BARCELONA, Spain – Belgian runner Stefaan Engels set a Guinness World Record after crossing the finish line of his 365th consecutive marathon on Saturday.
Engels, dubbed the “Marathon Man,” began the extreme physical challenge a year ago in Barcelona. He competed a race a day in seven countries: Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S.
Engels told The Associated Press that he did it as a personal challenge and to be an example for others.
“After running 20 triathlons in one year, I was not ready to go back to normal life,” he said. “I also wanted to inspire people by showing that if I could run a marathon a day for an entire year, that anyone could run or bike a little each day or do something about their weight problem.”
The 49-year-old Engels ran a total of 9,569 miles. He said the key was a slow pace over the 26.2-miles.
“I recovery quickly. I don’t run fast and my heartbeat is slow, below 100 if I run 10 kilometers, but it is more a mental story,” he said. “The problem was thinking about running a marathon every day. I just told myself to run that day and did not think about the next day or next week.”
Engels averaged around 4 hours to complete a marathon. He said his best time was 2 hours and 56 minutes.
“He ran every race, he never walked. He ran at a rate of 10 kilometers per hour,” said Angels Garriga, the spokeswoman of Engels sponsor, the diet-control company Pronokal.
Engels had asthma as a youngster and doctors told him he should not participate in sports. But he decided to overcome his ailment and ran his first marathon at 25. He said his latest feat is the result of 35 years of exercise.
“There were a lot of moments when I thought, ‘Today, I won’t finish,’ ” he said. “One of the hardest moments was in Mexico City after a long flight, the altitude and I had gotten sick from eating something, and I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ ”
This was Engels’ second attempt at the feat. He injured his leg 18 days into the first try about a year ago and had to wait until he recovered to start over.
The previous record was held by Japanese runner Akinori Kusuda, who ran 52 consecutive marathons at age 65 in 2009.
Engels adds another entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. His 20 Iron Man triathlons in a single year earned the record in 2008.
As for what is next, Engels said he will focus on writing a book, coaching and giving lectures.
“It is time for other things,” he said. “It is time to give my body a rest.”