When Irene Sewell sets a goal for herself, she doesn’t let anything stand in her way.
Earlier this year, she came across a small blurb in a runner’s magazine about a woman who attempted a Guinness World Record for completing a marathon in high heels. Sewell remembers thinking, “I could do that faster.”
And before long, she was completely immersed in the idea.
Sewell will attempt to break the record at the 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga next October, but her training has already begun. Her experience as a professional ballroom dancer has already trained her feet to be used to wearing high heels for long stretches at a time. She’s also completed several full marathons, half-marathons and the Ironman twice, so her athletic prowess is up for the challenge.
And it’s no secret that Sewell enjoys being as weird as possible with her endeavors. For example, she recently ran Chattanooga’s 4 Bridges Half-Marathon dressed as a slice of pepperoni pizza. Why? Because she’d never run a marathon in costume before.
The same reasoning applies to her latest goal.
“You always need a few interesting facts about yourself when you meet new people,” Sewell said. “So I just thought it would be really cool to say, ‘Hi, I’m Irene and I hold the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon in high heels.'”
Finding the right high heels that will stand up to the task has proved to be the most difficult challenge thus far. The heels-which may not exist yet-must be able to withstand multiple miles of wear and tear while maintaining an appropriate comfort level.
In 2014, Natalie Eckert-a mother of five-attempted a Guinness World Record for completing the fastest marathon in high heels. The then-37-year-old was inspired by a similar accomplishment by Germany’s Julia Plecher, who ran a 100-meter-dash in 14.531 seconds in high heels.
Although Eckert completed the marathon in seven hours, seven minutes and three seconds, her time was voided because she had to remove her heels during the 7th mile for treatment to her feet.
Sewell doesn’t want improper footwear to be her downfall. Guinness officials require high heels to be a circumference of 1.5 centimeters with a heel length of at least 2.5 inches. But otherwise, she’s free to find the perfect heel for the job.
“For the past two weeks, I’ve been on the hunt for shoes,” Sewell said. “I’ve looked for a closed-toe version so I don’t have my toes exposed [and won’t] stub them if I fall or kick anything. I’m using a shoe with two different straps-to adjust as I run-because I imagine after 23 miles, my feet are going to swell.”
Although Eckert’s accomplishment was noteworthy, her per-mile time was more than 17 minutes. Sewell doesn’t intend to complete the marathon at a walking pace; she wants to run as fast as her footwear will allow.
Her training will kick into action in January with a 41-week marathon program. Until then, her goal is to be able to run at least 2 miles in heels.
“I don’t know if I’ll feel confident until I’m running,” she said. “But other than the heels, it’s just going to be a normal marathon training program: short runs and long runs on the weekend.”
Other than the “why” question she gets asked on a daily basis, she said most of her close friends have been supportive of the idea.
“They know I can do this and they’re cheering me on,” she said. “People in my outer circle are a little more hesitant. They’re all very curious, but I guess they just don’t know me enough to know that I’m serious. If I have a goal in mind, I’ll do everything in my power to reach it, whatever it takes.”
You can follow her training progress on Instagram. Over the next few months, she plans to find a charity to raise money for along the way.
“Right now, I’m doing this for bragging rights, but I would love to help someone-even if it’s just empowering women and children to think outside the box and do something outside of the norm,” she said.