If you were in the small minority of people who perhaps hadn’t heard of Hafthor Björnsson, otherwise known as The Mountain, you’d need only look at the man to get an indication of his profession. With his towering height and superhuman physique, the man looks like something of a demigod, like he’s just stepped out of a Marvel comic and is about to take on the world’s issues. As far as strongmen go, they pretty much are as close as mere mortals get to the gods; these are men capable of bewildering feats of strength. They pull monster trucks with nothing but a rope attached to their waist, deadlift impossible weights as they set monstrous world records, and tackle any kind of bewildering task like it’s as simple as picking up fresh bread at the local shops. Put a strongman through a running workout though, and the outcome is markedly different.
If the running joke for any gym junkie is to avoid the cardio section at all costs, strongmen kind of take it to heart. You’re far more likely to find them lifting weights and pumping iron than you are to see them hitting intervals and top speed on the treadmill. It made for entertaining viewing then when strongmen Martins Licis and The Mountain – who have both won the World’s Strongest Man competition – decided to take on a running challenge. With The Mountain currently in training for a boxing match against fellow former strongman champ Eddie Hall, steady state cardio has been a necessary addition to his training routine. But of course, you always want to rope your friends into a challenge, too.
“I don’t think I’ve ever run for 30 minutes straight,” says Licis. “I’ve done a lot of sprinting in my life, I’ve done a lot of sports. But it’s all stop and go.”
Once the pair arrived at the track, Björnsson informs Licis of the workout: 15 laps on the track, the equivalent of roughly 6km. Björnsson asks Licis if he thinks he’ll be able to finish, to which Licis gives a sheepish look before grimacing at the camera. “I’m gonna try,” says Licis. “I’m actually scared. I think the most I’ve ever done is four or five laps.”
The pair then set off on their jogging endeavour. They keep the pace pretty comfortable and enjoy some light banter as they run, talking about training and Licis’ upcoming contests. By lap three though, things start to take a turn. Licis complains about his shins and calves and has to take a break, leaning against the fence as he tries to calm his breathing. “Why do people do this?” he asks. “There’s nothing good about it. There’s no way this is good for health.”
As Licis takes time out due to the pain in his calves and shins, The Mountain presses on. “He’s like a machine,” Licis admits. On The Mountain’s final lap, Licis decides that his tenth will be his last. He might have fallen short of the total 15, but the effort impressed him all the same. Amazingly, The Mountain admits to finding running insufferable when he started, but building up to it. He could barely run 400m the first time. “I had to stop because my calves, my back – I had just lifted 501 kilograms,” he explained. But now, thanks to running and boxing, he’s built up his endurance.
As The Mountain continues to improve his endurance, you can only imagine what it’s doing for his energy levels and stamina. It looks like that boxing match with Hall is going to be an entertaining one.