Mensen Ernst – The first professional Ultra Runner

Mensen Ernst – The first professional Ultra Runner

Mensen Ernst (1795–1843) was born in the village of Fresvik, Norway. He made his living running, mainly through placing bets on himself being able to run a certain distance within a period of time.



At the start of the 1830s, Mensen Ernst planned a journey on foot from Paris to Moscow, which he would attempt to complete in only 15 days. The departure date was set for 11th June, 1832, the twentieth anniversary year of Napoleon Bonaparte’s disastrous march on Moscow. Ernst started out from Paris at 4am. He ran about 2,500 kilometers in 14 days averaging over 175km a day

Ernst was given a hero’s welcome on his arrival in Moscow, once his identity had been established (with his disheveled appearance he had been mistaken for a beggar; and in any case, he turned up a day earlier than anyone expected). After days of banquets and receptions in Moscow, he travelled to St. Petersburg, where he was presented by no less than Tsar Nicholas I himself. Add to this the 4,000 Francs that Ernst won from wagers, and it might be considered a good couple of weeks’ work.


On a later trip, from Constantinople to Calcutta, he spent 59 days, running140 kilometers per day. It is an incredible achievement to run such a distance without the proper gear and food, crossing that part of the world in the first half of 19th century.


His last trip started in Bad Muskau (Germany), and went through Jerusalem and Cairo, from where he intended to run along the Nile until he found its source. He died in January 1843 from dysentery, close to the border between Egypt and Sudan.


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