Jack Holden – The world’s toughest runner

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The word “badass” might not be the first image that pops into your head when you hear the words “long distance runner” but we can guaran-fucking-tee that after reading about Jack Holden, it will be. 

Legendary in some circles for his grit and dogged determination, Jack Holden fell ass-backwards into the world of long distance running when he was training to be a boxer and realised he could run for miles without getting tired. Seeing running as a handy way to earn some extra cash, Holden quickly signed up for a race and won by half a minute. For his win Holden won a large pig which according to legend, he picked up and excitedly sprinted home with tucked under his giant man-arms.

Typical photo of Holden running at cheetah-speed.

When he ran out of pig to feed to his family, Holden signed up for as many races as he could, winning most of them and forging a reputation as a near-unstoppable sprinting god-beast in the process. You see, Holden wasn’t exactly the most graceful runner and it’s largely agreed that he possessed neither the ideal built or temperament to be a marathon runner. However, what Holden did have though was a bag of fucks with a large hole in the bottom of it and a superhuman level of durability allowing him to continue running long after a lesser man would have succumbed to exhaustion or injury.

Holden would frequently bathe his feet in something known as permanganate of potash before a race to harden the soles of his feet and deaden them to pain. This allowed him to run while his feet were covered with open, weeping blisters like it was no big deal. As for his running style, if you could call it one, Holden would basically run as hard and fast as he could from the moment the race began with opponents noting that he ran as if it was his sole intention to “kill” everyone in his way.

Artist’s representation of Holden.

Pretty much the only time this tactic backfired on Holden was during the 1948 Olympic games when he self-admittedly “over pickled” his feet, leading to the soles of his feet splitting open. Holden was able to run with this injury for a couple of miles before dropping out just a few miles shy of the finish line. He was 41 at the time.

Holden was expected to retire after this and did take a short hiatus from running until his wife reminded him that he’d promised not to retire until another British runner could beat him. Since no British runner had yet done that, Holden un-retired and began running again, which brings us to the marathon of the 1950 European Champion in Brussels.

As the story goes about 9 miles before the finish line Holden’s shoes fell apart leaving Holden to finish the race barefoot, which he did because he didn’t give a fuck. During the last 9 miles Holden just about shredded the soles of his feet and left bloody footprints for the last few miles of the race, which other races allegedly followed as they presumed it was the best racing line. Holden was also chased by a large dog which followed him for several miles, nipping at his bloody, delicious heels.

“Woof.”

Holden not only won the race, but did so by such a wide margin that he ran his lap of honor alone with the second place runner trailing behind him by four minutes. When this runner finally caught up and asked Holden how old he was, his response of “43” caused them to nearly shit out a lung in impotent rage before they sputtered “But you’re older than my father!”. Holden laughed the comment off and greeted the press who gleefully reported on his dog-filled adventure. When later asked if the dog that chased him for all those miles managed to bite him Holden assured the interviewer that it didn’t, reasoning that it probably didn’t like British meat.

Holden, true to his word, retired a year later when he was finally beaten by another British runner called Jim Peters and went right ahead and lived for another 5 decades, dying at 97 with the Grim Reaper no doubt ruing the day he gave him a 40 year head start.