1000 Marathons, 1000 days ! – The Marathon monks of Japan. 


A) How the Marathon monk challenge works 

Some things in life seem mundane, dull, or even predictable. Taking on a marathon every day for 100 consecutive days though, certainly doesn’t sound predictable. You may ask is this even possible, so read on to find out. I speak about successful participants and how the event works. 

The Marathon monks challenge is completed as a holy journey (Pilgrimage), by Tendai Buddhist monks wishing to become a Buddha (God). 

Participants must walk 1000 marathons in 1000 days. The religious folk that complete it, claim to receive great pleasure and joy through the experience. Perhaps this is because they don’t focus on the fear, pain, or suffering, which seem inevitable. 

Some eat exclusively vegetarian meals at their monastery. The Marathon monks’ diet consists of 3 meals a day, each with a high proportion of carbs consumed to assist energy stores. 

After 700 days of marathons, the monks must experience “Doiri”. This practise consists of 9 days without sleep, food, or water. Medical science estimates death after 7, so this practise is highly dangerous, and has resulted in many deaths. 

Continuous chanting keeps the participant focused through this tough time. 

They spend most of this time in a shrine, except when they collect water from a spring. The walk to this spring, takes longer and longer as the body becomes more and more dehydrated. Some participants lose 1/4 of their body weight at this stage.

After this, monks are allowed 3 weeks to recover their bodyweight, before recommencing marathons. 

Monks wear white to symbolise death, which is their punishment for failing to complete the challenge. They also wear homemade sandals, which may need to be replaced multiple times in a day !!

B) Successful Marathon monks 

When a monk completes the challenge, they effectively become a conduit by which they can communicate directly with Buddhist gods. They use this ability to attempt to grant the wishes of many visitors to their region. 

Monks which have completed it, describe the feeling as euphoric. They express that overcoming more severe pain, increases the elation of success. They describe pain as a mere symptom of the effort they’re putting in. In fact, Tanno Kakudo states “The more you suffer, the more pleasure you feel”.

This sounds highly inspirational, although pain acts to prevent further injury, and in my opinion shouldn’t be ignored.

On completion, monks are broadcast on television. 

Despite this, monks often iterate, how their journey doesn’t have a definitive end point. As such, enlightenment is a more a means of attitude to attain meaning in daily life. One that can be continued throughout life. 

One example of a monk who completed challenge was Tanno Kakudo.

See a documentary about his challenge under “Sources” below.


The Marathon monks challenge is perhaps the most gruelling physical endeavour, any human can take. The emphasis is on psychological perseverance, to cope with physical ailments. Also the damage as a result of the crippling physical burden, this places on the whole body. This perseverance supposedly brings the mind into a reflective state, which can discover how to find true meaning, in daily life. 

Next article 

This will focus on some of the effects on the body, of such extreme activity. 

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YouTube · Thuy Ngo52:15Marathon Monks of Mt Hiei11 Dec 2019




Related articles 

I walked 50,000 steps in a day … https://reasea.org/2020/04/10/50000-steps-or-25-miles-walked-in-one-single-day/

Eating for walking endurance https://reasea.org/2020/04/17/50000-steps-fuelled-eat-to-walk-25-miles-in-24-hours/

Photo credithttps://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/31/japanese-monks-mount-hiei-1000-marathons-1000-days

Tags Marathon, monks, tanno, kakudo, Buddha, Buddhist, mount, hiei, Doiri, fasting, abstinence, food, sleep, colour, tendai, 1000 marathons, 1000 days, sandals, Japan, Kyoto, blogging, popularposts


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