In this ever-evolving post we’re sharing some of the most mind bending, fun facts about running that will leave you amazed, and completely over educated in the world of over-achieving runners!
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I say this is an ‘ever-evolving post’ because this world is getting wilder by the day with runners setting new records, or setting themselves increasingly audacious challenges.
From record-shattering marathon times to the insane endurance of ultrarunners, these running facts aren’t just numbers, they’re testaments to human potential and I’ve done my best to expand on them in a way that brings new perspective or relevance to as many runners as possible.
So, whether you’re a seasoned marathoner, a trail enthusiast, or just starting out running, these tidbits are sure to inspire and maybe even challenge your perception of what’s possible. Let’s go!
1. The fastest marathon time is one of the most amazing facts about running
Starting with the mind boggling accomplishment of the current world record for the fastest marathon which is 2:00:35, set by Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya, set in 2023 at the Chicago Marathon. What an incredible runner, who very sadly passed away in a car accident a few months later, in February 2024. RIP Kelvin, you’re a legend and were taken from this world too soon.
Breaking down Kelvin’s marathon record achievement to put it in perspective; it’s like running a half marathon in just over 1 hour, a 10K in about 28:35, a 5K in roughly 14:17, and a mile in an astonishing 4 minutes and 36 seconds.
2. The fastest man on the planet
Usain Bolt became the fastest man alive after he set the world record for the 100 meters with a time of 9.58 seconds during the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. I know right, what a legend to have set a record that still hasn’t been beaten all these years later.
To put that time into perspective, his run speed is equivalent to about 23.35 mph (37.58 km/h), faster than a slow cheetah over short distances – that’s right a cheetah could still easily take on Usain Bolt if the gun noise didn’t scare it off. Cheetahs can run at a speed of 50 – 80 mph, noice! Miaow! 🙀
Now, extrapolating Usain Bolt’s incredible 100m speed to even longer distances, while still maintaining the fun hypothetical that he could keep up this pace (which no one could), gives us these astonishing, and completely theoretical times:
- 1 mile in approximately 2 minutes and 34 seconds
- 5K (3.1 miles) in approximately 7 minutes and 59 seconds
- 10K (6.2 miles) in approximately 15 minutes and 58 seconds
- Half marathon (13.1 miles) in approximately 33 minutes and 41 seconds
- Marathon (26.2 miles) in approximately 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 22 seconds
3. Fastest women’s marathon time
The world record for the fastest women’s marathon is held by Tigist Assefa of Ethopia, who ran the 2023 Berlin Marathon in 2:11:53 which by the way is only around 9% slower than Kelvin Kiptums’s fastest time, also set in 2023.
I’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite running-related facts with us in the comments. Maybe you know about an incredible local race or a runner who’s breaking barriers in your community.
Assefa’s performance is equivalent to running a half marathon in approximately 1 hour 6 minutes, a 10K in about 31:15, a 5K in around 15:38, and a mile in 5:02 – incredible!
4. Courtney Dauwalter’s ultra running dominance is nothing short of epic
American ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter has made a name for herself with her extraordinary endurance running abilities. She won the 2017 Moab 240-mile race in Utah outright, beating the second-place finisher (a male runner) by more than 10 hours. Her winning time was 2 days, 9 hours, and 59 minutes.
In 2023 she made history by becoming the first athlete to win three prestigious 100-mile races in the same year: the Western States 100, the Hardrock 100, and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB).
Dauwalter set new women’s course records in both the Western States 100 and the Hardrock 100 in 2023, further cementing her status as one of the elite ultramarathon runners ever – and she does it all with a huge smile on her face! What a star!
5. Longest distance ever run was recorded on one of the shortest courses – way to mix things up!
The record for the longest distance ever run goes to Ashprihanal Aalto of Finland. He completed the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race in New York City in 2015, covering the distance in 40 days, 9 hours, 6 minutes, and 21 seconds.
This race, which requires runners to average nearly 77 miles a day, is held on a half-mile street loop and is considered one of the most demanding endurance events in the world.
Just think about that for a minute, that’s 6,200 loops around a half mile course! What kind of otherworldly mental strength and endurance must Ashprihanal have to pull off that kind of monotony and pain – my hat goes off to you sir!
6. There’s a real life mountain G.O.A.T., and they call him Kilian
Kilian Jornet, renowned for his extraordinary mountain running achievements, has set several impressive records. He holds the fastest known times for the ascent and descent of major mountains, including the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
Remarkably, Jornet also summited Mount Everest twice in 2017 without supplemental oxygen, and on one of those escents he did it in 26 hours from base camp. Several speed records have been established on Everest, but Jornet claims to have set the fastest known time without the use of ropes or supplemental oxygen.
His other notable records include a speed record for the ascent and descent of Aconcagua and setting a 24-hour uphill skiing record of 23,864 meters. These feats demonstrate Jornet’s exceptional endurance and skill in both running and mountaineering; Skyrunning if you will, yes that’s a thing.
7. 24-Hour women’s running record
Miho Nakata set a world record for the most distance covered in a 24-hour run by a woman. In 2023, she ran 167.996 miles (270.36km) at the 2023 IAU 24-Hour World Championships in Taipei.
Breaking that distance down into a race distance we are more familiar with, 167.996 miles is equivalent to completing just over 6 marathons. Yoikes, you have our attention Miho!
8. The first woman to run Boston Marathon was just as brave as she was an amazing runner
Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry in 1967. During her run, a race official attempted to physically remove her from the race because she was a woman.
Her determination paved the way for women in long-distance running – thank you for your commitment to what is right Kathrine!
9. The calories burned per mile while running
An average runner burns about 100 calories per mile which means in a marathon, a runner burns around 2,600 calories, the equivalent to about five Big Macs if that’s your thing, or wait for it… approximately 11lbs of kale, which would be an endurance effort in itself, haha!
10. Running vs walking calorie consumption
Did you know that running a mile burns roughly 30% more calories than walking the same distance. This is due to the increased energy required for the running motion.
This is why you need to take it easy and ‘settle in for the long run’ (excuse the pun) when you take on an ultramarathon.
11. The oldest marathon runner
Fauja Singh became the oldest person to run a marathon at the age of 100. He completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2011, proving age is just a number when it comes to running.
12. The record for the most marathons in a year is insane
Ricardo Abad from Spain holds the record for the most marathons run in a single year, with 607 marathons in 365 days.
That’s averaging more than one marathon a day, I mean can you imagine how little time you’d get for Netflix?? Tee he he, I made a funny.
13. The highest altitude marathon is no easy challenge
The Everest Marathon, starting at 17,598 feet, is the highest marathon in the world. This extreme altitude makes the race both a physical and a mental challenge for runners.
As someone who has run my fair share of ultra’s at altitude, this race would be incredibly challenging if you don’t put in the right elevation training beforehand.
14. The lifespan of running shoes may surprise you
A typical pair of running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles. For someone running 20 miles a week, that’s a new pair of running shoes, roughly every 15 to 25 weeks.
➡ Now i’d love to get your thoughts on this because this is a topic that’s close to the heart of so many runners – how often do you switch out your running shoes for a new pair?
15. The world’s largest marathon
The New York City Marathon is the largest in the world, with over 53,000 finishers in 2019. It’s a melting pot of cultures and running styles, and one of those bucket list marathon races for so many people around the world.
16. Reaction time is essential in 100m races
In elite sprinting, reaction time is absolutely crucial. The average reaction time for Olympic sprinters is around 0.16 seconds.
Usain Bolt’s reaction time in his world record race was 0.146 seconds, demonstrating the razor-thin margins between victory and defeat. It just goes to show that how you start can easily determine how you finish in a race like that.
17. A sprinter’s stride length and cadence is wild
Here’s another sprinting fact for you – Usain Bolt’s stride is a phenomenon in itself, during his world record 100m sprint, he averaged a stride length of 2.44 meters and took just 41 steps to complete the race, compared to 45 or more for his competitors.
This combination of stride length and cadence is a key element in his unprecedented speed, he also happens to be 6 feet 5 inches which is notably taller than his competition. The average height of world-class 100m sprinters typically ranges from about 1.75 meters (5 feet 9 inches) to 1.85 meters (6 feet 1 inch).
18. When humans challenge a horse to an endurance race, sometimes we actually win!
In the Man versus Horse Marathon (one of the more bizarre running races around the world), an annual 22 mile race in Wales UK, humans race against horses.
Surprisingly, humans have won on three occasions, highlighting our endurance capabilities.
19. The longest continuous run will astound you
The longest continuous run is 350 miles without sleep, achieved by Dean Karnazes. Dean is a total legend in the ultramarathon world, so much so, we just had to interview him.
This ultra-endurance feat showcases the incredible limits to which human stamina can be pushed, and fun fact, sometimes I get to say hello to Dean on my local trails here in Marin County, California as he lives down the road from the Trail & Kale HQ.
20. There’s actually a race with the elevation gain of 2 Mt. Everests
Known as one of the toughest ultramarathons, the Barkley Marathons in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, consists of five 20-mile loops, totaling 100 miles.
What’s mind-bending is the forested terrain that runners need to navigate themselves through, and the elevation gain which is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest twice.
Then there’s the low finisher rate, with only 15 finishers since its inception in 1986. You think you’re tough? Try running the Barkley Marathons race!
21. The first 100 mile race is still one of the most iconic
The Western States 100 is an iconic 100-mile trail race, from Squaw Valley to Auburn in California, and it was the world’s first 100-mile trail race.
It began in 1974 and has become a cornerstone of ultra running. The race traverses the Sierra Nevada Mountains and ends in the foothills of the Sacramento Valley, a grueling but beautifully scenic journey. I personally love running around those areas.
22. Looking for one of the most challenging trail races? Try the Tor des Géants
The Tor des Géants in Italy is one of the most challenging ultratrails in the world. Runners cover 205 miles (if they finish) and climb over 80,000 feet in the Italian Alps.
What’s awe-inspiring is the time limit of 150 hours, pushing runners to their physical and mental limits in some of the most beautiful but daunting terrains.
I hope you enjoyed learning about these fun running facts! From Bolt’s lightning pace to Dauwalter’s ultra endurance, these fun facts about running aren’t just about breaking records; they’re about pushing the limits of what we think is possible.
Now, I’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite running-related facts with us. Maybe you know about an incredible local race or a runner who’s breaking barriers in your community.
Let’s keep adding to this list and celebrate the amazing feats and fun tidbits that make running such an inspiring sport.