In this episode, Brendan Leonard and I had a remarkable conversation with a remarkable person, and we urge every runner — and non-runner — to listen to it.
Filmmaker and Runner, Sanjay Rawal (3100: Run and Become; Food Chains; Challenging Impossibility) joined us to talk about how running can be far more than just a fitness routine or a competitive outlet, it can be transformative, and make us better people.
An accomplished runner himself, Sanjay shares how burning out on competitive running, a fraught political climate, and a desire for self-discovery led him to veer off the “straight-A’s / med school” path that he was on at Berkeley, and instead go explore running as a form of meditation under the guidance of the spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy.
We then talk about Sanjay’s most recent film called, 3100: Run and Become, which centers on the longest certified race in the world, the Self-Transcendence 3100 — that’s right, this is a three thousand and one hundred mile long race that takes place in (of all places) Queens, New York, on a sidewalk. That surrounds a high school. So this three thousand 100 mile race takes place on a closed-loop course that’s about ½ a mile long.
Sanjay’s film goes into why in the world someone would create an event like this, and then why in the world anyone would actually run in an event like this? Who are these people, and what are they doing?
The film then uses the Self-Transcendence 3100 race as an inroads to examine the connection between running and spiritualism in a number of diverse traditions and communities around the world, including the Navajo Nation of Arizona, the San Bushmen of Botswana, Africa, and a Buddhist monastic community in Japan where the practitioners aren’t exactly runners per se, but their long-distance rituals almost defy comprehension.
I’ve had the good fortune to have had a lot of wonderful conversations with a lot of very smart and sincere people over the course of my life, but I have to say that this conversation with Sanjay and Brendan was one of the best I’ve ever had. And if you’re wondering how one of the best conversations I’ve ever had got started, well? It got started by talking about … pizza and cheese cake. We hope you enjoy.
TOPICS & TIMES:
- The Pizza Marathon (3:29)
- Sanjay’s background and early relationship with running (8:14)
- What led Sanjay to go study with Sri Chimnoy (19:23)
- Sanjay’s evolution from “better” runner to “happier” runner (25:55)
- Sanjay’s film, ‘3100: Run and Become’ (35:47)
- Can running really make someone a better person? (48:54)
- How do you get motivated to run when you don’t want to? (52:22)
- What’s the best question we haven’t asked you? (57:22)
- Sanjay’s next film project (1:00:49)