Greatness can be achieved in many ways. However, there is one organization that is universally recognized by everyone that identifies the best of the best, The Guinness World Records. I used to love going through the books as a kid and looking at all the amazing things people were able to do as well as all the weird things!
In March 2017, I attempted to be a Guinness World Record holder by running a half marathon in a chef’s costume. You might be thinking: “how is this a world record?” You will be surprised to see that there are plenty of weird records that are included in the Guinness World Records for running. One simple search of “fastest half marathon in” will yield some great results.
My personal favorites are:
- Fastest half marathon running barefoot backwards (male) – not only is running backwards a challenge, but barefoot too? There is a separate record for just backwards.
- Fastest half marathon barefoot on ice/snow – completed none other than the Ice man – Wim Hof.
- Fastest half marathon three legged – I don’t have the coordination to run one by myself let alone tied to another person.
The Pursuit of Greatness
My journey began back in November 2016. My wife and I were registered to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon. She hated running and I promised to run with her if she ever wanted to run a half marathon.
My wife runs a few minutes per mile slower than me and I wanted to make it a challenge for myself as well. What better way than to dress up in a turkey outfit (fitting since it was right before Thanksgiving)!
On race day, it was a slightly balmy say in November. The outlook was 65-70 degrees and sunny. Definitely not the ideal weather conditions to run in a 100% cotton turkey outfit! After Mile 1, I knew I was going to be in for a long day. During the race, I loved getting the attention from the spectators (who couldn’t tell if I was a chicken or a turkey) as well as runners (who dared not lose to a guy running in a turkey outfit). I had more fun running in a race than I ever had, while my wife was barely holding on to dear life.
I told my co-workers about the half marathon in my turkey outfit and someone mentioned, “you know you could get into the Guinness World Records by running in a costume”. And so the pursuit for greatness began!
The Application Process
In order to be recognized as the world record holder, there is a process you need to follow.
Step 1: Apply for a Record
Step 2: Wait for the Record to Be Approved
Step 3: Beat the Record
Step 4: Submit Required Evidence
Step 5: Wait for Evidence to be Reviewed and Hopefully the Record is Approved
Step 1 – Apply for a Record
There are hundreds of running world records on the website, but only a handful that I could actually beat. On January 11, I selected to run the fastest half marathon in a chef’s costume. The record at the time was around 2 hours and 23 minutes, or a 10:53 pace. This would be a piece of cake since my PR was 1:49:25 (back in 2012).
It’s a straightforward application. You simply go and find a record and hit apply! The key fields are where and when you will attempt to beat the record and your anticipated time. I planned to beat the record with a time of 1:45:00-1:50:00 at the Love Run Half Marathon in Philadelphia on March 26th, 2017. I wrote in the description of why I wanted to run and described the outfit that I was going to wear through showing the links to the chefs outfit, which consisted of a chef’s jacket and pants.
There are a few different applications:
- Standard Application – It’s free, but it can take up to 12 (maybe 16 weeks depending on volume) to process the application.
- Priority Application – You can avoid the 12 weeks and have a decision within 5 business days for £500 GBP or $800 USD (plus VAT). They gotta make money somehow!
- Judge – For £6,500 (in the UK) or $10,000 (in the US), you can invite a judge out and they can witness your attempt live and crown you there on the spot!
Like most people, I don’t have $10,000 to spend on inviting a judge so I decided to wait it out and hoped that they would get back to me in time. There would be a chance that they may not approve it before the record was attempted. I applied 10.5 weeks before the race day.
Step 2: Wait for the Record to Be Approved
This was definitely the most nerve ranking experience. I constantly checked my email and the website to see if there were any updates on my status application. I wasn’t sure what the protocol would be if they didn’t approve my application in time. Do I still attempt it and hope they approve it after the fact?
The worst thing about this process is that there is no way to contact the organization outside of your application. There are no phone numbers, no email addresses, no social media, etc. The only way is to reach them is by submitting comments/questions on your application and someone is expected to answer you within two weeks. I submitted many inquiries about a status update, but there was definitely not a response within two weeks.
On March 14th, I pulled the trigger and decided to pay the $800 for the priority application as there were 8 future working days left. The record was beaten by someone else and was now at 2 hours and 5 minutes and still manageable. By this time, I was all-in for running this half marathon:
- I committed to running 6-12 miles in the frigid winter Saturdays mornings that had highs of 5-10 degrees.
- I told all of my friends and co-workers that I was planning to become a Guinness World Record holder.
- I was also going to be a father in July so I knew that there was a good probability that this might be my only shot! I knew finding the time to run long distance would be a struggle.
By the 5th day, I still had no response! I also checked the website and someone beat the record down to 1 hour 47 minutes! W-T-F. This went from a cake-walk to an actual race. I was aiming to be within the 1:45-1:50 range.
On Thursday, March 23rd, they approved my application after I updated my time to 1:45 – just 3 days before the race. I began frantically reading through their Guide to Your Evidence. If you don’t have a judge to witness you, you’ll need one of three key things:
- Full video of the entire race from start to finish.
- One photograph of the runner for every one mile or two kilometers of the race.
- Two independent witnesses running alongside the applicant for the duration of the race.
This was all news to me. You don’t get the details until the application has been approved.
- Video – I frantically went to Amazon and bought myself an action camera to film the attempt. There aren’t many cameras that can last up to 2 hours on one single battery. The last thing you want to do is change a camera battery while running!
- Photo – I sent an email to friends and family to see if they could meet me at various mile markers along the way. I had some holes, but maybe the race photographers could supplement it.
- Witness Statements – My strategy was to ask random strangers around my corral to provide a witness statement at the end. This would be a long shot, but I didn’t have any other option.
Step 3: Beat the Record
On Thursday, before I saw that they approved my record, I needed to vent out my frustration. I did pull ups and I felt this slight pain on the right side of my chest in the next few days. This pain became excruciating by Friday night. I was hunched over and could not take a deep breathe for more than 4 seconds. Did I have pneumonia or the cold? I went to bed early and if this pain still persisted in the morning, I would go to Urgent Care.
When I woke up, the pain was still there. The Urgent Care doctors diagnosed it as a chest strain and prescribed me with pain relievers and icy-hot patches to soothe the pain. I took the medication and went back to sleep, tossing and turning. I was seeing the world record slip through my fingers. Has all of this training gone to waste? I was in severe doubt of even going to the starting line. Eventually, I convinced myself to try my best tomorrow and see what happens. I was too vested in the race to back down now.
Sunday morning arrived and it was time to race. I still had pain in my chest, but it wasn’t excruciating. I stuck to my normal pre-race routine, but added the prescription pain reliever and icy hot patch to the mix. I checked my garmin running watch and it was frozen on the clock!?! Is this truly Murphy’s law? My back-up plan was to use Map My Run on my cell phone to track the distance and time. Weather conditions was perfect – mid 40’s and cloudy. I attached the action camera over to a selfie stick and hoped it wouldn’t hinder my attempt. My friends and family were gathered along the route. I got to the starting line a bit early to nervously and awkwardly ask people around my corral what their expected pace was and if they would provide a witness statement for my attempt. In the end, I got about 10 emails.
My race plan was to start slow and finish strong (negative splits). I would try to stick close to the 1:45 pace group (8:00 minute mile). As the race kicked off, the first few miles are in Center City. Map My Run indicated my pace was in the 7:30s even though I was behind the 1:45 pace group. Crap. The app can’t get a good read of distance through the skyscrapers. I was running blind at this point and had to calculate my pace for the rest of the run. The pain in my chest wasn’t a thought in my mind. I was focused on trying to figure out my pace for each mile.
Mid-way through the race, I was falling behind the pace group and I lost them from my line of sight. By Mile 8 as they looped back, I was about a half mile slower. I needed to pick up the pace and push through. I followed a few guys that seemed to be going at a great pace that would allow me to catch up to lead group. I repeated this mantra over and over: “pain is temporary, glory is forever”, “trust the training”.
As I neared the finish line, I caught up to the 1:45 pace guide! I couldn’t believe it! I finished the race with a time of 1:44:41, a 7:59 pace. I dropped down to my knees in exhaustion and excitement. I went from barely breathing to setting a PR for a half marathon! I beat the world record by about 2 minutes.
Step 4: Submit the Evidence
Later that day, I went online to begin submitting the evidence on the website. As I read through the requirements, I realized I didn’t have the right outfit. O.M.G.
- “For the purposes of this record the chef’s uniform must include: A white chef’s jacket (long or short sleeved), patterned chefs trousers, apron and tall, white chef’s hat.
- The claimant must carry a stock pot or a kitchen utensil that must be pre-approved by Guinness World Records. The utensil/s must weigh a minimum of 3kg (6.6lbs) with the weight verified at the start and end of the attempt.
- The claimant must carry the kitchen utensil in their hands for the entire length of the half marathon and not attach it to their body in any way. No forward movement may be made if the participant is not carrying the utensil.”
I was so focused on trying to obtain the evidence that I didn’t bother to read the actual application guidelines. There is a package that is called “Guide to your evidence” and a separate “Application Guidelines” for your individual record. I assumed that once your application has been approved, you just needed to wear the items in your description. I didn’t have the apron, chefs hat, or pot with utensils. I checked the half marathon photos from the person who had the 1:47 time and saw their outfit. It had everything that they listed. Why didn’t I do this earlier? This race went from $106 (registration fee) to $1,000 after buying a camera and the priority application decision and all of it went to waste!
I ended up submitting all the evidence I had, but I knew I wasn’t going to get the record. I would not have beat the record running with a 3kg pot in my hand, especially with my chest strain. The review of the evidence can also take up to 12 weeks too. You can purchase the Priority Evidence Review service for existing titles, which costs £350 / $650 US / €440 (plus VAT where applicable).
Step 5: Wait for the Approval
After a lot of back and forth (of which their response can take up to 2 weeks), my application was formally rejected on July 5th. I argued to create a new record (chef’s costume with no hat, pot, apron) or to refund my money since they did not adhere to their response guidelines. They chose the later.
I learned a few lessons from this experience:
- Always read the instructions and directions fully! Pay attention to details and don’t make assumptions. I could’ve avoided this mess in a few different ways like checking the current world record holder’s photos online or thoroughly reading the application once it was approved.
- Don’t do any lifting a week before the race and avoid being sick!
- Have a few back-up plans in case one doesn’t work out.
- More importantly, sometimes the journey is better than the result. I ultimately got to the best running shape of my life and strengthened my discipline and grit along the process. Chipping away at a larger goal by forcing yourself to run on the weekends regardless of how cold it is.
- If you’re not failing, you’re not growing. You need to push yourself constantly and accept that you will fail. It’s how you react to failure that will set you apart. I remember listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast with Arnold Schwarzenegger (Podcast 255 – How to Turn Failure into Success) and it discussed his failures and how he handled it. This motivated me to try and beat another world record!
On May 20th, I applied to beat the record of fastest half marathon wearing lederhosen, which had a current record time of 1:59:59. One additional thing I learned is that you should take the path least traveled. There are plenty of world records; most are not advertised on their main page. The chef’s costume was advertised on their website and led to a very competitive record, which has been broken at least 4-5 times in 2017. The lederhosen record is tucked away to those that will actually apply for a record and remains unknown to a majority of people.
On August 30th, my application was approved! It took 14.5 weeks for the approval to come in. What I didn’t realize was that I applied to beat the record in the Philadelphia Rock ‘N’Roll Half Marathon on September 17th, 2017 and not the Philadelphia Half Marathon (November 17th, 2017). This gave me weeks to train (18 days to be precise) instead of months! I was training in the summertime, but my primary objective was to get faster (and run a 5K in under 20 minutes). My son was born in July and haven’t had the time to really exercise. My work out regime consisted of changing diapers and carrying him in a baby bjorn.
Immediately after hearing the new, I started my training plan that night. I went out at 10pm to see if I could actually do this. I ran 6.5 miles in an 8:03 pace, so I registered for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon the next day! This was going to happen! I kept my runs short (3-4 miles) during the week and focused on speed drills to get back my cardio. The two long runs were 10 and 8 miles. My main objective was to get to the starting line healthy and injury free.
Beating the Record
Although I wasn’t as physically prepared, I was more mentally prepared the second time around. A few things I did:
- Read the Application Guidelines! I scanned it at least 10 times and got others interpretations of the rules. Here are the rules of the attempt (with links to my outfit):
- The competitor must wear a full lederhosen outfit – apart from running shoes – for the duration of the record attempt.
- The lederhosen must be authentic dress and NOT a fancy dress costume.
- The lederhosen must include the following: Traditional hat (any colour), White shirt, Traditional leather lederhosen with straps, Long socks (pulled up to just below the knee) or regular socks and matching stulpen.
- The runner must wear the lederhosen throughout the attempt. If any part of the lederhosen outfit is removed during the half marathon, the attempt will be disqualified.
- I checked their website for others that may have beaten the record in lederhosen. There were those that ran the full marathon and made sure my outfit matched theirs!
- In the first attempt, I only got 1 witness statement out of the 10 people that I asked. I avoided awkwardly asking runners at the starting line this time. I solicited the help of two running enthusiasts that would follow me throughout the race. This helped me mentally focus on the task at hand versus trying to find people to give a statement to a stranger.
- One would take photos of me at every mile marker and the other would have the action camera strapped to their chest while they ran behind me.
- I am grateful that I was able to find two people that could run a half marathon in a certain time in less than 2 weeks.
Race day was 82 degrees during the day with lots of humidity. There were some tropical storms that came up the East Coast. It definitely wasn’t ideal conditions to run in a leather outfit. Thankfully, I didn’t chafe during the race (it actually feels pretty good if you’re not running in it). I was sweating buckets and buckets of fluids, beginning at Mile 1. Hydration would be the key and I had to make sure I was going to finish the race. I felt that I was going to pass out around the 11th to 12th mile, but I kept repeating those same mantra’s “pain is temporary, glory is forever” and “do it for dad”. I was fading towards the end, but knew that if I kept a steady pace, that the record was mine. Running through the 3 blisters on my feet, I finished the race in 1:51:51, well within the record time!
The Evidence Submission
At this point, I believed it was just a formality – I had all the key elements – witness statements, video, and photos with the correct outfit. What I didn’t realize was that the battery died around 1:30 into the marathon. You can watch the video here. There were two key pieces of evidence that they wanted to have:
- “Half and full marathon attempts must be done at an officially sanctioned race, certified by a national athletic governing body e.g. USATF (USA Track and Field) or UKA (United Kingdom Athletics). For the purpose of this record races cannot be one-off races or be organised for the sole purpose of the record attempt. Races that do not meet these requirements must be sent to Guinness World Records for pre-approval and whether they are accepted will be at our discretion.”
- This can be easily found through this website for USATF: https://www.usatf.org/events/courses/search/
- “The event must be overseen by two independent witnesses, one of whom must be the race director. In the case that the person attempting the record is the race director, a further independent witness.”
- By far, this was the hardest piece of evidence to get. In some races, you won’t know who the race director is, let alone getting in contact with them.
- One of the places I suggest starting is the race website, but also the USATF certification. The certification has the race director and their email.
- I was lucky enough to be put into contact with the right people that could get me the evidence I needed.
On December 14th, 2017 – my application was officially approved (about 12.5 weeks later)! I am officially amazing and the current world record holder for the fastest half marathon in lederhosen! As a world record holder, you get one free certificate and you can order up to as many certificates and frames. Certificates are $25 and frames are $46.
There are a few people that I want to thank:
- My father: I dedicated the race to my father, who past away in November 2016. His death has inspired me to lead a more meaningful and healthy life.
- My wife: I also could not have done it without the support of my wife, who took care of our newborn son while I was off training for the race. Behind every strong man, is a stronger woman.
- The 2 enthusiastic runners: They came through and ran the half marathon with me. I am extremely grateful for their time and effort to help me gather the evidence I needed to accomplish this feat.
In conclusion, this has been an amazing journey that has taught me the value of failure, perseverance, and attention to detail. Dream big and set some goals for yourself. You never know what you can achieve!