Worlds toughest Ultra (in my opinion)

First of all; I’m NOT planning to do this insane Ultra run, no worries.

Today I like to write about an ultra run challenge which can be called „worlds toughest“ for several reasons. I will write about this run because it is more or less unknown in most parts of the world.

The challenge is called „Senichi Kaihogyo – (回峰行)

So what’s about this challenge with that strange name?

Here are some points:

  • Time to finish: 7 years
  • Walking distance: 40.000 km
  • Location: Mount Hiei / Japan
  • Finishers: 46 during the last 400 years

The monks at the Buddhism Tendai Temple at Mt. Hiei will do the Senichi Kaihogyo to become a living Buddha. They have to walk 1000 days in 7 years. 10 chunks each 100 days. The chunks including the distance are at the following table.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7
30 km/day for 100 days. 30 km/day for 100 days. 30 km/day for 100 days. 30 km/day for 200 days. 30 km/day for 200 days. 60 km/day for 100 days. 84 km/day for 100 days, followed by 30 km/day for 100 days.

The monks have to run on each day around the Mount Hiei and pray at several shrines and temples. Later when the distance becomes a daily double-marathon, the monks start their daily journey just after midnight to be back in the temple on the very late evening. Day by day.


But that’s not all. As all these runs would be not enough, the monks have to do an extreme fast in the fifth year after 700 days running.

This fast is also slightly different compared with an eat-the-half fast or point-counting with the weight watchers.

The fast called „Dōiri (堂入り)“ what means „The entering of the temple“. During this 9 days fast the monks are not allowed to eat, drink and sleep. They just sit inside their temple and pray! For 9 bloody days! The monk will be constantly watched by two other monks to make sure he don’t start to sleep. Every night at 2:00AM the monk have to go to a well, offering water to their God and he is allowed to make his mouth wet with the water. But he’s not allowed to swallow. The amount of water he swallow will be compared by other monks with the amount of water he spit. After this 9 days the monks lost about 25% of their body weight, and I guess they must have been very close to their God, special at the end of the fast.

After the fast, in the sixth year the monk have to walk a 100 day chunk of 60 km/Day and in the seventh and final year they will walk 84 km a day for 100 days followed by some easy-peasy 30 km a day just for the last hundred days.

sakai4_2705149cI think I don’t need to mention that the monks are not wearing fashionable modern running clothes. They wear during the whole run their traditional monk ropes including straw sandals, which they used hundreds of pairs during the journey.

So, that’s most facts of the Senichi Kaihogyo. Only one more thing. That’s the DNF (Did Not Finish, for the non-runners here) thing. That left me a little speechless after I heard this the first time.

Once a monk have decided to start this path of epiphany he only get the chance after the the first chunk of 100 days to stop this mission. If he continues he must go to the end. He will carry a sharp dagger at all the time. Once he failed with his walk for whatever reason he will use the knife to finish his life straight away. That’s it. So simple. There is no pace analyzing or Strava workout checking and mimimi I had a bad day and will try again the next year. DNF means DNF, point!!!!

The monks who finished the Kaihogyo, had a high reputation in the Japanese culture. They was the only people who was allowed to wear their shoes in front of the Japanese emperor during the imperial time. 

sakai_2705124cAnd last but not least, I want mention this guy here. Mr.  Yusai Sakai, a monk who died two years ago. He finished the Kaihogyo, twice!!!!!! He was not so happy and satisfied after the first time, so he started this trip again. 🙂 

So what’s the point of this post. No idea, maybe a good point is, that a human body can handle much more pain, agony and mental stress as we all think. And that a 100 mile run around Mont Blanc is NOT the race of enlightenment (even I hope to run there one day 🙂 )

If I can get an entry for the Kobe marathon in November, I’m planning to visit the temple at Mount Hiei. Maybe a piece of enlightenment jump over to me and I can get an idea about distance running. 🙂

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