Last week I witnessed the greatest sporting achievement I have ever seen. Until Thursday 9 April, it had been Usain Bolt’s astonishing 100m and 200m Olympic double in Beijing 2008.
This time there wasn’t an 80,000 crowd and two billion television audience. Just a merry band of around 200 people and some local TV crews gathered on Dartmoor. But the enthusiasm was just as palpable.
We were all there to see a barman from a nearby village complete his run around the world in world record time. In the evening sunshine, Kevin Carr jogged through a modest finishing tape at the point where he started his epic journey on 28 July 2013.
During the 621-day journey, he was hit with floods in South America, a bear attack in Canada, was struck by a car in Australia, heatstroke in India and flu in USA to leave him behind record schedule.
But in the final five weeks he ran around 50 miles per day to beat the previous best of Australian Tom Denniss by a single day.
The numbers are mind-boggling. In total, he covered 16299 miles, ran through 26 countries in five continents, wearing out 16 pairs of trainers in the process.
The thing is, unlike the demigod that is Usain Bolt, Kevin Carr looks a pretty ordinary bloke. That’s what makes him such an inspiration. Ordinary mortals cannot even dream of being like Usain Bolt, but Kevin Carr shows us how incredible the human being can truly be when he or she puts their mind to it.
It is all the more remarkable when you consider that Carr lived through a suicide attempt in his youth. Having suffered from depression, he ran on behalf of mental health charity Sane and has so far raised over £5000. He also raised funds for the British Red Cross.
I spoke with Carr afterwards and asked him what his motivation was for tackling the round-the-world record. He told me: “It’s the ultimate endurance challenge. It’s the furthest you can go on foot. I wanted to go into the unknown. That’s what makes it an adventure and it has paid off – I made it.
“It’s a huge moment for me. I had so many setbacks in America. It was either give up on the speed record or really go for it. I’ve had very little sleep, about four or five hours each night.
“Less than 24 hours inside the record. It’s close, but it’s still there. It’s what I set out to do. If I didn’t get it and I gave it my best shot, that’s fine. I had a choice. It was five weeks of pain. I thought I’ll give it a shot.”
If there is a greater sporting achievement, I am yet to hear about it. What a runner. What a man.