May 21, 2013 by Nathaniel Tower
I am no longer the best.
Last night I discovered that someone else was crazy enough to run a mile backwards while juggling. I know he wasn’t the first to try it since I established the official world record back in November 2012, but he’s the first to do it faster.
He did it a lot faster. Joe Salter of Gulf Breeze, Florida, shattered my record by 45 seconds.
Although I had tried to downplay it after I successfully completed my original record attempt, I have to admit that I felt special. And why not? It’s pretty cool to think that out of six billion people, I was the best at something. Of course, in reality I always suspected I wasn’t the best. I was simply the best to actually try it (and record it).
Joe’s triumph hit hard at first. The disappointment crushed me. My claim to fame was gone. What would I tell my students, who were so proud of my accomplishment? My entire life was built around the fact that I was a world record holder. Now I was diminished to just another has-been. In a fit of rage, I ripped the framed world record certificate off the wall and chucked the whole thing in the fireplace, the glass shattering as the fire quickly consumed the cheap paper.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. I never framed the certificate. I don’t actually know where it is right now. I always knew it was a bit of silliness, which is what made it so fun.
I couldn’t be too upset about my record’s downfall. After all, I only trained for about three weeks for the backwards joggling event. Yes, I had been running for years, but running forward and running backwards are quite different.
When the disappointment subsided (rather quickly actually), I decided I would train to recapture the record. I always knew I could run a lot faster than I did. Shortly after setting the record, I had told myself that I would keep training until I could run under seven minutes and thirty seconds. But, as with often goes with goals and resolves, I didn’t do much training at all. Winter set in, other things came up. In fact, since setting the record, I’ve only joggled a few times, and I’ve only been running with any consistency at all for the last two weeks.
It’s only been a day since I learned of Joe’s feat, but I’m glad he broke the record. As they say, records are made to be broken. Without Joe to push me, I would have been content with the record for my entire life, living off the laurels of past glory. But let’s be honest. Eight minutes and twenty-two seconds isn’t very fast.
The other day I told me students that the key to setting a world record is to pick something that no one else has done. Other than creativity, I guess there isn’t much of an accomplishment in that.
I’ll never forget the day I set the world record. My athletes and coworkers surrounded the track, cheering me on. They even made posters to celebrate the occasion. It was never really the record that was special. It was knowing how much support I had.
Joe has inspired me to work harder, to make the best of my talents. If the record had stayed dormant for years, I likely never would have known the possibility of my abilities. Of course, I don’t actually know the possibilities until I lace up my shoes, grab my juggling balls, and start running blindly around the track, hoping I won’t trip over whatever gets in my way.