Jan Knippenberg

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Jan Knippenberg – The Dutch Barefoot Runner

Who was Jan Knippenberg

Jan died in 1995 at the age of 47. Jan was 12 when he started running along the Dutch beaches where he grew up, inspired by a British soldier stationed near Hook of Holland, just after the second world war. Jan was a runner who taught history at school. His background as teacher is clearly visible in his book, it’s more a scientific, history book about running in its purest form than that it is a popular novel. But it was not only running that captures Jans heart and imagination. He was a “back to nature” person. In 1985 he spend two months in Spitsbergen, with a friend and a canoe, travelling around the island.

His book

De Mens als Duurloper (Man as Endurance Runner) At this moment in time his book is only available in the Dutch language. It was first printed in 1987. It is interesting to read about the Tarahumara Indians in his book. The book is not about Jan, yes some of his achievements and events are in the book, but it’s a history of ultra-running. According to Jan, ultra-running is the oldest form of travel. You only have to think about Pheidippides (original marathon) or the original inhabitants of what is now the Americas or in Africa, where it still is one of the most import ways of travelling. To eat you had to work. Travel comes from the word travaille (which means work in French).

Some of his Achievements

1973 – Running through The Lairig Ghru Pass in Scotland, setting the first ever record. In 1974 vice versa. Aviemore – Braemar – Aviemore. 1974 – 18 days from Hook of Holland to Stockholm. 1600 kilometers. 1976 (during the heatwave) and 1979 400 kilometer around the IJsselmeer in less than 44 hours. 1979 – Crystal Palace 24 hours track run – 89 miles 1994 – Belfast – Dublin Cooperation Peace Run – 106 miles Various fell running races and events across the Great British Isles and around the world.


Running is not a sport, but a means of travel, by which body and mind are constantly on the move. Therefore running is an art and not a cure for modern ailments. (translated from De mens als duurloper)


Jan Knippenberg Memorial