World Record: The Longest Non-Stop Run by a Human Being

Running is a much-beloved pastime, but distance plays a key role in how long people can run. Many athletes have run impressive distances, but few have done so without taking a break. Who holds the world record for the longest non-stop run by a human being?

Dean Karnazes completed the longest non-stop run by a human being in 2005. He ran 350 miles (560 km) non-stop. It took him 80 hours and 44 minutes. This record was not recorded by Guinness, but has been upheld by other organizations. He is considered one of the best runners in the world.

Dean Karnazes is fascinating, especially when you consider that many people only run 1-2 miles at a time and struggle to do so. More information about Dean Karnazes and how far people typically run is below.

The World Record for the Longest Non-Stop Run

Dean Karnazes grew up in San Clement, California, which is located in Orange County, with his two siblings. He was born in Inglewood, California. His parents are named Nick and Fran. (Source)

He started running when he was in kindergarten, as he ran to and from school. As he became bored with the same simple route, he found new, longer routes that were more interesting. He started running in school events shortly after that, and he helped organize them starting in third grade.

In junior high, he got his first mentor: Jac McTavish, his track coach. Because of his track coach and own determination, he won the 1-mile California State Long-Distance Championship. However, Karnazes didn’t always enjoy running. He actually stopped running for 15 years because he didn’t get along with the track coach at his high school, Benner Cummings, even though he succeeded and ran more than his peers every practice. Luckily, however, he didn’t stop running for good and started running more often after graduating high school.

Dean Karnazes participated in many races before and after his infamous 350-mile run, although it is what he is best known for. He participated in the following:

  • “The Relay” (a 199-mile (320 km) run from Calistoga to Santa Cruz)
  • Marathon to the South Pole in −13 °F (−25 °C) temperatures without snowshoes
  • Marathon in each of the 50 states in 50 consecutive days

Karnazes also won the following athletic awards:
Winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles (217 km) across Death Valley in 120 °F (49 °C) temperatures) in 2004
Winner of the Vermont Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run in 2006
Overall Winner of the 4 Deserts Race Series in 2008
Became the 100-Mile/1 Day Silver Buckleholder at the Western States Endurance Run from 1995–2006 (11 years in a row)
Competitor magazine Endurance Athlete of the Year Award winner in 2005, 2006, and 2008
ESPN ESPY Award winner of the “Best Outdoor Athlete” award in 2007
Was put in the Men’s Journal Adventure Hall of Fame in 2007
Was part of the Outside magazine Ultimate Top 10 Outdoor Athletes in 2004

Dean Karnazes is considered one of the world’s best runners for good reason, especially because he didn’t take breaks during his 350-mile run in 2005. However, he isn’t the only person who has run long distances. Most people who run long distances take breaks.

World Record for the Longest Run with Stops

Johnny Salo currently holds the world record for running the longest distance because he won the 1929 trans-continental race from New York City, NY to Los Angeles, California. He ran from March 31st to June 17th, an impressive 79 days. He took many breaks during this race, so he doesn’t qualify for the record of the longest run without taking a break. (Source)

The trans-continental race that he won was 3,553.6 miles (5,850 km) long and it took Salo a total of 525 hours, 57 minutes, and 20 seconds to complete. He likely would have finished quicker, but he got sick on the first day because it was too hot, so he slowed down slightly. He still won the race. (Source)

Salo took many breaks during this 79-day race. He had to stop for a few minutes on the 3rd day because he was brushed by a car while running in New Jersey. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt other than a few scratches and bruises. He was able to avoid other injuries by leaping onto the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, Johnny Salo died a mere 2 years after this famous race, in 1931, so he didn’t have time to participate in many other races.

How Long do People Typically Run?

People typically run for 1-2 miles at a time. They take running breaks and walk until they are ready to run again. However, if someone is training to run in a marathon, they will slowly run more miles until they can run for 26 miles at once.

Most physically fit, but not competitive, runners can complete 1 mile in 9-12 minutes. However, that is only the case if they have been consistently running for at least a few weeks. People who don’t run often and aren’t competitive runners can typically complete 1 mile in 12-15 minutes. (Source)

When running, don’t worry about the amount of time that it takes you to complete a mile. Instead, slowly reduce your time as you become stronger and healthier. It will take you time to reach your running goals, but that is completely normal.

How to Increase the Distance You can Run

To increase the amount of distance that you can run in a single running session, go running consistently for at least a few months until you reach your distance goal. Take a different route every day so you don’t get bored. If you get bored on your run, you may go slower. However, keep your phone on you at all times if you go running in unfamiliar areas, just in case you get lost or need to call for help.

Go running 2-3 days every week. When you are not running, participate in other forms of exercise like swimming, yoga, or lifting weights. These other forms of exercise will help build your muscles, which will help you get stronger and faster while running. (Source)

As you continue running, speed up your pace and extend your run. Only increase your pace when you feel comfortable doing so, don’t overdo it. Lengthen the distance of your run by 10% every week, no more. This will let you increase the distance of your runs without becoming overly exhausted.

Don’t necessarily focus on your pace when you are trying to increase the distance that you can run. Your pace will come later, focus on the distance you can run. Endurance is better than speed, especially if you are working on your distance running so you can participate in a marathon.

When running, drink plenty of water and take breaks when you need to. It took Dean Karnazes over 10 years of running consistently to be able to run so far without taking a break, and you have no need to deprive yourself of a break when you need to take one.

Tribes in Africa that Run Long Distances Non-Stop

A tribe in East Africa is known for running long distances without taking a break. The Kalenjin tribe, located in Kenya, trains those who want to run long distances without taking a break. They even go through a form of initiation. Many people from the Kalenjin tribe have participated in national races, including the Olympics, and won. (Source)

One of the reasons why they can run for so long and run extremely quickly, as many can run 1 mile in under four and a half minutes, is because they have thin ankles and calves. While to some that may seem like a disadvantage, as thin calves and ankles can mean that they are weak and are prone to injury, that is not the case. Their calves and ankles reduce the weight of their bodies and help them run effectively.

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