“3100: Run and Become” documents the annual Sri Chamnoy Self Transcendence 3100 mile road race, focusing on champion runner Helsinki native Ashprihanal Aalto. Delving into this extreme athlete and the eleven other competitors, documentary filmmaker Sanjay Rawal (“Food Chains”) allows viewers into the history and actual need for running in our quest for humanity and connection.
Completing a 5k race for many of us is a feat, but what about a 3100 mile race? If this sounds extreme, you’re right, but for a dozen individuals, it connects them more directly and completely to themselves and their spirit to live a more meaningful life. The race takes place in the heat of New York City’s summer months as 12 racers from all over the world run a ½ mile city block for 3 weeks. Runners complete an average of 60 miles per day in the hopes of finishing, but a few hope to win. 8-time champion Ashprihanal Aalto, a spiritual name given to him by the founder of the race meaning “aspiration fire inside the heart,” through interviews months before the race and during, answers those questions of not just why would anyone do this, but also how? The answers might surprise you, allowing yourself to relate to climbing this personal mountain and even inspire you.
We meet Aalto 9 months before the race, at the age of 45, contemplating whether or not he has it in himself to do it yet again. Sanjay depicts Aalto’s personal journey while learning the history of running and how it still impacts indigenous people in the world. Interspersed between interviews with the race directors, runners, family members, and physicians, we gain perspective from Buddhist monks whose centuries-old traditions of accepting a challenge to walk around a mountain, 60 miles each day for a thousand days. Sanjay then transports us half-way across the globe, introducing us to Native Americans whose heritage and understanding of nature is quite similar to the monks. And in between, Aalto and 11 others use mind and meditation to keep running, focusing on completion step by step.
We follow these 12 runners throughout the course of three weeks, watching as their exhausted muscles break down in the excruciating heat, trying to stay hydrated. The strong of mind, body and soul persevere as others cannot endure. We feel their pain and exhaustion, urging them to stay strong as they complete final miles. It’s a tension-filled ending, not knowing which one will cross the finish line first as we see the need for not just physical strength, but mental and spiritual.
“3100: Run and Become“ beautifully captures the heart and inspiration of all who close their eyes, take a breath, and open their hearts to life. This transcendence run is fueled by meditation or as one director described it, “Running is a form of prayer.” While many of us may never get up off the couch to run a 5k, we can all set a goal of becoming more aware of nature, what she gives us, and appreciate our surroundings as we walk on the Earth beneath our feet.
Check out “3100: “ opening at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday, Sept. 21 through Sept. 27 and again on Oct. 6, the day before the Chicago Marathon.