The Marathon Monks are a group of Japanese Buddhist monks that are part of the Tendai sect located in the mountains looking over the ancient capital of Kyoto and have a quest called "Hieizan Sennichi Kaihogyo" ("Mt. Hiei 1000 Day Journey") that would seem impossible. Yet over 45 have completed it, the last being Genshin Fujinami in late 2003. The goal is to run the equivalent of the entire equator - or once around the world over an eight year period. Here are the details of the journey for those that try:
The first three years the monk will run approximately 18 miles a day along narrow paths in the mountains in nothing more than a pair if straw sandals and a robe (sorry, no state of the art running shoes or other gear). He must do this up and down trek along the mountains paths for 100 straight days during each of the three years. He starts at 1:30 in the morning each day and he needs to return by 9:00 a.m. because he is not excused from his regular daily chores which he also must complete each day.
In years four and five, the monk will travel the same narrow mountain path in the early morning hours, but increase the time to 200 straight days no matter what the weather - come rain, come snow, even come hurricanes.
In year six, he will increase the distance to 37 miles a day, or more than a full marathon each and every day for 100 consecutive days. He must return each day to do his normal, everyday chores just as all the other monks are required to do.
When he has completed the sixth year, he will endure the doiri: seven days and nights - 168 straight hours - (this is actually a recent relaxation of the rule because too many monks were dying when the doiri used to be nine days and nights) sitting in a proper prayer position without any food, water or sleep. There will be two monks watching over him at all times to make sure he doesn't sleep and he keeps the proper prayer position.
In year seven, the monk will increase the 100 consecutive day run to 52 miles a day, or the equivalent of two full marathons. While the daily chores he is required to do will be reduced during this time, they will not be eliminated.
The final year he will go back to where he began and run the original 18 mile course for 100 straight days.
Oh, and lest the monk decides somewhere along this stretch of eight years that it is too difficult and he wants to give up, each and every day that he runs, he carries a rope and a knife with him. If he should fail to complete the course, the monk is ready to use one of these to either hang or disembowel himself.
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