Endurance athletes regularly push their bodies to places that many humans simply can’t. Whether it’s running, swimming, or biking unthinkable distances, becoming an endurance athlete takes undeniable determination and commitment. With that in mind, here are 10 endurance athletes that you have probably never heard of, but should know.
Jasmin Paris is a British ultrarunner who, in 2019, won the 268-mile Spine Race along the Pennine Way. Paris was the first woman to win the race outright, and did so in 83 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds. En-route to her victory, Paris broke the previous course record by 12 hours, even while stopping to express milk for her 14-month-old daughter.
Long-distance swimming pioneer Lynne Cox made history in 1972 when she set the record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel from England to France in nine hours and 57 minutes. In 1987, Cox became the first person to swim from the U.S. to the Soviet Union. The 2.7-mile journey took her two hours and six minutes to complete.
Lael Wilcox entered her first long-distance cycling race in 2014 when she entered the 1000-mile Holyland Challenge in Israel. She was the race’s youngest rider and the only woman who competed that year. In 2016, Wilcox entered the 4,200-mile Trans Am Bike Race across the contiguous U.S. Wilcox averaged 235 miles per day and became both the first woman and first American to win the Trans Am Bike Race.
Colorado ultrarunner Maggie Guterl became the first woman to win the grueling Big’s Backyard Ultra. Guterl won the 2019 race, outlasting all other athletes and covering 250 miles.
“When I finished, a woman came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t tell want to tell you this, but you were running for all of the women and an entire gender,’” Guterl told Runner’s World. “That was in my head the whole race and it was so surreal when I was the last one standing.”
After falling in love with marathon running after college, Kaci Licktieg transitioned to ultra trail races in 2012 when she entered the Psycho Wyco 50K in Kansas City. She returned to the course in 2017 and beat the women’s record for the course finishing the 50K in four hours, nine minutes, and 27 seconds.
American ultrarunner Pam Reed became the first woman to win the 135-mile Badwater Ultra in 2002. She won the race again in 2003, this time setting the women’s record for the course. Reed also set an American record in the 24-Hour Track Run and ran in the Netherlands with the U.S. Track & Field Team in 2004, in France in 2005 and was invited to run in Taiwan in 2006.
Rory Bosio took part in one of the world’s most celebrated ultramarathons in 2013 when she entered the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. She shattered expectations and came in seventh place overall, becoming the first woman to crack the top ten. She also beat the women’s course record by more than two hours. She still competes in races today, but also works as a paediatric intensive-care nurse in Truckee, California.
English triathlete Chrissie Wellington won the Ironman World Championship triathlon three consecutive years from 2007 to 2009. After sitting out in 2010 because of illness, she regained her title in the 2011 race. Wellington is the only triathlete to win the World Championship less than a year after turning professional, and is the first-ever British athlete to hold the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.
In 2017, Shalane Flanagan became the first woman to win the New York City Marathon since 1977 . She finished the race with a time of two hours, 26 minutes, and 53 seconds. She also won a silver medal in the 10,000-meter race at the 2008 Olympics, and won a bronze medal at the 2011 IIAF World Cross Country Championships.
British-German cyclist Juliana Buhring set the Guinness World Record as the fastest woman to circumnavigate the world by bike in 2012. Buhring rode more than 18,000 miles in 152 days to raise money and awareness for the Safe Passage Foundation. She is now the Race Director for Two Volcano Sprint, a cycling race starting at Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius and ending at Mt. Etna.
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