Devon round-the-world runner Kevin Carr reveals his new challenge
PUBLISHED: 15:59 09 November 2015 | UPDATED: 15:59 09 November 2015
Matt Austin Images 2013
Back from the amazing feat of running round the world in record time, Kevin Carr is contemplating his next big challenge, as he explains his motivation to Alexis Bowater
He’s faced down bears, slept rough, been run over and chased by wild dogs. He’s three stone lighter than when he left, has gone through 16 pairs of shoes, but after 32.7 million steps Kevin Carr is the fastest man to run around the world.
I meet him where he began, in July 2013, at Hay Tor on Dartmoor, the beginning of an astonishing feat for astonishing feet, running the equivalent of more than a marathon a day every day for almost two years.
He’s certainly not running any more. Since he returned in April he tells me, his muscles have atrophied and he can’t move much now. His conversation is peppered with statistics: “I’ve lost 98.7% of the strength that I had when I left.”
You can almost feel how the numbers monotonously mounted up with each stride: ten hours a day, 621 days, 20 months, ever eastwards chasing the sunrise.
It’s an historic achievement for this 34-year-old from North Devon, beating as his did the previous record, set by Australian Tom Denniss, by just one day. Unsupported in his challenge, he had to push all his gear every one of the 16,300 miles before him in a stroller which weighed more than he does.
His passion for running emerged when, aged 25 and a committed cyclist, he went to New Zealand to bike the South Island: “The journey was 49 hours door to door”. In order to clear his head on landing he went for a run in the Queenstown rain and didn’t stop until he was atop a snowy mountain “200 metres higher than Ben Nevis, a vertical mile from where I had set off,” he explains.
“It was two-and-a-half hours up and 45 minutes down,” he says. “But it changed my life forever. A year later I ran a loop of Devon in ten days - 299.67 miles.”
A year after that he ran Land’s End to John O’Groats, the first person to do it off road. By this point he was on his path. He’d started running and just couldn’t stop.
I can’t help but point out that it all sounds a little bit Forrest Gumpy. He agrees, laughing: “I never reach my limits,” he says. “Physically it is always quite easy. I never reach my limit, I just keep going; I like to see how far you can go. I always knew that I could run a marathon but I did not know that I could run around the world.
“It’s an obsession, seeing how far you can take something. Running round the world is the ultimate distance - one loop - the ultimate endurance test.”
He ran across most of Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US - encountering hostility in Finland where they thought he was a penniless homeless vagabond, to extreme intrigue and friendliness in India where a film crew followed him around, broadcast to 120 million people and left him spending 11 hours signing autographs in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
In Australia he ran across the infamous Nullarbor desert in epic temperatures, with 120 kilometres between gas stations and a wobbly wheel on his trolley - which nearly physically derailed him. “After 20 steps running it went two steps to the left,” he recalls. “My left leg ran 200 miles south because the wheel was out.”
By North America it was the wildlife that was his greatest challenge: “In Canada I saw 26 bears in five weeks,” he reveals. “I had one standoff with a bear 30 yards from my tent in the morning. I shouted, threw stones. It is quite hard to convince an 800 pound bear that you are the Alpha male when you don’t quite believe it yourself.”
Just like Forrest Gump – “It’s one of my favourite films actually” he confides - he just kept on runnin’.
“It is just 600 separate runs back to back - I only did that for 20 months, most people do their jobs for their whole careers. I am doing something I love to do and it is just a really good way to make it around the world.”
He’s extraordinarily matter-of-fact about it all. It feels as if it’s not really sunk in for him yet. That may come with the book, or time, or more reflection.
But it may be that the excitement of his next project is eclipsing even this one. He’s planning on experimenting with ‘persistence hunting’ where, like Palaeolithic man, he will just run and run after an animal (a stag) until it eventually gives up.
“I don’t have to kill it to prove that I can get it. It would get to the point where it can’t move any more through exhaustion, following it for 15 to 20 hours,” he explains.
“We can run far, we can’t match any animal for speed but we can outrun all but two species. I just want to see if it’s even possible to do it in the UK.”
It’s a fascinating concept and seems entirely possible from this determined, driven, focussed, elite athlete, a man who set off from Hay Tor one summer’s day two years ago and came home with one World Record. But with only two blisters.
Ten things I love about Devon
1. The moors and the wild cows, sheep and creatures you can see on them.
2. The coast.
3. Chef Thomas Carr (my brother!) at The Olive Room, Ilfracombe.
4. Mortehoe Point.
5. The Morte Point to Lynmouth run.
6. The Valley of the Rocks in North Devon.
7. The people - they are really outgoing and friendly.
8. Dartmoor camping (without breaking the law).
9. Cream teas.
Ten things you don’t know about me
1. My favourite film is The Green Mile.
2. My favourite music is Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.
3. I like Marmite or marmalade on toast.
4. I actually like writing.
5. I like singing but am no good at it. I ran through Cheltenham Spa singing Purple Rain in the pouring rain in a poncho.
6. I like training people.
7. I only have two pairs of non-running shoes - a pair of shoes and a pair of boots.
8. It took me nine weeks to put my clothes into the wardrobe instead of my bag after I got back.
9. I don’t like running on roads and will never do it again.
10. I listened to all seven Harry Potter books on the way round the world.