UK mother of 3 shares secrets to record-breaking success in running

Helen Ryvar holds the world record for consecutive half-marathons, with 743 completed

Watch: Runner jogs above the clouds

Watch: Runner jogs above the clouds

  • Helen Ryvar, a single mother-of-three and owner of a cleaning business, follows a nightly routine, preparing for her daily early morning runs.
  • Starting her running journey in 2020, she now holds the world record for consecutive half-marathons, with 743 completed.
  • Ryvar has experienced minimal injuries, attributing her success to hydration, rest and magnesium salt baths.

Helen Ryvar goes through the same routine every night.

She checks the weather forecast, lays out her running clothes, puts her running shoes by the front door, charges her cell phone and flashlight, and sets the alarm for 4 a.m.

By 4.15 a.m., she’s out the door — rain or shine.

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"I’m just an ordinary person doing extraordinary things," says Ryvar, a single mother-of-three who runs her own cleaning business in normal daytime hours and pounds the streets, paths and trails of north Wales at a time when the rest of the world would typically be asleep.

Helen Ryvar

Helen Ryvar runs through an underpass in Wrexham during a half-marathon in Wrexham, Wales, on March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The 43-year-old Ryvar took up running in 2020, just before Britain went into lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic and after being told her ex-husband had died following a mental-health battle.

Four years later, she is a world-record holder for consecutive half-marathons — her day-on-day tally, which features in the Guinness World Records book, has reached 743 this past weekend — and an inspiration to many, all while raising money for her favorite charities.

"The runs have become the easy part — it’s juggling life that has become the daily ongoing task," she said.

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Ryvar classed herself as a "mediocre runner" while at school and was never really into sports. Even now, she doesn’t have all the latest running gear, doesn’t follow any special diet — just three balanced meals a day — and doesn’t really care about her speed when she runs.

It is more, she says, about building a strong mindset and getting to know her body.

"I found doing it every day, you just get used to it," she said. "Your body and mind just get used to the routine and you turn off that pity-party that you had with yourself and get on with it.

"It is just flicking that switch in your head and say, ‘We’re doing this.’"

Key for Ryvar is:

running at the same time every day — in her case, before her kids wake up.

• fitting some sort of exercise somewhere into the structure of your daily schedule. Essentially, "not giving yourself a chance to mess up," as she puts it.

Experts think the same.

"The key is to find some protected time so it is just part of the routine," said Dr. Michael J. Joyner, an expert on human performance and exercise at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. "This is why many habitual exercisers go first thing in the morning."

In nearly two years of running a half-marathon each day, Ryvar says she has only had one injury — and that was when she changed running shoes, which triggered an old glute injury.

Otherwise, her advice is fairly simple:

drink plenty of water.

• have a balanced diet and early nights.

try out magnesium salt baths. "They are key," she says. "When I don’t have them, I notice."

Dr. Joyner said the main risks of an exercise workload such as Ryvar's are orthopedic aches and pains and more severe things like stress fractures.

"So you have to build light days into your program," he advises. "Usually, light days are about less total distance, but they can also be about a less intense effort."

Most important for Ryvar is learning to understand your own body and staying active, even if that means simply walking down the street on a regular basis.

"Keep accountable somehow — you’ll build up confidence in yourself and you’ll want to push more," she says. "Form a habit. If you’re not comfortable doing it by yourself, join a group. There are loads of Facebook groups, or join a park run. Sign up for a race and commit. When you have a goal, it makes a massive difference."

Ryvar’s goal is to reach 1,000 consecutive half-marathons, which would be some feat considering the previous record for officially timed half-marathons was 75. She would get to that milestone on Jan. 24, 2025 — a date she has circled on her calendar.

In the meantime, she is just happy to have that "nice fuzzy feeling inside" whenever she goes running and to be changing people’s lives with the money she raises for Cancer Research UK and a local charity in Wrexham, Nightingale House Hospice.

Her new hobby is also allowing her to see the world, having had trips in recent months to Jordan, Miami, Turkey and Malta — where she was on national television.

"I’m definitely riding a wave and getting a lot of support," Ryvar says. "It’s something you can’t buy. It’s such a sense of satisfaction."

via May 13th 2024