World Records Tumble

This month the 51 year old strongman set his 103rd Guinness record – he holds 30 current official records – by carrying a person of exactly his own weight in a Fireman’s Carry position for one mile in fifteen minutes.

Previously he has run 50 miles in under 9 hours while juggling three balls; balanced a milk bottle on his head continuously for 81 miles; balanced seventy five 20oz pint glasses on his chin; pogosticked up the 1900 steps of Toronto’s CN Tower; somersaulted the entire 12 1/4 mile length of Paul Revere’s ride in Massachusetts; and stilt-walked 8 kms in just under 40 minutes – to name a few. On the Oprah Winfrey show Ashrita had to be escorted off the show by paramedics after eating the world’s hottest chilli peppers!

Other records set by Ashrita over the past three decades include the fastest mile pushing an orange with his nose, the fastest mile on a pogo stick and the most milk crates ever balanced on anyone’s chin.

Ashrita timed his latest attempt to coincide with Guinness World Records Day. Guinness Records, the keeper of all records wacky and wonderful has been around for 50 years, and has set aside November 9th as a day to celebrate record setting achievements.

On hand to verify Ashrita’s record was Stuart Claxton, head of Guinness’s U.S. research team. “Guinness World Records has a healthy sense of humour, so we’re always interested in it being fun as well. But really we’re looking for things that other people can actually break because as we always say, ‘Records are meant to be broken’ – and that’s what we’re celebrating today,” he said.

Other record attempts also took place around the world to commemorate Guinness Record Day. This month in New York Chad Fell blew a 20 inch bubblegum bubble, setting a record for the largest one without the use of hands. Aaron Studham of Leominster, Massachusetts sported the tallest Mohawk haircut, coming in at a hair-raising 21 inches. Other Guinness Records being attempted included the ‘Longest Non-stop Commercial Flight’, from Hong Kong to London’s Heathrow, and ‘Largest Milkshake’ attempt by a group in Brisbane, Australia.

The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team of which Ashrita is a member organises a further annual event in Germany to also commemorate Guinness World Record Day. Called ‘Impossibility Challenger’, the one day occasion attracts participants from all over the world bent on establishing world and personal records in a variety of non-Olympic disciplines. To the athletes and record contenders these feats have become known as ‘Guinnessport’. The term was coined in the seventies to describe the daredevil antics that earned a place in The Guinness Book of World Records, which also happens to be the world’s best-selling book. According to Impossibility Challenger organizers and lovers of Guinnessport, the goal is ‘to overcome human limitations and to challenge the seemingly impossible’.

This year Shobha Tipnis from India became the first woman in the world to inflate a hot-water bottle with her lungs till it burst. Gill Zafar from the neighboring country Pakistan lifted metal plates weighing 55kg with his right ear and held the weight for 12.2 seconds in the air. Shamita Achenbach-Konig set a Guinness Record which pampered the ears – the professional cellist from Vienna played the cello for 24 hours.

Albert Walter, Swiss record holder in the bench press for 2004, set two new world records. He tore up a phone book with 960 pages in 2.8 seconds and broke an 8.5mm thick carpenter’s nail with his bare hands. Rainer Schroder from Germany towed a truck of three tons with his teeth for the Guinness world record distance of 35.8 metres in one minute flat. Milan Roskopf from Slovakia set a world record by juggling three 20lb [9kg] shot puts for 25.6 seconds.

Ashrita Furman, the king of Guinnessport and often the chief draw card, at a recent Impossibility Challenger set not one but three new records. In the space of a few hours he completed one mile of hula-hoop spinning, one mile of lunges [in which the knee had to touch the ground at every step], and standing on a gymnastic ball, balancing three hours and 30 minutes and bettering his own previous record by over an hour.

Guinnesport followers have come to expect the impossible from Furman. He has broken so many records, in so many disciplines, that in 1987 Guinness editor Norris McWhirter presented him with the title ‘Mr. Versatility’ and allowed him a bonus record: the most world records in unrelated categories.

Anke Riedel, director of the new Impossibility-Challenger, remembers an earlier event back in 1990 when Ashrita broke a record for playing the most hopscotch games in 24 hours. At that same event, karate masters sliced blocks of ice, and one daredevil rode a bicycle backwards while playing the violin. The Impossibility-Challenger is nothing if not diverse.

Over the past 25 years, Furman has broken over 103 records in everything from yodeling to land rowing. ‘Ask fans who’s the greatest athlete of all times,’ The Christian Science Monitor once wrote, ‘and you’ll hear a familiar debate over the likes of Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth. Ask readers of The Guinness Book of World Records, however, and you’re likely to hear consensus on one name: Ashrita Furman.’

Ashrita visited New Zealand in 2003 when he set a world record by juggling three lead balls underwater at Kelly Tarltons Underwater World for 48 minutes non-stop in a large fish tank. His first attempt was interrupted after 16 minutes when a tiny parrotfish repeatedly bit him on the nose!

Furman attributes all his achievements to a lifelong practice of meditation, which he believes helps in developing intense concentration in the mind, self-belief and will power. He is also quick to credit all his records to his meditation teacher, 74-year-old Sri Chinmoy.

“In my teens I started searching for a deeper meaning to life and studied Eastern philosophy and yoga. I later attended a meditation evening with the Indian master Sri Chinmoy, a meeting which changed the course of my life. Sri Chinmoy radically altered the way I looked at things. His philosophy of self-transcendence, of overcoming your limits and making daily progress spiritually, creatively and physically, using the power of meditation, really thrilled me. However, I was a bit unsure about the physical part in my case due to my lifelong commitment to nerdiness.

But I came to understand that the body is just an instrument of the spirit and, if performed in the right consciousness, physical feats can be just as – or even more – uplifting than meditating in a temple!”