by Thom Gilligan
I always thought that
setting a world record in the marathon was serious business. Haile Gebrselassie has my complete
admiration for his 2:03:59 romp in Berlin. I had the good fortune to be an
eyewitness in the finish line grandstand in London in 2003 when Paula Radcliffe took a major bite out
of the women’s world record as she blasted her way to a 2:15:25. Both
performances were most impressive.
In the early ’90s, I was
forwarded a call from a runner who wanted to book a spot on our trip to the
Athens Marathon to go for the world record. I grabbed the phone, anxious to
assist any runner willing and able to try and set the world record. On the
other end of the call was Albert Lucas
who was no stranger to world records. A Las Vegas entertainer, he
simultaneously held the world record for the most objects juggled at once and
also the world record for joggling a marathon.
For the uninitiated,
joggling combines jogging and juggling. Having recently lost his world marathon
joggling record, he wanted to regain it by being the first joggler to break
three hours. He felt that accomplishing it in Athens would add a nice twist to
the publicity he would gain. Joggling is also serious business. Since 1980, the
World Joggling Championships have honored medalists from around the
world in a number of events from 100 meters to relays. One has to run fast
while juggling three balls to in contention.
Albert asked me if I could
assist him by meeting him at 20 miles and keeping him on world record pace through
the final 10K. I felt honored. Well, things did not go as planned since Athens
is a tough course and Albert hit the wall while juggling, missing his goal by
about 15 minutes. We were both very disappointed.
More recently, I got a call
from another world record candidate. “I need a spot on your trip to the 2011
Antarctica Marathon so that I can get the world record,” said a young
female voice on the line. She explained that she wanted to be the youngest
person to have completed a marathon on all seven continents. The Guinness Book of Records recognizes
the youngest and oldest males and females to have completed this feat.
They also recognize the male
and female who have done it in the shortest amount of time. The men’s record is
a remarkable 29 days, 16 hours and 17 minutes.
Having been blindsided a
second time by my lack of knowledge of world marathon records, I felt obligated
to do a little research. The Guinness Book of Records was an obvious place to
start. Talk about opening a can of worms!
Did you know that there is a
world record for the fastest marathon
run by a clown, done in a respectable time of 2:50 in a marathon in England
in 2009? The marathon record for a runner
dressed as a vegetable (a carrot) is a sluggish 3:34 by a British runner.
Michele Frost of England has the record on stilts at 5:25. Do you see a pattern
London seems to be the
marathon of choice for world records. In the 2008 London Marathon, 35 runners toed the starting line to attempt
world records in a number of categories. I am sure that Paula would be proud to
be in such remarkable company.
So are you willing and able
to make an attempt at a world record? Find a soft time or even better find a
new category. Guinness is always open to proposals. Here is one. Who wants to
be crowned the world marathon record holder for the fastest joggler on stilts
dressed as a turnip juggling pizza boxes?
Thom Gilligan is
President of Boston-based Marathon Tours & Travel, which has been
delivering runners to all seven continents since 1979. Marathon Tours