Records for World's Fastest Marathon and 50K Walkers

Johann Diniz Sets Mens 50K Racewalk Record 2014
Ian Walton/Getty Images Sport

Who is the fastest marathon walker in the world? The fastest walkers are those who use the racewalking technique. But the sport of racewalking doesn't have an international competition at the 26.2-mile (42-kilometer) marathon distance. Instead, the longest official racewalks are 50 kilometers (km), a distance that is about 5 miles longer than the marathon distance. There are several impressive times that give runners a good chase.

However, the sport of racewalking has also been plagued with doping scandals, much like other track and field sports and cycling. Some of the record holders and Olympic medal winners have been stripped due to doping. You can see these records as inspiration for your own marathon dreams, but also as cautionary tales.

Yohann Diniz

The French walker set a record for the 50-kilometer to racewalk of 3:32:33 in Zürich, Switzerland, August 15, 2014. He would easily have qualified for the Boston Marathon with his walking time, which would have been 2:59:22 for the marathon, or a 6:50 per mile pace. He had such a margin over the previous record that he actually stopped to pick up a Portuguese flag to honor his recently-deceased grandmother, carrying it across the finish line along with the French flag. He also broke the record for the 50,000 meters track walk in 2011 with a time of 3:35:27.

Inês Henriques

This female Portuguese walker logged a 4:08:26 time for the inaugural women's 50-kilometer racewalk in Porto de Mos on January 15, 2017. This is the first official women's world record for that distance. She beat the previous fastest time by two minutes. Her time at the 40K mark was 3:14:19, so she would have easily finished a marathon in under 3:30. She went on to beat that record at the 2017 World Championships on August 13, 2017, with a time of 4:05:56 for 50 kilometers.

Denis Nizhegorodov

This Russian walker set the 50-kilometer road race walk record 3:34:14, in Cheboksary on May 11, 2008. He had been denied ratification for his 2004 record because no erythropoietin (EPO) test was performed. He went on to place third in the Beijing Olympic Games 50-kilometres Race Walk but was six minutes slower than his record. He was one of 14 Russian athletes who were implicated in doping when the urine samples were retested in 2016.

Carlos Mercenario Carbajal

Mercenario's 1997 marathon time was 3:21:54. His personal best at 50 kilometers is his 1991 mark of 3:42:03, earned in San Jose, California. He earned a silver medal in the 50-kilometer walk in the 1992 Olympic Games and is a three-time World Race Walking Cup champion.

Sergey Kirdyapkin

This Russian set a new Olympic Record for the 50-kilometer race walk on August 11, 2012, at the London Olympic Games with a time of 3:35:59. However, this gold medal was stripped from him in 2016 due to doping violations which led to no Russians being allowed to compete in the sport at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Alex Schwazer

This Italian set the previous 50-kilometer race walk Olympic Record in Beijing, 2008 with a time of 3:37:09. Unfortunately, he withdrew in the middle of the 2012 Olympic Games as he tested positive for the banned doping agent erythropoietin (EPO). He admitted to the doping in hopes of retaining his top position.

Andrey Perlov

Andrey's 50-kilometer time of 3:37:41 in 1989 in Leningrad is his personal best, beating his 1991 Olympic gold finish in the 50K. Even more impressive is that this is a road race time, not a track time. That means he walked through the marathon in under 3:05.

Thierry Toutain

Set a mark of 3:40:57 in a world record 50-kilometer track time in September 1996, holding the record for 15 years until it was broken by Yohann Diniz in 2011. Assuming steady pace, he went through the marathon (42.195 km) in 3:06:28.

Curt Clausen

The U.S. record for the 50-kilometer race walk was set by Curt on May 2, 1999, in Deauville-Mézidon, France. He walked it in 3:48:04, which placed him at 11th in the World Cup. He also set the 40-kilometer record that same year at 3:02:18 in Seville, Spain, August 25, 1999. These remain the American male records in these events through spring, 2018. Clausen began racewalking at age 12 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He attended Duke University and entered his first Olympic Trials in 1988, finishing the 50K in 15th place.

Katie Burnett

This champion began shattering records for American women from her very first 50-kilometer racewalk competition on January 28, 2017. She won the national title and set new records in both the 40-kilometer and 50-kilometer races. She went on to set new records in London on August 13, 2017. Her 50-kilometer effort earned her fourth place at the 2017 World Championships. It was held on a 2-kilometer course, and her intermittent times are also noted as American records:

  • 35 km: 3:00:43
  • 40 km: 3:27:10
  • 50 km: 4:21:51

Prior to Burnett's new record, Erin Taylor-Talcott was the fastest U.S.woman for the 50-kilometer racewalk setting a record of 4:38:11 on Dec. 14, 2014, in Santee, California, USA.

A Word From Verywell

If you are interested in learning to racewalk, get started with the basic technique and find a local coach to teach you this complicated form. If you simply want to walk faster you can speed up by using good walking posture, arm motion, and the right stride. Training for a marathon takes dedication, no matter what your speed. Expect to take most of a year to train if you are not already walking long distances. You will need consistent training, steadily building your endurance, to see you across the finish line. But remember, there are no shortcuts.

16 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. International Olympic Committee. Yohann Diniz.

  2. NBC Sports. Yohann Diniz stops to celebrate before breaking 50km race walk world record. Updated August 15, 2014.

  3. World Athletics. Diniz breaks 50km race walk world record at European Championships. Updated August 15, 2014.

  4. World Athletics. Inês Henriques.
  5. World Athletics. Denis Nizhegorodov.

  6. IAAF Athletics. IAAF anti-doping programme: 2016 testing statistics.

  7. World Athletics. Carlos Mercenario.

  8. Newsweek. Russia to investigate athletics doping claims. Updated August 3, 2015.

  9. World Athletics. Alex Schwazer.

  10. Reuters. CAS rejects appeal by former Olympic walk champion Schwazer. Updated May 7, 2021.

  11. World Athletics. Andrey Perlov.

  12. World Athletics. Thierry Toutain.

  13. World Athletics. Curt Clausen.

  14. Olympics. Curt Clausen.

  15. World Athletics. Katie Burnett.

  16. World Athletics. Erin Taylor Talcott.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.