England’s Kevin Carr has unofficially become the fastest person to circumnavigate the Earth on foot. On 9 April, he returned home to Haytor in Dartmoor National Park in the South of England, 621 days after leaving on 28 July 2013.
If the World Runners Association ratifies his run, Carr, 34, will have beaten the record set by Tom Denniss of Australia by a matter of hours.
Denniss, the subject of “40 Million Steps Around the World” from the May 2015 issue of Runner’s World, has held the record since finishing his own 622-day, 18-country run on 13 September 2013. “I’m fine with him breaking the record,” Denniss said. “In fact, having people attempting to break a record raises the standard and profile of that event and legitimises it. If no one could be bothered with a record, it doesn’t speak well of that event.”
Carr ran through 26 countries and logged 42 kilometres per day, on average, through Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America and the UK. Unlike Denniss, whose wife acted as support crew, Carr travelled alone and pushed all his equipment – food, water, and camping supplies that all weighed upwards of 45kg – in either a pram or a custom-made cart, depending on the country. Like Denniss, he covered 26,232 kilometres.
And they were some eventful kilometres. Carr suffered from heatstroke in Denmark. In India, a truck kicked up dust and fine shards of slate that lodged in his eye. Local factory workers rushed to get him eye drops then insisted he rest – on a heap of slate – until his eye improved. After coming face-to-face with bears in Canada, he was so spooked he had trouble sleeping.
“It’s really wild. You spend an hour looking for a stupid tree to hang your food in,” Carr told Runner’s World. “And you just don’t sleep. So after three or four days, you come to the first town you see and end up [giving yourself] a day off so you can sleep.”
Within days of arriving in Australia, a vehicle hit him. Amazingly, he wasn’t hurt, but his cart needed fixing. In both Western Australia and India, he kept nocturnal hours, grabbing shut-eye during the heat of the day. When temperatures dropped well below zero in the northeastern United States, he had to cut his days short, bag the whole camping thing, and book a room. When his muscles screamed, he gave himself acupuncture.
Carr is the fourth runner to circle the globe according to criteria established by the World Runners Association. Along the way, he met with two of his predecessors for some advice and encouragement – Denniss in Sydney, Australia, and Tony Mangan, who finished his world run last year, in Dublin, Ireland. “He impressed me [with] his integrity,” Mangan said. “Very much a nice, unimposing guy – and very focused.”
These final days have been gruelling. “It’s just been stupid kilometres,” Carr said, referring to the 72 kilometres a day he’s averaged over the past five weeks. (That’s 11 to 13 hours of running. Every day.)
A series of setbacks that began this (US) winter forced the all-out effort. Freezing temperatures and nasty storms in the US pushed Carr south to Florida instead of Boston, his original plan. In Florida, the flu sidelined him for four days. It took two weeks of running at half effort before he recovered.
“The flu really cost me,” he said. “I went from having to do 56 kilometres a day to 68 kilometres a day within two weeks.” After that, extreme flooding in Argentina forced him to take a detour while en route to Buenos Aires. And then he injured his quad. “The finish – it’s been very, very stressful.”
But when Runner’s World reached him on the phone when he was about 11 kilometres out from Okehampton in Devon, England, Carr seemed in good spirits. When he began the run, he’d promised his sponsors a record, and now he’s delivered.
To sweeten the finish, two-time world runner Jesper Olsen joined him on the road today.
“About eight years ago, I remember reading [about Olsen],” Carr said. “I had just finished a 35K’er. I got a running magazine out and it talked about this crazy guy running around the world. I thought, That’s ridiculous! But then the idea got in my head.”
Now, Carr becomes that crazy guy. Maybe it’s because, after all that time on the road, one thing remains unchanged: “I do love running.”