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Belgian man completes 365 marathons in 365 consecutive days (go.com)
145 points by jeffepp on Feb 5, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

Unfathomable, I have marathon friends who run a marathon every month. I thought that was crazy.

Before this guy, I thought these monks were the ultimate in mind-and-spirit-and-body physical endurance:

> Only 46 men have completed the 1,000-day challenge since 1885. It takes seven years to complete, as the monks must undergo other Buddhist training in meditation and calligraphy, and perform general duties within the temple.

...The final two years of the 1000-day challenge are even more daunting. In the sixth year they run 60km each day for 100 consecutive days and in the seventh year they run 84km each day for 100 consecutive days. This is the equivalent of running two Olympic marathons back-to-back every day for 100 days.


For a while, I was doing marathons or above every month. It kind of worked out perfectly with the healing/ready-for-the-next-one balance. I never did long runs (>22mi) for training unless I felt like it.

This is literally unfathomable to me. This guy has to be some sort of serious genetic freak. I workout regularly, but I think I just got chin splints just from reading that article. When you consider how even the most elite athletes fall victim to overtraining, I can't even imagine how his body was able to hold up to this. Truly amazing.

There's a theory from the latest TED talk that says our survival prior to inventing weapons (like spears) depended on running other animals to exhaustion.


The San Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert still do this today. This BBC clip on persistence hunting (narrated by David Attenborough!) is worth a watch; their endurance is absolutely incredible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=826HMLoiE_o

Sorry to be a snob but it's not a recent theory, I heard about something like this (men being able to sweat and run long distances, being scavengers, competing with hyenas) about 25 years ago.

chin splints presumably from your jaw dropping?

So much better than the typical spelling/grammar correction ;-)

"This guy has to be some sort of serious genetic freak."

Doing it every day would be very difficult, but doing it six days a week wouldn't be that hard. The term 'overtraining syndrome' is actually a misnomer, because you don't get it from training too much, but rather from chronic glycogen deficiency. As long as you eat a banana or an energy bar every 45 minutes and drink diluted gatorade you'd be fine with that workload.

The biggest concern would definitely be joint problems and not muscular issues. The reality is that this guy probably did do a lot of damage to his body, but was able to mask it using an anti-inflammatory/analgesic drug like ibuprofen or marijuana.

"Engels had asthma as a youngster and doctors told him he should not participate in sports. But he decided to overcome his ailment and ran his first marathon at 25. He said his latest feat is the result of 35 years of exercise."

In other words, he also did it at age 49! Just awesome. (with a best time of under 3 hours, too)

Christopher McDougall, in his book "Born to Run" and in various talks, tells us that humans maintain their endurance until a surprising age. A 49 year old has the endurance of an 18 year old.

That's right, I remember that stat now -- a slightly later peak from memory (compared to other athletes), but an extremely prolonged taper.

He was 49 years old. Wouldn't this cause problems for his hips and knees? I'm all for pushing physical limits, but not to the point where it could backfire. Even 20 year-old professional footballers (soccer) are told to take 2 weeks complete rest at the end of a season, and during the season they only train maybe 3-4 days a week.

I hope this guy doesn't regret doing this down the line, because right now it is very inspiring.

After the first 30 marathons, his body has probably settled into a pretty efficient, gentle way to run, out of necessity. There are, in fact, ways to run that put less wear and tear on your body.

It's probably possible to go out in a single day with poor form and do more damage to your body than this guy did in an entire year.

I'm sure if he had a serious problem he would have been injured months ago.

I'm not talking immediate damage, just the difference between getting a hip replacement in 10 years versus not.

I'd be more concerned about his heart. He's probably a genetic freak or someone conditioned in some unfathomable way.

He says about his heart rate that it's "below 100 if I run 10 kilometers". That seems pretty amazing to me. I've been measuring my heart rate recently and mine's at about 150 bpm if I run at a medium pace.

Yeah, ultra runners like this guy are pretty awesome. There are others doing amazing things too. Scott Jurek broke the 24-hour run record last year by running 165.7 miles in 24-hours. Anton Krupicka averages 200 miles a week in training. These guys race 100 mile races through the mountains. How long does that take? Geoff Roes won the Western States last year in 15:07:04. That's averaging 9:04 miles over rough terrain.

Most people could run a marathon if they trained for it. The human body is made for running.

Not too long ago I read Haruki Murakami’s What I Think About When I Think About Running and Christopher McDougall's Born to Run : The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners , and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

Both are quite good, worth reading.

Running these durations and distances is just plain amazing. I liked Murakami for the inner thoughts of a runner, and he talks about marathon runs as well.

McDougall's book almost seems unreal, and the coverage of appropriate running style and footwear is very interesting.

The europeans are on a complete different level. The Tour du Mont Blanc is insane, a lot of mountain/ultra runners go there and can't finish it. I've done it in 5 days and was exhausted (had a bad fever one day, heel problems, you name it.) But the elite guys do it under 22hs!

UTMB is cool, and then right next door there's the Tor de Geants: http://www.tordesgeants.it/ The Europeans are kinda nutz.

Scott set the American record, Yiannis Kouros still holds the world 24 hr records (180 miles on the road, 188 on the track).

Engels averaged around four hours to complete a marathon. He said his best time was 2 hours, 56 minutes.

The Boston Marathon is the most prestigious marathon. There are only a small amount of spots for charity runners, the rest are qualifiers.

At that phenomenal pace of 2 hrs 56 min, 49-year old Engels is beating the qualification straitjackets for elite (non-professional) runners in ALL age groups.


I'm actually kind of impressed by the scheduling and logistics of this over and above the physical aspect. How do you find 365 consecutive days with marathons, and figure out the schedule to do it, overcome travel delays, etc? Not to mention sleeping. It seems impossible.

This article suggests he's not actually running in organized races every day:

"He will do his 42km (26-mile) daily jogs at Battersea Park every day until Monday..."

Of course, anyone who has ever run a marathon knows it's 42.195km (26-miles 385 yards) and we'd appreciate it if you wouldn't round down, thank you very much. :-)

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon#Distance for the interesting history behind the distance.

I just quoted from the article. I know the history.

The travel logistics for running in daily organized marathons would be too much. If he were putting daily flights/travel to the next city where there was a scheduled marathon, it would probably be impossible.

That said, still very impressive. Running 26.2 miles a day is amazing. Anyone who can run over 100 miles per week deserves nothing but praise.

I expected to read he almost walked them but it turns out it was 4 hour marathons every day for a year? Simply staggering!

Is it just me or does the photo in the article have a time of 9:48? 9 hours,48 minutes.

That race has to be a rarity since he's supposed to average 4hrs.

I'd guess that's a HH:MM:SS display, and we're not seeing the whole thing.

>I'd guess that's a HH:MM:SS display, and we're not seeing the whole thing.

>That's supposed to be a picture of his last race, which he finished in 4h21m59sec according to this (Dutch) article: http://sport.be.msn.com/running/nl/nieuws/?Article_ID=492504

I think the first of the above statements is correct and the portion of the time that we see differs from that indicated in the second above statement because runners typically wear a timing chip so their finishing time often varies from the official race clock by a few minutes based on how long after the race started that person started the race.

That's supposed to be a picture of his last race, which he finished in 4h21m59sec according to this (Dutch) article: http://sport.be.msn.com/running/nl/nieuws/?Article_ID=492504

In some big races, they start in waves so that the clock is total time, but doesn't represent the runner's time. They use chips to log start and end time.

i.e. He could've started 4 hours later than the first wave.

I assumed that was a pace time (9 minutes 48 seconds per mile).

Maybe it's the time of day?

Amazing video that talks about the concept of running and how it relates to evolution: http://www.ted.com/talks/christopher_mcdougall_are_we_born_t...

Oddly, there is nothing in Belgian media about this.

EDIT: correction! http://standaard.be/artikel/detail.aspx?artikelid=DMF2011020...

"He said the key was a slow pace over the 26.2-miles."

"He ran every race, he never walked. He ran at a rate of 10 kilometers per hour"

The man ran 6:13 miles[1]...in a marathon...each day, for 365 days in a row.

And he calls that a slow pace!

[1] Update: It's actually 6.2 miles per hour (the equivalent of a 9:40 mile), - still not too slow. I apologize for confusing miles per hour with mile times].

10 km/h is approximately 9:40 per mile. Not a fast pace.

[BTW, what he did is insane and probably very dangerous for most people to attempt. The odds of getting injured/sick/suffering long term health consequences are high.]

Very true, thanks for pointing this out.

At 9:40/mile my heartrate won't go below 180, I'm 27...

Exactly! I don't understand how his heart rate is below 100 when running 10 kilometers (he says).

Eddy Merckx (bicyclist) used to have a resting heart rate of 26...

Try working on your briething. I've never run very far let alone a marathon(though I have played football non-stop for several hours many times when I was younger)... but 've found that by taking deep breathes while I run/jog means I can go for longer and without discumfort(until I stop) as opposed to when almost panting like a dog, it's as-if it has physchological effect and my body just refuses to work.

More power to him. When I was young and skinny, I started noticing effects at a sustained 60 miles/week.

I really don't think he's setting a dangerous example, because most people trying to emulate him would find that something gives--joint, muscle, whatever--before it got to the point of danger.

It's even more impressive than this. He actually started on Januari 1st 2010, but got injured and kept doing marathons with a handbike. If you don't discount his injury period (during which he still was doing marathons, but not running), he did 401 marathons in a row!

I can recommend watching Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man in which he ran 43 marathons in 51 days for the charity Sport Relief.


On a related note, Ian Sharman apparently just won (today) the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in an amazing 12:44:35. That's 7:38 per mile for 100 miles.

Even as an ultrarunner, I find this mind-blowing.

The physical limits of humans still keep on progressing.

Really magnificent results. This is not result just of exercise but probably genetics, there is no many people that can do what this man does.

This sounds like a very good way to kill yourself dead.

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