A Norwegian YouTuber and runner named Jonas Felde Sevaldrud recently broke the record for the fastest barefoot half-marathon on snow or ice. The previous record was 2:16:34, a time that Dutch athlete Wim Hof ran in 2007. Sevaldrud, who goes by the name Sevald on Youtube, ran a looped 21.1K course in 1:44:58, smashing Hof’s record. As he shows in his video recap of the run, though, this result didn’t come easily.
In his video, Sevald says he started barefoot running after reading Born to Run. Before reading this book, he had been struggling to find the motivation to train during the pandemic, but the idea of minimalistic running inspired him to ditch his shoes and try hitting the road barefoot. “But I live in Norway,” he says, “and Norway [in] winter time is really not the best place to be running barefoot. But I’m not going to let that stop me.”
He started things off with a 5K test run, and he was surprised to find that running in sub-zero temperatures on snow and ice really wasn’t that bad. With one run in the bag, he decided to look for a challenge, which is how he stumbled upon Hof’s barefoot world record. Hof, who has made a name for himself through freezing-temperature pursuits (he’s nicknamed The Iceman), ran his 2:16 half-marathon in Finland, braving the cold in nothing but shorts and a toque.
Sevald ran in a long-sleeved shirt and leggings, but the record wasn’t for running almost naked like Hof did, it was just for running barefoot. Going into the run, Sevald laid out his hopes. “My goal is not only to beat his record — I want to smash it.” He was aiming for 1:50, which would better Hof’s mark by 26 minutes.
Speaking to the camera on his run, Sevald admitted that he was very new to barefoot running, so he didn’t have callouses built up. While he was able to handle the cold, his feet couldn’t take the terrain (he says the ground was covered in sharp, icy snow), and horrible blisters and cuts forced him to quit after 10K of running.
Even after this brutal attempt, Sevald wasn’t ready to give up. He took some time to let his feet recover, but a few weeks later, he was back at it. This time around, he picked a snowy day, and in the video he says the ground was “much softer and hopefully better for my feet.”
Running with a friend in front of him to film the entire half-marathon (video proof is required in order for a record to be ratified by Guinness World Records), Sevald stopped every 5K or so to check on his feet. After 5K, they were holding up well. At 10K, the dead skin from his previous attempt was peeling off, but there was no blood. At around 16K, his feet weren’t bleeding, but he says they started to get cold. “It’s hurting quite a bit,” he says in the video.
With just 2K to go, he had genuine worries for his feet. “Right now, my feet don’t feel so cold,” he says. “Maybe they are so cold that they’re just numb.” Frostbite was a concern for this whole run, but since he was so close to the finish, he carried on and eventually crossed the line in an impressive 1:44:58. His feet had started to bleed a bit by the end, but they were nowhere near as bad as they had been on his first attempt.
Sevald’s new record has yet to be ratified by Guinness, but he went even faster than he had hoped to run, shattering Hof’s mark by more than half an hour.