People are capable of doing incredible things. These running record holders have dedicated their training to achieve a goal — and their hard work paid off. Some of these records are unconventional — especially when it comes to sports.
But despite their unique record-breaking goals, all of these runners are ambitious to live up to the challenge. The following running records will wow you, showing that running is anything but boring because you can turn a challenge into a fun feat.
1. Running backward
Xu Zhenjun from China is still the running record holder for the fastest marathon running backward in 2004. He ran the entire Beijing International Marathon backward, crossing the finish line just after 3 hours and 43 minutes. This is incredible as many forward marathon runners strive to finish in under four hours.
Aaron Yoder broke the running world record for the fastest backward mile in 2020, finishing the backward mile in just 5 minutes and 30 seconds. He previously held the same record in 2015, with a 5-minute 54-second backward mile.
2. Treadmill running record
Rainer Predl came up with an extraordinary challenge. The ultra–runner from Austria resolved to break the record of the highest mileage on a treadmill within 7 days. He managed to set a new running world record with 853.46 km (530 miles), running 168 hours during that week, with just 15 hours of sleep in total.
The extreme athlete also held the 2011 running world record for 100 km on a treadmill in 7 hours and 15 minutes. His record has since been beaten by Florian Neuschwander of Germany in 2021 for running 100 km on a treadmill in 6 hours and 26 minutes.
3. 24-hour running records
This special form of an ultra marathon has the participants run as far as possible within 24 hours. The most well-known is the annual IAU 24-Hour World Championship, held mainly throughout Europe. The latest running world records for the event are held by Aleksandr Sorokin of Lithuania in 2022, who ran 319.614 km (198.598 miles), and Camille Herron of the USA in 2019, with 270.116 km (167.842 miles) in 24 hours.
4. Marathon world record
A marathon might not sound as wild as some of the other running records mentioned, but to hold a record like this takes serious dedication and training. Participants are constantly beating previous marathon records and increasing their running times, which makes earning a place on the running records list even more strenuous.
On September 25, 2022, Kenyan Eluid Kipchoge beat his previous marathon world record, running the 26.2 miles (42.2 km) Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 9 seconds.
Kenyan Brigid Kosgei set the women’s world record marathon holder during the October 13, 2019, Chicago Marathon with a 2-hour, 14 minutes, and 4 seconds run.
5. 101-year-old marathon record
The saying “it’s never too late” applies to this incredible marathon record-setter. Fauja Singh of India is the world’s oldest long-distance runner and the first to finish a marathon at the age of 100 years old. Nicknamed the “Turban Tornado,” Singh began his career as a marathon runner at the age of 89. At that time, he finished the marathon in 6 hours and 54 minutes.
A few years later, Singh set a new record with a 5-hour, 40-minute marathon at age 92. At the age of 101, he ran his last race in Hongkong. All in all, Singh reached the finish line a total of nine times in cities such as New York, Toronto, and London since he began marathon running at age 89.
6. The world’s longest race
Considered a spiritual and physical journey, the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race is one of the most extraordinary running events ever. It’s the world’s longest running route with its 3,100 miles (4,989 km) track, winding around just one block in Queens, New York City.
The race takes place annually and allows participants to complete the 3,100-mile run over 52-days, averaging 59.6 miles per day. Runners can circle the block from 6 a.m. to midnight.
The world record is held by nine-time race winner Ashprihanal Aalto, with a finishing time of 40 days, 9 hours, 6 minutes, and 21 seconds. The previous long-distance running record was held by extreme German athlete Madhupran Wolfgang Schwerk who covered the route in 41 days, 8 hours, 16 minutes, and 29 seconds. Kaneenika Janakova holds the ladies’ record with a 48-day, 14-hour, 24 minutes, and 10 seconds time.
7. Stair running
One of the most challenging stair runs is said to be The Stairway to Heaven by Raiffeisen, located in Switzerland, with 4,261 steps and a 1,800-meter elevation climb. The fastest recorded time for a male runner was in 2020 when Roberto Delorenzi of Switzerland, completed the stair run in 25 minutes and 48 seconds. The fastest female runner Viktoria Kreuzer of Switzerland completed the climb in 2022 in 30 minutes and 3 seconds.
Christian Riedl of Germany is one of the world’s best in stair climbing and earned a world record in stair running at Frankfurt’s Tower 185 with a 12-hour run covering 43.126 feet (13.145 meters) of elevation gain. To do this, he had to run up the tower’s stairs and take the elevator back down 71 times.
Runner Piotr Lobodzinski from Poland has won stair running championships all over the world, including first place in the NYC Empire State Building Run-Up with a climb of 1,576 stairs and 86 floors in 10 minutes and 5 seconds, and first place in both the 2015 Towerrunning World Championships in Doha and the 2018 championships in Taipei. Lobodzinski also made a stair running world record at the 2016 Eiffel Tower Vertical Race in Paris, sprinting up 1,665 stairs in 7 minutes and 48 seconds.
8. Mountain Running
The World Mountain Running Association hosts The World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in mountains all over the world. In 2022, Patrick Kipngeno of Kenya had three wins from three starts in the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, a five-month event that hosts 17 races.
In the same 2022 championship, female runner Joyce Muthoni Njeru came in first place in the 12.11 mile (19.5 km) Montée du Nid d’Aigle run. She set a women’s best mountain running record of 2 hours and 31 seconds in Montagna, Italy.
Another popular trail run that has earned running records over the years is the Wainwrights Trail Run in the mountainous region of Northwest England. With a distance of 512 km (320 miles), an elevation of 36 km (118,000 ft), and 214 summits, this trail is popular for trail runners. In May 2022, American ultrarunner John Kelly broke the running record by completing the 214 summit route in 5 days, 12 hours, and 14 minutes.
Interested in trail running? Check out these trail running tips to help get you started on your mountain running journey.
Prepare yourself for stair running
Stair running competitions can be a great challenge for many since they’re hosted all over the world and don’t always depend on weather conditions. If you are interested in challenging yourself with stair running, learn how to increase your stamina and endurance.
9. Desert running
Desert running adds an additional challenge with an extreme climate, where runners participating in some of the most popular desert marathons aren’t only running in the heat.
The 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series covers a total of 250 kilometers and leads across four deserts: Atacama (Chile), Gobi (Mongolia), Namib (East Africa), and the icy wastes of The Last Desert (Antarctica) — talk about running in some cold weather!
Runners who become world champions have the highest cumulative rankings from all four desert races. Isabelle Sauve of Canada is the latest women’s champion in desert running, alongside Wong Ho Chung of Hong Kong, who holds the men’s champion running record, both in 2018.
10. Barefoot running
If you have sensitive feet, barefoot running might sound like an incredibly uncomfortable run to you, but many argue that running barefoot is actually quite healthy and can even improve performance.
Wayne Botha is the world record holder in barefoot running. He covered approximately 211 km within 24 hours without shoes in Auckland, New Zealand — the farthest distance someone has run barefoot. He also set another record for the fastest 100 kilometers barefoot run with a time of 8 hours and 49 minutes.
In 2021, Norwegian runner Jonas Felde Sevaldrud broke Win Hof’s previous world record for the fastest half-marathon run barefoot on snow. He ran 13.1 miles (21.08 km) in 1 hour, 44 minutes, and 58 seconds.
11. Running with a weighted backpack
As if running a marathon wasn’t challenging enough, adding a weighted backpack can significantly up the feat. In May 2018, Willian Kocken of the USA held the running record for the fastest marathon carrying a 100 lb (45.35 kg) pack in 6 hours, 27 minutes, and 59 seconds.
In July 2020, a new running world record was earned by Dillon Rinn of Australia for running 112 km (69.6 miles) while wearing a 30 lb (13.6 kg) weighted vest, completing the run in 37 hours.
Feeling inspired to create new running goals? Track your progress and be challenged with tips and tricks specific to your running goals on the adidas Running app.