While runners across Chattanooga, Tennessee laced-up their sneakers in preparation for the "Seven Bridges Marathon," Irene Sewell strapped on her high heels. You heard right ... Sewell ran a full marathon in high heels and even broke a Guinness World Record in the process. She finished the marathon in 7 hours and 28 minutes. The goal was 7 hours and 30 minutes.
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
Sewell started running after retiring from her career as a professional ballroom dancer three years ago. "I still needed that competitive outlet and community to connect with so I started running," Sewell said.
Who am I and how can I break the Fastest High Heel Marathon time for the Guinness Book of Records? I'm glad you asked. I have danced my entire life and for 5 years I was dancing and teaching Ballroom and Partnership dancing professionally, in heels. I've spent 8-10 hours a day and 50+ hours a week in heels. After I retired from the dancing world, I needed a competitive outlet which is when I fell in love with running. In the short two years since I became a runner I've completed 4 10K, 6 Half Marathons, 2 Full Marathons, 4 Sprint Triathlons, 1 Olympic Triathlon, and 2 Half Ironman 70.3 Triathlons. If anyone can run a marathon in heels in under 7 hours and 30 minutes, I can. This challenge was made for me, and I'm excited to have you follow my journey! #marathontraining #timetotrain #training #instarun #instarunner #marathon #marathonmaniacs #tri #ironman #halfironman #guinessbookofworldrecords #worldrecord #run #running #soexcited @runnersworldmag
Since then, Sewell's done "three half IRONMAN's, two half marathons and probably about ten 5k's." One thing Sewell says she hasn't done is run a marathon in high heels, "not in heels, no." That all changed this past Sunday.
"I will be running the marathon in high heels, which is super exciting," Sewell told News Channel 9 in the days leading up to the big race. Her friends and family have a different word for it, "they think I'm crazy." Sewell says she's been contemplating this for a few years now.
In 367 days I'll be running these bridges, in heels to break the Guinness World Record! 📸 @primeclimb6 #letsdothis #calvesfordays #sevenbridgesmarathon #marathontraining #guinnessworldrecordattempt #marathon #marathonprep #instarunners #instarun #training #marathoner #26point2 #chattanooga #run #runforlife #goals #calfgoals #runninggoals #highheels #runninginhighheels #stilettos @runnersworldmag
It all started when she read about a London woman's quest to become the world's fastest marathon runner in high heels.
"She (woman from London) ultimately didn't get the record so I was just reading about her and I thought man! With my dancing background and now running background it's kind of the best of both worlds."
When Sewell contacted Guinness World Records to tell them of her plans, she received a "full guide book and it was about twenty pages long so they were very serious." The book stipulates the height of the heel she must wear, 2.75 inches, the width of the heel, 1.5 centimeters, and the time in which she must complete the marathon, under 7.5 hours.
It's really happening! My application to break the fastest marathon in high heels for the Guinness World Record book has been accepted! Follow my Journey here! #highheelsforguiness #marathontraining #highheelmarathon #marathon #guinnessworldrecord #GWR #thejourneystartshere #runnersofinatagram #runner
Still, Sewell wasn't deterred. "It's going to be amazing hopefully," she said. For months, Sewell has been training across Chattanooga. At first, she trained in the heels she planned to wear during the marathon but her podiatrist "suggested to not run every run in heels" but instead to "kind of swap it out and just run normally with tennis shoes."
Just a little treadmill run while traveling for work. Tonight was my favorite, sprints 💪🏼which were done at a 7:48 pace (7.7 on the treadmill, 0% incline) No excuses! . . . . . . #highheelsforguinness #treadmilltraining #hotelgym #gymlife #noexcuses #travel #run #instarun #running #marathontraining #runningimhighheels #strengthtraining #sprints #guinnessworldrecordattempt #motivation #sevenbridgesmarathon @sevenbridgesmarathon
On marathon day, Sewell will come prepared with blister band aids, tape, metatarsal pads, insoles for stability and arch support, and calf sleeves. She will also have six different pairs of the same shoe on hand.
"I'm actually going to have a range of sizes from a seven and a half, which is what I'm going to start with, all the way up to nine," Sewell said. For Sewell, every pair is made for walking across the finish line.
"That's kind of the moment that I run for. It's the moment that you've trained for and so you're able to just look back on all your training and say, 'man, this was so worth it I’m so glad I did this."
Our affiliate News Channel 9 in Chattanooga, Tennessee contributed to this story.