'It was incredible': Barefoot runner does half-marathon on frozen Quebec lake

Karim El Hayani appears to have broken a world record for an event that most of us would avoid at all costs: running a half-marathon barefoot on a frozen lake.

The 27-year-old athlete ran quickly to stay warm in his Guinness World Record attempt

Karim El Hayani trained all winter to try and break the Guinness World Record for the fastest, barefoot half-marathon on snow or ice. (Karim El Hayani/Instagram)

As Karim El Hayani made a mad dash to the finish line, rounding out the half-marathon distance of 21.1 kilometres in just under an hour and 38 minutes, his blistered feet were frozen and cracked. 

In an effort to break a Guinness World Record, El Hayani did the entire run barefoot on Lac Beauport, about 25 kilometres northwest of Quebec City, in –15 C weather on March 3. 

"It was incredible," the 27-year-old said. "It was a great feeling to see all the work and training from the winter pay off."

El Hayani grew up in Spain, before relocating to Arizona's desert climate, and then moving to Bromont in the Eastern Townships, about 88 km southeast of Montreal, a few years ago.

Barefoot running regardless of temperatures

He's spent most of his life running barefoot, in shorts, in the heat, but the snow and ice are still relatively new for him.

"It's very different, especially for me, who is not used to the cold." 

He worked on his technique so that his feet wouldn't linger on the lake, which operates as skating rink in the winter. 

All things considered, El Hayani said he thought his feet would be in worse shape than they were after the run.

"I think doing it quickly and keeping my body warm helped me a lot."

El Hayani even took his shirt off for the final sprint. 

"I love a challenge," he said. 

WATCH: What is it like to run barefoot on ice? Watch how Karim El Hayani did it:

This man ran a half marathon on a frozen

1 year ago
Duration 3:54
Distance runner Karim El Hayani needed a challenge to get him through the pandemic. He found it in a Guinness World Record.

The avid distance runner said he originally planned to tackle the world record next year, but adapted to the circumstances more quickly than anticipated. 

Still, when he first started running on ice, he could only manage about 10 minutes before he had to stop. He said the hardest part was getting into a safe rhythm on the slippery surface. 

But on the day, he was motivated by a small crowd of supporters. 

His time? One hour, 37 minutes and 54 seconds.

"I was very happy. Very, very, very happy."

The Guinness record

The existing Guinness record for the fastest, barefoot, half-marathon on snow or ice was set in 2007 by the Netherlands' Wim Hof, with a time of two hours, 16 minutes and 34 seconds.

El Hayani's run was filmed and posted to the social media pages of La Clinique du Coureur, an international running clinic headquartered in Lac-Beauport, so El Hayani can prove that he did the run.

El Hayani is hoping to hear back from the Guinness organization later this year. 

Another runner, Norwegian Jonas Felde Savaldrud recently ran the distance in just under one hour, 45 minutes and is also awaiting word from Guinness.

El Hayani said Quebec winters can be long and hard if people don't find ways to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. He was back running barefoot outside just two days after his half marathon on Lac Beauport. 


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