Inspiration · Japan

Can You Complete the World’s Deadliest Marathon?

by On Dec 2, 2018

Only 46 Buddhist monks have completed this race since its inception in 1885. Failure brings death at your own hands.

Can You Complete the World's Deadliest Marathon?

If you are a dedicated runner and have gotten bored of running the usual marathon, then you might want to consider becoming a Buddhist monk. Why? Because only then will you have the chance to participate in the world's most deadly 1,000-day marathon.

However, you will want to consider your decision carefully because there have only been about 46 monks who have completed the race since its inception in 1885, and if you fail, then you are expected to commit suicide. If you decide to go ahead with your plan, however, here is what you will need to do.

First Through Third Years

The first year is gruelling, especially if you have lived a life more dedicated to prayer than athletics, because you must complete a 30 kilometre run on 100 consecutive days in straw sandals. It is not unusual for the monk to run through rainy weather, and the sandals last only about two hours. The runner may also encounter a host of wild animals and snow. After being shown the route only once, each run must be done in complete solitude.

You may want to follow the lead of Endo Mitsunaga who successfully completed the world's deadliest race in 2010. Endo would start his run a little after midnight stopping at 258 temples along the way to pray. Then, when he returned, he was expected to care for a temple all day before he slept for about 4.5 hours.

You are permitted to withdraw on the 100th day from the challenge if you desire, but if you have the guts to keep going, then you must kill yourself if you fail. A constant white rope tied around your waist reminds you that the cost of failing is death.

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You are allowed to have no ties with your family at all until you have completed the world's deadliest run. The path that Endo run each day was littered with reminders of those who had attempted the run and failed from before 1950.

You must continue to run 30 kilometres a day for 100 consecutive days each year during the second and third years.

Fourth Year

The fourth and fifth year, you must run 30 kilometres per year for 200 consecutive days. Now, keep in mind, that these marathons are not on flat paved roads. Instead, they are up and down the side of Mount Hei that stretches 848.1 meters into the air.

The Midterm Test

On the 201st day of your world's deadliest run, you finally get to sit down. In fact, you must go nine days without food, water or sleep. He must continually recite a mantra in front of two monks ensuring that he does not take a break.

In fact, the only break comes when he must fetch a cup of water from a well located about 200 meters away. While the monk may be very tempted to drink it himself, he must offer it to Buddha Fudō Myōō at 2 a.m. each morning.

Sixth and Seventh Years

After being severely tested by physical exercise, food, water and sleep, the world's deadliest run is still not over. During the sixth year, the monk must run 60 kilometres each day for 100 days. Then, during the last year, he must run 84 kilometres for 100 days, and then he must continue to run 30 kilometres for the rest of the year.

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While many runners bask in glory after winning a big race, that is not the case for these monks. After years of chasing his dream, instead of a medal around his neck, the monk goes through a fast and fire ceremony where he eats only root vegetables, boiled pine needles, nuts and water. Then, he sits in front of a roaring blaze for eight days throwing prayer sticks into a blazing fire and chanting 100,000 mantas. According to legend, the monk then becomes enlightened.

Extreme dedication or utter madness? What do you think of this marathon?

Aidan is the Editor-in-chief of RunSociety. His focus is to oversee RunSociety’s Creativity Channel, spanning a wide range of inspirational and enriching topics daily to the running community. Get in touch with him if you something to say, or want to weigh in on an interesting topic at hello@runsociety.com.

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