A year to a Guinness World Record: Establishing my exploratory committee

Posted: May 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
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In my effort to always be planning the next big thing, I am actually planning ahead a bit, and am currently musing the next next big thing (this is the next big thing).

I am currently in the exploratory committee phrase of attempting to break a Guinness World Record.

Specifically, I’m interested in the Guinness World Record for joggling 50 miles (with three balls, not five pictured above; that just happens to be the greatest joggling photo over), set in October 2007 by Perry Romanowski (see the account of his record-setting effort, which broke Ashrita Furman’s 1989 mark of 8:52:07). For those not in the know, joggling is the act of running while juggling. I am rather proficient in juggling, thanks to an obsessive period in middle school. I also enjoy running ultramarathons.

Have I previously combined the two? Well no, not really. But I am interested in making the record attempt next spring (ideally, I would love to have the record before graduation). The exact venue is yet to be determined. That would give me a long block of time to get the motions down. Michal Kapral, who currently holds the world record for joggling the marathon, said that it took him about four months to become proficient enough to set his initial world record.

The latter fact is the result of my in-depth investigations into the world of joggling in the past week or so (this isn’t exactly a spur-of-the-moment decision; I came across the record in December). I will share the result of those investigations with you.

Let’s get started. First of all, this is the greatest joggling video ever made. It manages to make it appear sexy, which is obviously the hardest task in the world. I believe it depicts the 1990 World Joggling Championships. Watch 0:45 – 1:15, 2:30-2:45, and 3:57-4:30 if you’d like the cliff notes version.

For those who think that no one is actually going for these records, check out Wikipedia’s entry on how much the marathon joggling record has dropped in 20 years (it’s currently seven minutes faster than my PR):

Recent international media footage has featured the battle for the marathon record between Canadian Michal Kapral and American Zach Warren. The history of the record includes:

  • 2:50:09 September, 2007 — Toronto: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 2:52:15 November, 2006 — Philadelphia: Zach Warren (USA);
  • 2:57:39 September, 2006 — Toronto: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 2:58:23 April, 2006 — Boston: Zach Warren (USA);
  • 3:06:45 April, 2006 — Boston: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 3:07:05 November, 2005 — Philadelphia, PA: Zach Warren (USA);
  • 3:07:46 September, 2005 – Toronto, Canada: Michal Kapral (Canada);
  • 3:20:49 August, 2000 — Karlsruhe, Germany, Paul-Erik Lillholm (Norway);
  • 3:22 1988 — Salmon River, Idaho: Ashrita Furman (USA) ;
  • 4:04 1987 — Los Angeles, CA: Albert Lucas (USA)

First of all, the obvious question is “How can you expect to break the record of 8:23 when you ran 8:25 in your one and only 50 mile race in which you were not juggling?”

Shut up.

No seriously, legitimate question. However, there are major differences between running 50 miles through the mountains of Vermont and running 50 miles on something equivalent to a paved bike path. The latter is what the previous record was set on, and what I would attempt to set it upon. This would remove technical trails and elevation gain from the equation, which I believe would be extremely significant. Additionally, I think I’ve progressed a good deal even from that initial 50 mile, before which I had never run more than 26.2 miles. I got second in a trail 100k and ran negative splits en route to a 2:56 in the Boston Marathon.

Still, there remains the question of how much the act of juggling would slow down the running process. What would be the equivalent non-joggling time? Luckily, we can turn to Kapral’s blog for that:

This is easy to calculate. Below is a comparative chart of my running and joggling PB times and the percentage differential:

400m: 53 secs. vs. 59 secs. (89%)
Mile: 4:22 vs. 4:49 (90%)
5K: 15:05 vs. 17:50 (84%)
10K: 31:59 vs. 36:27 (87%)
30K: 1:43 vs. 1:55 (89%)
Marathon: 2:30 vs. 2:53 (87%)

Yes, Kapral is wicked fast. He varies between an 10 and 13 percent decline in time, which apparently falls in line with what joggling experts have hypothesized.

Joggling pioneers like Bill Giduz say joggling should cost you only about 10% of your time. Mine are a bit higher, but that is likely due to the fact that most of my running PBs were set about five years ago when I was a) younger, b) fitter, c) 8 lbs. lighter, d) less overworked, e) less sleep-deprived.

This suggests that the current mark is equal to about a 7:32 50 miler (that’s 90 percent of 8:23). I believe that in approximately a year, on a non-technical course, such a feat would be within reach. Obviously, the training process would involve hefty experimentation and consideration of fueling and hydrating strategies (no more eating while running).

Kapral, if you wondered, also doesn’t take himself too seriously, per the video below:

The main thing that I’ve been exploring over the past few days is how one sets a record – the logistics behind it all, if you will. Before you even make the attempt, you have to fill out a form online in which you tell Guinness about your record attempt. They get back to you in four weeks or so and say whether it’s good enough or not. Presumably, it is easier to get this approval on a record that already exists, as this one does, than if you’re trying to get a new record.

The form looks something like this:

If they give the okay, then you go ahead and make all the other arrangements with the race director, gathering witnesses, etc. Then you actually break the record, which is an often overlooked part of the process. After the event, if you succeed, you submit a bunch of documentation and photos and stuff, and eventually they get back to you. That’s very vague; presumably Guinness would give me some specifics.

So the plan is to fill out the form in the coming week or so, and see what Guinness thinks of my current plan. One of my central questions is to whether they’d allow the record to be set in a 12 hour race, instead of a 50 mile race, if the former consisted of a USATF-certified loop course that could be done a number of times until 50 miles was reached. Regardless, I have been researching both USATF-certified 50 mile courses and loop courses. If they don’t like the idea for my first attempt, my schedule would give me plenty to submit successive forms.

(As a side note, there are much more in the way of flat, non-technical ultras in the fall than the spring, but given my completely arbitrary preference to do this before graduation, that doesn’t help me out much). Oh, and to answer the most frequently asked question related to joggling: No, you don’t start over if you drop one. You just pick it up and continue joggling from the point where you dropped it.

I have exchanged email correspondence with Romanowski, the current record holder, and he’s been helpful in discussing some of the things that Guinness looks out for. If all goes well, I would like to make a record attempt within the next year.

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