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The Strain of Bear-Crawling a Marathon

November 9, 2020

WHOOP data from Devon Levesque's epic 26.2-mile bear-crawl.


The 2020 New York City marathon was originally scheduled for November 1 of this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it didn’t happen, and instead became a virtual event runners could do in their hometowns on a date of their choosing.

WHOOP member Devon Levesque, a 28-year-old NYC-based trainer and fitness expert, began the marathon in Brooklyn on Friday, October 30, and finished it in Central Park on Saturday, October 31. It took him 20 hours and 48 minutes to complete the race. Why?

Rather than running 26.2 miles, he bear-crawled it.


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Thank You. ? I Completed a 26.2 mile bear crawl in 20 hrs and 48 minutes with 36 °F weather and some sweet people! I’m very fortunate to have such a strong support system in all of you. I’m going to get more in depth on what my mind and body were going through on some upcoming podcasts… but I was definitely in a different mental state that was pretty interesting. I had the right people around me and God looking over me. We are well over our fundraising goal for @fitops_foundation and still growing (I will announce the final dollar amount on Veterans Day, Nov 11th.) I am sore, feeling very accomplished and eager to do more things to bring awareness to some incredible foundations. Seriously thank you to everyone! ?❤️ Overcome the impossible. . #mentalhealth #suicideprevention #fitopsfoundation ? @rickytiburcio & @kdevesty

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Devon took on this challenge in an effort to raise money for FitOps, an organization that helps veterans find careers in fitness as coaches and trainers. His goal was also to increase awareness for veteran mental health and suicide prevention. When Devon was 16 years old, his father took his own life.

In order to ensure he could actually accomplish this feat, Devon began getting ready for it over a year ago, putting in 4-6 hours of work every day. How do you train to bear-crawl a marathon?


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1 mile with with 30 lbs dumbbells in each hand ? swipe to see my favorite core exercise. . . . I learned the “navy seal sit up” when I went to the military academy for high school. The key is to not let your hands move away from your body. Only use your core to pull yourself up. One hand on your stomach the other behind your head. One leg straight, one leg bent. This will help you take away any momentum you normal sneak into your core routine. . . Tag the first person you are working out with when gyms reopen & compliment them! . . . #performixhouse #gymshark #menshealth #womenshealth #beachworkout #fitops #2020BearCrawl #mentalhealth _______________________________________

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Last July, Devon bear-crawled a world-record 12.5 miles in 10.5 hours as a “practice round” of sorts. His key takeaway was that he needed to protect his hands. For the marathon, he wrapped them in roughly 9 layers of tape in order to prevent blisters.

On the morning of October 30, Devon woke up in the green with a 67% recovery after a solid 7 hours of sleep. His heart rate variability was 149 and his resting heart rate was 39 bpm–his body was well prepared to take on this massive challenge.

Below is Devon’s real-time heart rate data from when he started his journey at 5 pm Friday evening, through when he finished just before 2 pm Saturday afternoon. While you can see it dip during his brief rest periods, his HR peaked at 167 and for the most part stayed in the 125-150 range for nearly 21 straight hours.

WHOOP member Devon Levesque's live heart rate over a 21-hour span while bear-crawling a marathon.

Devon Levesque’s live heart rate over a 21-hour span while bear-crawling 26.2 miles.

Additionally, Devon posted a strain of 20.5 (a measure of cardiovascular exertion on a scale of 0-21) during his crawl, and burned roughly 11,400 calories.

Devon Levesque posted a WHOOP strain of 20.5 when he bear-crawled the NYC Marathon.

Almost as impressive as the all-out effort Devon put forth to complete the bear-crawl marathon, the day afterwards his recovery was still 52%. But as to be expected, it obviously took a little time for his metrics to bounce back to normal. A week after the race, Devon posted on his Instagram “[My] body feels good, I’m about 60% recovered.”


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