Ashrita Furman attempted to walk 33 feet wearing 160-pound shoes. Asha Rani tried to pull a plane with her hair. Nonagenarian Thomas Lackey vied to become the oldest person ever to walk on the wing of a plane.
If that sounds like business as usual for getting into the famed Guinness World Records, you’d be right – Guinness receives some 1,000 applications a week from folks seeking to be listed in the recognized 40,000 record categories. But on Thursday, Furman, Rani and Lackey joined some 300,000 other competitors in a concentrated effort to make a little history in the sixth annual “Guinness World Records Day.”
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Launched in 1954 as a freebie to settle bar bets and promote Guinness’ dark, sudsy product, the once-little book that could is now the best-selling copyrighted book in the world. But World Records Day is only 6 years old; Guinness started it in 2004 to mark not only its 50th anniversary, but also its 100 millionth book sold.
Of course, Guinness could crow that it’s setting a record itself for the most people trying to set a record in one day, but the publisher’s U.S. spokesman Stuart Claxton told PR Newswire that Guinness “hasn’t kept tabs on that because it’s so self-serving, and this day is all about the people.”
And among the people seeking to enter Guinness’ hallowed pages were TODAY’s own Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, who put on their best game faces Thursday in an attempt to break a who-knew-it-existed record: the most M&Ms candies eaten with chopsticks in one minute.
Competing live on air, the co-anchors showed they were up to the challenge; Hoda in particular proved adept by employing a scoop rather than pinch method of hoisting the M&Ms to her mouth. Alas, they fell short; while Kotb downed 19 candies and Gifford 14, neither came close to the world record of 43 eaten in a minute.Video: Measuring up to ‘Tallest Living Dog’ (on this page)
Hop to it
A slightly more serious challenge was undertaken by James Roumeliotis, who appeared on TODAY hoping to break the world record for most jumps on a pogo stick in one minute. Roumeliotis, a staunch competitor who once spent 20 hours on a pogo stick trying to gain entry into Guinness immortality, pogoed feverishly and seemed to be within jumping distance of the record for 238 bounces in a minute. But Claxton told Kotb and Gifford he would have to review a tape of Roumeliotis’s attempt before he could make a decision (the results are still pending).
For many, it’s the offbeat that draws them to Guinness’ pages. While its myriad entries include such standard fare as most home runs hit in professional baseball (Sadaharu Oh, 868) and longest distance run in one hour (Arturo Barrios, 13.1 miles), what really grabs the attention are such quirky records as the man with the hairiest face in the world, or the person with the most toes on one foot.
Guinness knows those oddities heighten interest, and on Worlds Records Day, trotted out the World’s Tallest Married Couple at its Guinness World Records Museum in Hollywood. Stockton, Cal., couple Wayne and Laurie Halliquist posed for the cameras: all 13 feet, 4 inches of them.Video: World's ‘Tallest’ meets ‘Smallest’ (on this page)
Then there’s the above-mentioned Furman. The Queens, N.Y., man may hold the most prestigious record of them all: most records in the Guinness book. The 56-year-old has set 312 records, 120 which still stand, and become a favorite of the Guinness folks, who flew him to England to show off his attempt to walk the 11 yards in heavy, heavy shoes.
And the feeling is mutual: Furman’s love affair with Guinness World Records began at age 10, and drives him to continue adding to his record number of titles. “I remember carrying it around and reading it under the covers at night,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
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While Furman said he learned early on he didn’t possess the physical prowess that would make him a world-class competitor in the conventional manner, finding new Guinness records to break has become a lifelong passion. Alistair Richards, managing director of Guinness World Records, said the publishers hold Furman, who has done everything from somersaulting continuously for 12 miles to clapping 50 hours straight, in the highest regard.
“He’s living and breathing what Guinness is all about,” Richards told the Wall Street Journal. “He lives by a philosophy that nothing is impossible.”Video: China wins ‘human dominoes’ title (on this page)
So while none of the hundreds of thousands of competitors is likely to become the biggest-selling solo artist in music history (Garth Brooks) or the youngest U.S. President (Theodore Roosevelt), they can still reach for greatness as the world’s fastest peanut shucker or double Dutch rope jumper.Slideshow: Guinness World Records 2011 (on this page)
“People think it will be a fun challenge, but they often surprise themselves with just how competitive and determined they become in pursuing it,” Guinness’s global management records head, Marco Frigatti, told the London Guardian newspaper.
“The idea of being the best in the world at something, anything, can be irresistible.”
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