In the summer of 2013, I conducted an ethnography of the longest footrace in the world. I teamed up with fellow Annenberg graduate student Corrina Laughlin and together we documented the 3,100 Mile Self-Transcendence Race. The race is organized by the followers of a late Bengali guru named Sri Chinmoy. Part of Chinmoy’s teachings was that extreme and repetitive physical exercise leads to transcendence. The race is run around one city block in Jamaica, Queens measuring just over half of a mile, which the runners traverse about 110 times per day (~60 miles) for nearly two months. We conducted interviews with the race organizers, volunteers, and runners, trying to understand the unique and astonishing nature of this event.
Our research is documented in an ethnographic film we edited in the fall of 2013. We wanted to use media as alternative and accessible ways of accessing a mystical phenomenon that we recognize and value as being beyond the usual channels of scholarly communication. The film works in a number of parts, shuffling between conversations between Corrine and me about our fieldnotes and on-site footage of various parts of the race and our interviews.