Longest-Held Running Records

From Hicham El Guerroj’s magical mile to Billy Bland’s Bob Graham Round, there are some running performances that stand the test of time

Longest-Held Running Records

Michael Johnson (43.18)

Event: 400m

Years held: 16

In a distance dominated largely by Americans, a world record has only been set twice since the introduction of electronic timed races in 1975. Lee Evans held the record for a whopping 20 years when he recorded a time of 43.86 in Mexico City 1968. This was subsequently broken by Butch Reynolds in 1988 when he ran 43.29 in Zurich. Eleven years later and who else but Michael Johnson stepped in, clocking 43.18 in Seville. The record still stands to this day.

Longest-Held Running Records

Kenenisa Bekele (12:37:35)

Event: 5000m

Years held: 11

The 5000m record changed hands regularly in the 20th century, being held by Vladimir Kutz and Haile Gebrselassie among others. So it is somewhat surprising that in an age with more modern technology than ever, in an event where records are constantly being broken, that a record is still being held after 11 years. In 2004, Kenenisa Bekele ran a record-shattering time of 12:37:35 in Hengelo, Netherlands, which to this day, has yet to be beaten.


Longest-Held Running Records

Hicham El Guerrouj (3:43.14)

Event: The mile

Years held: 16

This former Olympic event has seen much progression, and grew in popularity when the chase for the four-minute-mile took place (Roger Bannister finally breaking that barrier in 1954). But even more sublime is Moroccan’s Hicham El Guerrouj’s time of 3:43:13 set in Rome 1999, which is still yet to be beaten.

Longest-Held Running Records

Yiannis Kouros (188.59 miles)

Event: 24-hour run

Years held: 18

When it comes to running ultras, one man is considered to be the greatest of all time. Yiannis Kouros holds many records over many distances – 1000K and 1000 miles included – but it’s his 24hour record that he set in 1997 that stands above them all. The event, which involves running as far as you can in the space of a day, saw Kouros run a mind-blowing 188.59 miles. Upon finishing he declared: “This record will stand for centuries.” No one’s got close to it so far.


Longest-Held Running Records

Billy Bland pictured far right

Billy Bland (13hrs 53mins)

Event: Bob Graham Round

Years held: 33

Not heard of the Bob Graham Round? It’s a behemoth. Named after the man himself, after he ran 42 fells in a 24-hour time period, it’s one of fell running’s iconic challenges. Set in the heart of the Lake District, the fells are no easy task, including the likes of Skiddaw and England’s highest mountain – Scafell Pike. Billy Bland currently holds the fastest time of 13hrs 53mins, which he set back in 1982. You can try it at any time, with any route of your choosing, but beating that time will take something special.

Men's Running

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