David Staley broke the record for running the longest distance on a treadmill in a 12-hour period with a run of 81.62 miles. (Photo: Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Most of us struggle to spend 20 minutes at a time on a treadmill. David Staley did 12 hours.
The Denver-area runner broke the Guinness World Record for greatest distance run on a treadmill in 12 hours on Saturday (Aug. 1), logging 81.62 miles on a treadmill at the University of Denver’s Ritchie Center from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Staley’s record beat one set last year by his friend Denis Mikhaylov, who ran 80.53 miles on a treadmill in New York City.
“It was in a friendly spirit,” Staley, 30, tells Yahoo Health. “I thought Denis could have done better and figured if I give it a go, maybe Denis will come back and crush it.”
While Staley trained for this record (which he referred to as “the Guinness thing”), he stresses that he doesn’t like competition, noting that he often decides to do a race at the last minute and does them on occasion to challenge himself. “If I show up to a race and people are stretching, I know I’m in the wrong place,” he says.
Staley moved to Colorado from the East Coast last year and realized he was good at 24-hour runs, a few of which he did on a whim (and won). Before deciding to go for the record, he says, he was often running only two to three times a week, averaging 30 miles a week. “There was no schedule, no thought,” he says. “I just ran if something interesting came up.”
He did two “tests” before the big attempt — a five-hour run and a seven-hour run — and felt like he could tackle the record. “If it’s something that really taxes the mind, with some physicality thrown in there, I feel like I have a shot,” he says. “Staring at a white wall while on a treadmill for 12 hours … it seems like I can do OK.”
Despite what you’d think, Staley says he wasn’t bored by his record-breaking run, since “there was always something to concentrate on.”
While there was no TV, Staley’s friends entertained him with dance parties and stationary bike challenges while he ran. After about six hours, he says, his stomach started churning, which actually ended up distracting him. “I just went into a pain cave and stayed there for the rest of the time,” he says.
Staley on the treadmill during his world-record-beating run. (Photo: Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Of course, he needed to get calories during the 12-hour run, so he ate … potato chips and plain bacon cheeseburgers. “I don’t eat processed sugar, and I don’t do well with most of the sport things that are out there,” he explains, adding that he pretty much went without food for the second half of the run due to his upset stomach.
Post-run, Staley says, he felt better than he thought he would. He even went to work on Monday and walked up seven flights of stairs like he normally does.
But how is his feat even possible?
“The average person cannot do this,” exercise physiologist Frank B. Wyatt, a professor in the department of athletic training and exercise physiology at Midwestern State University, tells Yahoo Health. “But every elite athlete was ‘average’ at one time.”
Wyatt says training plays a large role in being able to pull off this kind of feat, but so does a genetic predisposition to running, nutrition, and hydration, as well as psychological motivation.
Exercise physiologist Carol Ewing Garber, PhD, a professor of movement sciences and education at Columbia University, tells Yahoo Health that running on a treadmill for 12 hours is definitely a mental game — as are all athletics. “It is akin to swimming laps or any long-distance event. We all come up with ways to help ourselves keep going,” she says.
Staley’s record run is essentially the equivalent of completing an ultra-endurance event, she says, adding that “with proper training and nutrition, this is certainly doable.”
Staley says he’d like to try this record, or something similar, again: “I have a pretty short-term memory. I’ll forget about this.”
As for those of us who struggle with even a few minutes on the treadmill, Staley says you should just get outside. “It’s so much easier to be outside,” he says. “I don’t know why you would run on a treadmill.”
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