This Quebec resident set a record for running the fastest half marathon barefoot on ice or snow

Andrew Dawson
·3-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy of Karim El Hayani
Photo credit: Courtesy of Karim El Hayani

From Runner's World

Barefoot running isn’t a new phenomenon. Barefoot running on a frozen lake? That’s a new one for us here at Runner’s World.

It first came to our attention in January when Norwegian YouTuber Jonas Felde Sevaldrud broke the world record for running a half marathon barefoot on snow in a time of 1:44:58. A few weeks later, on March 6, Karim El Hayani, a Spanish man who currently lives in Bromont, Quebec, bested that record when he ran 1:36:45.

El Hayani, 27, has been a runner since he was 14 years old. He tried running with shoes at first, but quickly opted to run barefoot; he and his friends always played barefoot in his home country of Spain, and the sensation of his feet confined in shoes wasn’t pleasant to him.

Since then, he’s been running barefoot, even as he’s moved to colder parts of the world. He continued to run barefoot

Even when El Hayani moved to Quebec a few years ago, he continued to run barefoot in the cold. At first, he could run for 10 minutes before it became too cold, but he adapted.

'The sensation is unique, it is difficult to describe,' El Hayani told Runner’s World. 'At first, and especially if I don’t start to run right away, it is very cold for my feet, but when I start running and my body warms up, I’m good to go.'

In November he decided that he wanted to go after an obscure Guinness world record: the fastest barefoot half marathon on snow or ice. Initially, he wanted to do it next year, but after a successful half marathon run in snowy and icy conditions that yielded no wounds on his feet, he decided to try it sooner.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Karim El Hayani
Photo credit: Courtesy of Karim El Hayani

He mapped out a 1,300-meter looped course on the frozen Lake Beauport in Quebec, but on the day of his run, conditions, in El Hayani’s eyes, were not ideal. Ideal would’ve been temperatures between -10 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit with snow, preferably hard snow, on the surface. Instead, it rained two days before the attempt and temperatures dropped as low as -30.

'The track transformed to ice,' El Hayani said.'So 30 minutes before the race, I had to learn how to run on ice, because I didn’t practice on that type of surface before. I didn’t think I would have to run on an ice rink.'

Not only was the course slippery, but the soles of his feet were also sticking to the ice. To counteract that, El Hayani had to move faster. He also had two blisters that had developed on a training run a week prior and were not completely healed. On top of that, the changes in pace required to make the turns meant a lot of slowing down and speeding up.

'The whole race felt like a huge interval training,' he said.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Karim El Hayani
Photo credit: Courtesy of Karim El Hayani

El Hayani finished the half marathon in 1:36:45, eight minutes ahead of the previous record. Quickly afterwards, he put on his sandals to warm up, and he took a few days off running to let his blisters heal.

Though the record is unofficial until certified by the Guinness World Records, he’s got his eyes on besting his own record in the future—he wants to break 1:25 next time. In addition to his winter goals, he also planning to tackle the Marathon des Sables (in Spain, Morocco, or Peru) and also becoming one of the best athletes, with shoes or barefoot, at the 100K distance on roads and trails.

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