Man Breaks World Record For Fastest Barefoot Half Marathon Run On Ice

Josef Salek

Man Breaks World Record For Fastest Barefoot Half Marathon Run On Ice

Allan Damba • Abbey Carney (Runner's World) • 17:13 - 20.03.2024

Josef Šálek of Czechia ran 1:50:42 in freezing temperatures, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts.

Josef Šálek is the proud new Guinness World Record holder for the fastest half marathon completed barefoot on ice/snow, a feat he accomplished in 1:50:42 clad in nothing but a pair of short tights and an ecstatic grin. The Czech therapist, lecturer, and personal development coach bested the previous record of 2:16:34 set by Dutch runner Wim ‘The Iceman’ Hof in 2007.

It’s not his first world record either. In 2023, the fitness enthusiast proved his extreme abdominal strength by holding a plank for 9 hours, 38 minutes, and 47 seconds, besting the previous record by more than eight minutes.

The new record for the fastest barefoot half marathon on ice was set on an open circuit in a valley near the highest mountain in Czechia (previously referred to as the Czech Republic), measured by a professional surveyor.

Technically, Šálek’s preparation for the record began back in 2013, before he even became a runner. He started hosting workshops where he would walk barefoot over hot coals and glass shards. “I needed to show people how to manage their fears and lack of self-confidence in practice,” he wrote on his website.

Then in 2017, after going through a breakup and struggling with unhealthy eating and alcohol and cigarette use, he decided to try running. It provided a distraction from his heartbreak.

“My communication with my body developed strongly,” he wrote, “and after only a few months I had the need to run barefoot and half-body. Since then, I regularly run several tens of kilometers or marathons year-round barefoot.”

In the two weeks leading up to his official record attempt, Šálek submerged his feet in a tub of ice everyday. The night before, the course froze over and it appeared that it wouldn’t be possible for Šálek to run that day after all, but after volunteers raked the ground, the athlete was able to embark on his mission to embrace the pain cave.

On the course, Šálek zigzagged and adapted his running pattern to keep from slipping on the ice. It was by no means easy—picture running an 8:27/mi average pace over sharp, slick ice whilst barefoot and scantily clad—but thanks to his training and mental fortitude, Šálek conquered his goal, and made it to the finish line with a broad smile on his face. The Guinness World Records official adjudicator, Pravin Patel, was on site to announce Šálek’s successful attempt and to hand him his certificate.

After his abdominal plank world record, Šálek told an interviewer, “I knew that in my case it’s not about demanding physical training, but rather about mastering the process… about my mindset.” One of the mental techniques he practiced was acceptance; he embraced the difficulty of the exercise. Making peace with the physical discomfort probably went a long way in helping him towards his new superlative on the ice as well.