I’m the fastest man in the world. No, I’m not Usain Bolt. And I’ve never been in the Olympics. And I’m not even the fastest man in the world anymore. But I once was:
You see, “fastest man in the world” can take on all meanings. You could be the fastest at eating a pound of goat cheese. Or the fastest at falling down a flight of stairs. Or even the fastest at successfully having a bowel movement while wearing sunglasses in a dark bathroom. It doesn’t really matter as long as you do it faster than the other 7.4 billion people on Earth. Actually, to be the fastest man, you technically only have to beat about 3.6 billion of them.
Anyone can be a world record holder
I contend that anyone can be a world record holder, and you don’t necessarily have to work that hard at it. You just have to pick the right record and have just enough dedication to achieve it. The secret is to pick a record that doesn’t take much dedication. Anyone can do that, right?
There are an infinite number of possible world record categories. There are a finite number of people in the world. It doesn’t take sophisticated mathematics abilities to figure out that everyone could have a world record.
Let’s take a look at my first world record. My particular “fastest man in the world” achievement was pretty specific. I was the fastest man ever to run a mile backwards–while juggling.
Yes, you heard that right. I ran a mile backwards while juggling. It’s called joggling (although it’s usually done forward). If you watch enough TV, you’ve probably seen a hotel commercial featuring the man who holds the world record for fastest joggling marathon. Pretty impressive feat to run 26.2 miles while juggling three balls, right? Well, now imagine doing it backwards for 1/26th of that distance. That’s where I came in.
Why I shouldn’t be good enough to have a world record
Let’s take a step back. I shouldn’t be a world record holder. I’m really not that good at anything. I’ve been juggling for twenty years. I’ve been running for longer than that. As a juggler, I’m not the best in the world. I have never been in a juggling competition, so I honestly have no idea where I rank. I would guess I’m somewhere in the top third of all jugglers, although I’m not even sure what that means. It just gives you a little perspective.
As a runner, I’m not that great either. In my peak shape, I could probably beat at least 99% of the entire world in a 5K. But if you put me in a race with the 1% of people I couldn’t beat, I would finish dead last, which would make me look pretty terrible if you were looking at the results on paper. I could never qualify for the Olympics or even the Olympic Trials. If they held Olympic Trials Trials, I wouldn’t qualify for those either. I didn’t even make my college team’s regional squad (and I ran at a Division III school). So I’m not very good. Certainly not good enough to set a world record. But I can win a local 5K, as long as I pick the right 5K to enter.
So I might not be the best at anything, but I have a competitive streak in me. Like most, people, I don’t like losing. On a certain level, I like to impress people, which is probably why I juggle in the first place. And that’s definitely why I decided to take up joggling. I mean, it’s impossible not to be impressed when you see someone running and juggling at the same time. After all, most people can’t juggle, and most people can’t really run. So you must be an incredible human if you can do them both at once!
How I became a world record holder, and how you can do it too
This all brings me to my main point: anyone can set a world record holder. How? Pick an event that almost eliminates the odds of someone else beating you. I knew I could never set a world record at running. And I couldn’t do it at juggling either. Put them together though, and suddenly I stand a chance.
Except even then I would be hopeless. Joggling isn’t a common thing, but it’s a legitimate thing. There are real world records, and they are pretty stiff. So even though I had weeded out most of the competition, I still wasn’t good enough.
That’s when I got really creative. I added a third element: running backwards. In other words, I created my own event.
Of course, it wasn’t entirely unique. There was already a world record on the books for fastest 100 meters running backwards while juggling (a record I failed to eclipse, but sprinting has never really been my forte). But no one had attempted the mile backwards while juggling. Or at least they hadn’t documented it.
The first attempt, or, why you need to get up and keep trying
It was total lunacy. If you’ve never run a mile backwards, which I hadn’t done prior to my training, you can’t even fathom the strain it puts on every muscle in your legs. Your quads catch on fire within the first 400 meters. Soon after, your calves feel like they’re going to burst. Your hamstrings tighten up to the point where you know the next step is going to be the one where you collapse. Even your feet and toes hurt.
On my first backwards juggling training run, I fell three times. The first time, I tripped over a soccer goal that I didn’t know was protruding onto the track. Before attempting any backwards joggling feat, I strongly recommend scoping your surroundings to make sure there are no obstacles. Once you start, you don’t really get to see anything that’s sneaking up behind you.
I don’t remember the second fall, but the final fall was from pure exhaustion. It happened less than 100 meters from the finish line. I’d almost made it a mile, but my legs suddenly gave out like they just couldn’t do it anymore. It was pathetic. I was running 50 miles per week. I couldn’t even make it a mile backwards! I almost didn’t get up. As I was lying on the track, flat on my back with at least a dozen high school kids laughing at me, I thought to myself, “Fuck this stupid record pursuit. It’s not like more than 100 people will ever even see it.”
But then I thought about what I would tell the athletes I coached. I certainly wouldn’t tell them to accept failure on their asses. I would tell them to get up and finish the damn race. So I did just that. I collected my balls and started my wobbly backwards joggle to the finish. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t the greatest defeat of mankind either. And it was only the start of the journey.
My time on that first run? 10 minutes and 30 seconds. I know what you’re thinking. That’s not bad at all! That’s faster than my Aunt Mildred averaged for her Turkey Trot last year.
For a real runner, it was embarrassing. If I turned around and ran without my juggling balls, I could easily do more than 2 miles in that time. Even though it was technically probably a world record already, I couldn’t live with it. I had to be faster. I would train until I was confident I could run under 9 minutes. Then I would attempt the real world record.
Preparing for the record
Training for a backwards mile while juggling is not exactly everyday training. There are very few places where you can run backwards while juggling. The world is filled with obstacles, and most cannot be overcome when you are juggling and running backwards.
But train I did. It wasn’t a strict training plan, but it was enough to get the job done. I ended every run with at least a mile of backwards juggling. I was mostly building up endurance and practicing so I wouldn’t drop any balls. Occasionally, I would backwards joggle a lap or two as fast as I could. When I thought I had trained sufficiently, I contacted the Book of Alternative Records and submitted my intentions. They accepted my declaration of record attempt with excitement. Now all that was left to do was suit up, get an audience and video camera, and juggle/run my way backwards to fame.
Setting the record
The actual record attempt was pretty uneventful. I mean, it was kind of an event since a few dozen people came to watch. And it was a big deal since I shattered my previous best performance as I backwards joggled my way to 8 minutes and 22 seconds (although I could have been faster if the audience hadn’t encouraged me to slow down on the last lap to make sure I actually finished).
For the next few months, I walked around extra proud. I was the fastest man in the world. And then it happened. Some other crazy asshole got the idea to run a mile backwards while juggling. With a record already on the books, his goal was simply to beat my time. In a way, he had it easier than me. If I had to beat a certain time, I would’ve done that. But the pressure was on me to finish in a respectable time. Of course, I haven’t beaten it yet, so maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe he’s just better than I am.
That’s okay though. I have over two dozen other crazy juggling world records up on Record Setter. For now, that’s enough glory for me. As you’ll quickly see if you look through those records, all it takes to be a world record holder is a small amount of talent in a couple different areas that you can combine into one seemingly impressive feat! Go ahead and try it. You most likely have what it takes right now to be a world record holder.
Glory lasts forever
No matter how good you are at something, eventually some asshole is going to come and take it away from you. Am I saying to enjoy it while it lasts? Sure, but it’s also okay to enjoy it long after. Because after all, no one can ever take away the fact that even for just a fraction of time, you were the greatest.
What record do you dream of setting? Share your ambition in the comments.