On March 30, 1991, Barrios set world records at one hour (21.101 km) and 20,000 m (56:55.6). These records stood until June 2007, when they were broken by Haile Gebrselassie. Barrios' 1991 performance makes him the first man ever to run a half-marathon distance in less than one hour; the first to do so in an actual half-marathon competition was Moses Tanui in 1993. That performance also still stands as the North American records and the Mexican record for those two events.
In 1992 he participated in the World Cup in Athletics, running the 5000 m with a time of 13:50.95, finishing in second place.
Between 1987 and 1990, Barrios won the San Francisco Bay to Breakers race, considered the largest footrace in the world, four consecutive times.
Barrios became a United States citizen in September 1994. Barrios graduated from Texas A&M University in 1985 where he competed in track and cross country.
The annual Arturo Barrios Invitational 5K and 10K road races in Chula Vista, California, launched in 1989, were held for the last time in 2006.