The Marathon Monks

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that the story of the “Marathon Monks” is one of my favorites.  In the age of viral video, the instant gratification economy, and celebrity worship, it speaks to us of mental toughness and a commitment to a cause that seems to be, and may indeed be, impossible.  And the cause has no benefit other than the desire to accomplish something difficult, and thus be enriched as person.  The challenge is so difficult that in a bygone era, you would take your own life rather than fail.  So difficult, that in 400 years, only 46 have accomplished the goal.

Mount Hiei

The trails of the Marathon Monks

The unmarked graves on Mount Hiei are the sober reminders of an era when commitment to an impossible goal was admired.  We still live in such an era, I’m certain of it.  Here is the story of the Marathon Monks.

During the first 100 days of running, the monk is allowed to withdraw from the Kaihogyo.

However, from Day 101 onwards, there is no withdrawal. The monk must either complete the Kaihogyo … or take his own life.

Because of this, the monks carry a length of rope and a short sword at all times on their journey.

In the last 400+ years, only 46 men have completed the challenge. Many others can be found by their unmarked graves on the hills of Mount Hiei.



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