We encourage everyone to get outside and run in the winter, with one golden rule: layer up. As long as you’ve got the right gear, winter running can actually be quite enjoyable. But while most of us are pulling on our thermal tights and socks, there are a few runners who have been doing the exact opposite. In the last few weeks, the barefoot half-marathon on snow record has come down not once, not twice, but three times, after being left untouched for years. The most recent attempt was done by Max Weigand in Basil, Switzerland, where he smashed the most recent record by 28 minutes, completing the 21.1-kilometre distance in 1:12:38.
Until this year, the barefoot half-marathon record belonged to Dutch athlete Win Hof, who ran a time of 2:16:34 in 2007. Seemingly no one has attempted to break this record in the last decade (and if they did, they were unsuccessful) until earlier this year, when Jonas Felde Sevaldrud of Norway lowered the record by more than 30 minutes, clocking a 1:44:58. Then, less than one month later, Quebec runner Karim El Hayani broke the record yet again, this time coming in at 1:40:49. Right around the same time El Hayani was making his record-breaking attempt, Weigand was across the ocean doing the same thing.
Weigand is originally from Germany, and formerly ran for the German National Track Team. While he no longer runs competitively, running is clearly still a big part of his life, and his background in competitive running gave him the leg-up on the record. He created a video to document his attempt, in which he claimed that he was in shape to run about 1:10 for the half if it were on an actual course, but was expecting to be much slower in the snow without shoes. To train for his attempt, Weigand ran all winter with no shirt to help him get used to the cold (usually keeping his shoes on), and once they finally had some snow in Switzerland, it was go-time.
Running circles around a small field, he completed the first kilometre far ahead of his goal pace in 3:15, but decided that he felt good enough to keep going. According to Weigand, his training for the run made the cold outside temperature not a problem, but of course, the real struggle was his cold feet, which really started to become a problem after the 10K mark. At that point, he described the feeling as “running on needles”, and said it was the most painful thing he’s ever experienced in his life. The sun finally came out with two kilometres to go, which allowed him to push the pace and close the run in a 3:21 and 3:10.
At this point, neither Sevaldrud’s, El Hayani’s, nor Wiegand’s records have been ratified by Guinness, so we’ll have to wait a while before any of these records become official. With spring right around the corner, if anyone wants to beat Weigand’s attempt, they’re going to have to get out there before the snow melts.