other than the physical problems with my feet, I felt absolutely amazing at the end of the race. I can honestly say that I didn’t come home ‘broken’; Self-Transcendence made me take care of myself physically and spiritually, and it’s an experience no one can take away from me.

“One of the most inspiring and motivating factors for me was knowing there were people following the adventure from back home, seeing all the updates on the website and on the socials, and leaving me messages to read.”

Stephen’s personal growth, strength and determination to get through almost 3,000 miles is testament to his commitment of the sport, because inspiration comes from people like him – people with passion vulnerability who live life pushing themselves to better within themselves.  

Photos – Supplied/Sri Chinmoy.