It is not often people get to witness a Guinness World Record find a new home, but on August 13th at SUNY Purchase, the prestigious award for most sprint duathlons completed in 24 hours was broken by Rowan Haffner. The motive for running 45 miles and biking 108 miles (yes, an 18-year-old did that) is best described by Haffner.

He explained, “The entire motivation behind aiming to set a world record was to raise awareness about what epileptic athletes are capable of. Because of the natural limitations living with Epilepsy can bring, very few people with Epilepsy participate in endurance events. I wanted to demonstrate not only could someone with Epilepsy achieve and finish such a strenuous race, but show that someone with Epilepsy could be the best in the world at something. I hope others can see what I’ve done, and that I’ve helped pave the path for future epileptics to dive into endurance sports and challenge themselves and not let Epilepsy limit their ambitions.”

Jeff Boyer, Haffner’s coach from Barracuda Tri, told of how the preparation for the event is no less strenuous than one would expect – making the accomplishment all the more remarkable.

“Let’s say he wasn’t training for this specifically when he was diagnosed with Epilepsy in November 2021,” Boyer said. “That kind of took the fast-paced draft-legal racing out of his repertoire. That’s when I succumbed to training him for a long course like this. He signed up for Iron Man Lake Placid which took place three weekends ago, and we started training for that in January, and that training helped for this as well.”

For context, Boyer estimated a “typical Iron Man athlete” would need closer to a month to recover from the Lake Placid event before even considering attempting to break this world record. This is just another of seemingly countless reasons why, when the final steps were taken, it is no wonder the rush of emotions hit Haffner hard.

“When I finished, I was immediately flooded with feelings of relief, enormous fatigue, but most prominently pride. This was a goal I set out to do months ago, a goal that required up to 20 hours of training a week to complete and so seeing that come into fruition was emotional and truly incredible.”

The previous record for most sprint duathlons completed in 24 hours was nine full sets. One full sprint duathlon has a 5k run, followed by a 20k bike segment, followed by a 2.5k run. Then, the cycle repeats. Haffner tied the former record at nine full sets, and he determined he had enough gas left in the tank to break it by completing another 5k run. After nearly 2-full-marathon’s worth of running (and enough biking to get from Scarsdale to Philadelphia), Russ Gold, the certifier of the record, was able to confirm Haffner had indeed set out for what he wanted to do: he showed how someone with Epilepsy can be the best in the world at something with flying colors – even in an intense athletic field. The message is worth infinitely more than the Guinness World Record – though the accolade does make the achievement tangible and undisputed..

Gold, a decorated triathlon/duathlon coach and official, acknowledged the uniqueness and rigor of the feat, telling how he would not be shocked in the slightest if this is the only time he is asked to verify this world record. Boyer added, “It takes a certain individual to do something like this. Not so much to say they want to do something like this, but to actually put the work in and do it. It takes a certain mindset, determination, self-motivation to do something like this.”

Regardless of how impressive the feat was – even in the mind of the experts – Rowan is far from finished.

“It’s hard to think about what’s next considering I always want to go one step further than my previous accomplishments,” Haffner admitted. “It’s that mindset that led me to set a world record. Yet I’m still searching for what can be crazier than setting a 19-hour world record. That being said, knowing me, I’ll find something even crazier to do soon enough that is even more challenging than I could imagine.”

Set to be a part of Duke’s club triathlon team, the training never stops. As Boyer memorably said, “This is Rowan’s crazy.” Fortunately, his “crazy” has led him to be the best in the world, portraying the exact message he wanted to inspire people with. Epilepsy could not prevent him from being the best.


Source:, Adam Katcher