9 Incredibly Epic Human Feats Of Strength, Endurance & Perseverance

By: Rachel Brown | rachel.brown@activecities.com

In the vast world of sports, there’s a common trend where people are motivated by the challenge and thrill of achievement. For many, this comes in the form of testing the limits to make it to the top. But for a very select few, testing the limits simply isn’t enough. Every once in a while, we see someone accomplish something completely unfathomable. Not only do they break the mold, they completely redefine what is humanly possible.

Here are nine incredibly epic human feats of strength, endurance and perseverance. These extraordinary (and by some measures insane) athletes pushed way past the limits and absolutely shattered records in doing so. Whether it be running or swimming the farthest, jumping the highest, diving the deepest, or playing the longest, these athletes all share one thing in common; they have proven that through dedication, mental toughness and the refusal to take “no” for an answer, humans can achieve nearly anything.


Longest Nonstop Run – 350 miles

Dean Karnazes finished his 350 mile run on October 15th, 2005, after enduring high temperatures, sleep deprivation, and a few scares from roadside animals for over 80 hours and 44 minutes. Karnazes wanted to see how far the human body could go, the ultimate test of mental strength, while also raising $10,000 for children’s organ transplants. In order to sustain himself during the run, Karnazes consumed 40,000 calories and drank nine gallons of liquid which is about what a normal person eats in three weeks. During the run, he even had bouts of sleep running. He said, “the really bizarre thing is that I feel that I got a little catnap.” Karnzaes’ decision to pursue ultra running began on his 30th birthday. After a night of heavy binge drinking, he decided he wanted to take back his life and do something that made him truly happy. Karnaze loved to run as a child and decided to give up his career at a multinational corporation to pursue running. His hope is to inspire people to pursue what they love and motivate people to be active. He says, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.”


Highest Dive – 172 feet

In 1983, Dana Kunze captured the Guinness World Record for highest dive setting the record at 172 feet. Even more, he has successfully completed this dive seven times. Kunze began diving at age 13 after his junior high school athletic director encouraged students to join sports to ease desegregation tension. His coach realized his talent and encouraged him to go pro. Three years later, at age 16, he went on to win his first world championship and maintained a winning streak for seven years. Kunze practiced on 50 to 80 foot bridges and train trestles in the Mississippi River, going from bridge to bridge to avoid authorities. With a total of 8 world championships and 7 world records, Kunze was most remembered for doing difficult dives like the reverse triple somersault and of course his terrifying 172 ft high dive. Oliver Favre attempted to break his record in 1985 after diving 177 ft but broke his back as a result of the dive. Because the rules of the dive are that you must get out of the water and walk away, his dive did not count. Now Kunze runs an entertainment group that puts on high dive shows at fairs around the country. Always enjoying an audience, Kunze remembers his mother’s advice, “Remember where you came from and don’t forget the kids.”


Longest Tennis Match – 183 games

In June of 2010, millions of people throughout the world gathered around their TV’s to watch “the endless tennis match,” where John Isner battled Nicolas Mahut in the first round of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships for three days, a total of 183 games. Even the score board couldn’t handle it and malfunctioned at times. The match began on June 22nd at 6:13pm and did not end until June 24th at 4:47pm, smashing the previous record for the longest match as well as smashing other records like the longest set (the fifth set alone lasted 8 hours and 11 minutes) and highest number of aces (total of 215). On the final day of the match, after forty bottles of water, 12 energy bars, seven rackets, three bananas, and over eight hours of playing, the match finally came to an end when Isner broke Mahut’s serve and secured the 70-68 victory. “It stinks someone had to lose,” Isner humbly said after the match had ended. “But to be able to share this day with him was an absolute honor. I wish him nothing but the best, and maybe I’ll see him somewhere down the road, and it won’t go 70-68.”


Deepest Free Dive – 830.8 feet

42 year old Austrian pilot Herbert Nitsch broke the record for “deepest man on earth” with his 830.8 ft No Limit (only one breath) dive in 2012 surpassing his previous record by 218 feet. Nitsch holds 33 world records in diving, but the 830.8 ft No Limit dive was a feat doctors deemed  impossible. But perhaps even more impressive than his record breaking dive was his recovery from the near death plunge. On his ascent to the surface, Nietch suffered from severe decompression sickness which resulted in multiple brain strokes, requiring safety divers to rescue him. Doctors told him he would remain a “wheelchair-bound care-dependent patient,” but he refused to accept this diagnosis and decided to take his health into his own hands. Unwilling to give up, he said, “I adopted the same attitude that I always used with free diving: pushing boundaries, further exploring the human potential and setting new limits where we thought we already knew everything.” Two years later he was free diving again. Although he is unsure whether he will attempt to break more world records, Nitsch continues to look for new ways to push the limit saying, “Competitive free diving is not likely to be part of the future, but for the rest, I am still the same I used to be; the will to create new ways to achieve new things never left me.”


Most Consecutive Push-ups – 10,507

The record for most non-stop push-ups was set by Minoru Yoshida of Japan in 1980 when he completed an astounding 10,507 push ups crushing the first record of 6,006 set by Charles Linster in 1965. There is little information about the details surrounding the event, but his record still remains in the Guinness Book of World Records and probably will continue to remain until some superhuman attempts to break it. New categories have since been created like “Most Push-ups in 24 Hours” with the current world record of 46,001 held by Charles Servizio in 1933, and “Most Consecutive Ninety Degree Push-ups” with the current world record of 16 held by Willy Weldens. If your looking to get in the Guinness Book of Word Records for push-ups, you probably have a better shot of breaking one in these new categories than Yoshida’s unfathomable record.


Highest Free Fall – 24 miles

On October 14, 2012, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner accomplished what seemed impossible, skydiving from a balloon more than 24 miles (128,100 ft) above the Earth. Before jumping into space, Baumgartner humbly delivered a message through his radio saying, “sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.” Falling at a max speed of 833mph for just under 10 minutes, Baumgartner became the first skydiver to break the sound barrier while also breaking the records for highest manned balloon flight, highest parachute jump, and fastest free fall velocity. While in free fall, Baumgartner almost lost control and went into a terrifying spin but was able to regain control through skills learned in preparation for the jump. About a mile from the ground, Felix opened his parachute and landed safely in New Mexico greeted by ecstatic friends and family. Baumgartner had his doubts before jumping from the balloon, saying “let me tell you – when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble. You don’t think about breaking records anymore, you don’t think about gaining scientific data – the only thing that you want is to come back alive.” Although the record for the highest free fall was recently broken by Alan Eustace, Baumgartner’s jump was the first of its kind and provided scientific information for future space exploration.


Longest Boxing Match – 7 hours 19 minutes

On September 6, 1893, Andy Bowen and Jack Burke showed their unwillingness to “throw in the towel” in the longest and most brutal boxing match in history. The fight for the lightweight title of the South lasted 110 three-minute rounds and took 7 hours and 19 minutes. Both boxers weighed in at around 130 pounds, but after the fight came to an end at 3:45 am the next morning, they had both dropped nearly 10 pounds. No winner was named and referee John Duffy declared a draw because both fighters were too dazed to even get out of their corners. Burke broke both of his wrists during the match, but continued to fight until he had eventually broken all the bones in his hands. Bowen sustained severe injuries to his head but was unwilling to give up his undefeated record. The crowd, however, was not happy with this verdict. A New York Times’ boxing reporter noted, “”There were thousands of people there, many of them laboring men, and it was almost time for them to go to their breakfast. Men were asleep in their seats and the disgust was general.”


366 Marathons in 365 Days

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what about a marathon?” After dealing with the despair from being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, 41 year-old Danish Annette Fredskov decided to take control of her condition saying, “it’s not the way I wanted things to be, but I can decide for myself what I am going to do from now.” Running became her outlet during her battle with multiple sclerosis and sparked her curiosity about human limitations. When she asked her husband about her idea to complete 26 miles every day for a whole year he responded, “if anybody can do it, it is you.” Her decision to run empowered her to refuse to let multiple sclerosis affect her life as she went through 20 pairs of running shoes, sore muscles, and extreme exhaustion, averaging about 5 hours per marathon. On her last day, she decided to hit the roads for over 10 hours and complete two marathons in celebration of her epic journey. She hopes to encourage other MS sufferers to continue living their lives to the fullest, saying “It is my hope that I am able to inspire others to do what they dream about.”


Longest Nonstop Swim – 110 miles

On September 2nd, 2013, 64-year-old Diana Nyad successfully completed a 110 mile swim (equivalent of 5 English Channel crossings) between Cuba and Florida in 52 hours, 54 minutes, 18.6 seconds. Nyad had attempted the swim four times before but was unwillingly forced to leave the water by her teammates after severely injuring her shoulder, being attacked by the extremely poisonous box jellyfish, and suffering from near-death exhaustion. Everyone—her team, friends, scientists, neurologists, experts—told her the swim was impossible. But defeat only made Nyad want to master the swim even more. She said, “…That ocean is still there. I don’t want to be the crazy woman who does this for years and years, and tries and fails, and tries and fails. But I can swim from Cuba to Florida and I will swim from Cuba to Florida.” In September of 2013, after throwing up in the water for hours, severely hallucinating, and facing choppy currents for three days, Nyad stumbled onto the beach of Key West telling the crowd, “You’re never too old to chase your dream.”