Think running a marathon is hard? Try doing so in 3-inch stiletto heels.
Because running a marathon isn’t difficult enough, one woman decided to do it in a pair of 3-inch stiletto heels — and set a Guinness World Record in the process.
Irene Sewell decided to take on the challenge after reading about a woman who attempted (but didn’t complete) the same feat in London.
“As a former professional ballroom dancer turned runner and triathlete, I thought my background would pair well to help me obtain the record,” Sewell, 27, tells PEOPLE.
She contacted Guinness, who approved her application for a record-setting run, and set her sights on toeing the line at the 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Oct. 15. But her workouts didn’t entirely go as planned.
“I had a year to train — which I needed both physically and mentally,” Sewell says. “I began running all my runs in heels but quickly learned that was an easy way to wear my feet out and toed the line of possibly getting injured. After having some forefoot pain, I saw a podiatrist who recommended that I run most of my training runs in my normal running shoes and throw in the heels every once and a while.”
Well world, I DID IT. I'm still in shock, but it really happened. I ran a marathon today in high heels and set a Guinness World Record and got it with two minutes to spare! HUGE thank you to my pacers/bag and shoe carriers Zach Cowart and Susanna Kirby for sticking out the whole thing with me, you two are saints. Thanks to Tommy Norton for rushing to bring more GoPros, Brittany Schield for bringing a memory card, then running with me, I could NOT have run as "fast" as I did without you. Thanks Chattanooga Police Department for staying on my butt with your lights and making me run the Dam literally as fast as I could because time was running out. Thanks to the weather for cooperating and giving us shade even though I still got sunburnt 😂 Thank you to all my friends for showing up and cheered me in!! Thank you to everyone else who texted, called waved to me on the course (sorry for the traffic jam we caused) and cheered from afar. Jay Nevans you put on an AWESOME race, as always and I love the medal. What a day for the books.. get it? 😂👠🏃🏼♀️👏🏻#marathon #26point2 #guinnessworldrecordholder #guinnessworldrecordfamily
Along with training, picking out the right pair of shoes ended up being “one of the hardest parts of my journey,” Sewell says.
“Guinness required a heel height of 2.75 inches and a base of 1.5 cm so that was challenging. I also couldn’t decide for the longest time between open and closed to shoes because they both have pros and cons. Closed toe shoes would protect my feet but I was worried after multiple miles my feet would swell and not fit in them,” she explains. “I actually tried out about 6 different pairs of heels before finding the perfect pair.”
Surprise, I had a last minute heel change and I'm super excited about it. 👠 This heel has a built in heel cushion, more support around my mid foot and wider straps which should help me out a lot. In addition to the ✨5 pairs of shoes✨ I bought today, Fleet Feet (like always) helped me pick out some much needed race day essentials like the CEP calf sleeves, Super Feet high heel insoles, a knee brace and of course their awesome swag! 👍🏻We are only 24 days away from the 7 Bridges Marathon and all my preparation is finally all coming together! See you out on the course 💪🏼🏃🏼♀️🏅 . . . . . . . #guinnessworldrecordattempt #cep #cepcompression #superfeet #superfeetinsoles #fleetfeetchattanooga #fleetfeet #7bridgesmarathon #chattanooga #marathontraining #marathon #run #fitfam #highheelsforguinness #highheels #stiletto @superfeet @cepcompression
And while her friends were on board, her mother had doubts.
“My friends know I’m always doing crazy things so they were all super excited to experience my journey me,” Sewell says. “My family on the other hand had a completely different reaction. My mom, as supportive and cautious as can be, asked me multiple times leading up to the race why I couldn’t just try a 5k or half marathon!”
But the marathon went off without any shoe-related hitches, and Sewell easily glided to a finish two minutes ahead of the time limit of seven hours and 30 minutes.
“When I finished everyone was SO supportive and excited for me!” she says. “I had a huge group of friends come out to the race and cheer me one, which was amazing!”
And Sewell found a miracle product in the process, which she recommends for anyone who wants to follow in her shoes.
“My biggest secret weapon was wearing moleskin on the bottom of my feet,” she says. “That stuff was incredible and I’m definitely going to use it when I go out dancing or to clubs on the weekends!”