Far Out: This Decade’s Greatest Long-distance Feats
People do some crazy things to get into Guinness World Records. What does it take to see your name in print in this encyclopedia of human accomplishment? Well, if you weren’t born with an especially long tongue (such as Englishman Stephen Taylor’s, which is 3.86 inches) and you don’t have a special talent (an Italian woman named Michele Santella typed sixty-eight books backward in one day), you can always try going for distance. These entrants rode their way to Guinness fame through sheer staying power.
Longest Tractor Ride
On my very first day of college, I met a girl from Wisconsin who told me about ride-your-tractor-to-school day at her high school back home. I’m from Brooklyn, so I was blown away by this idea. Vasilii Hazkevich of Russia probably wouldn’t have been surprised, though—he’s used to traveling long distances on his unmodified tractor. From April 25, 2005, to August 6, 2005, Hazkevich rode his tractor 13,172 miles, starting and finishing his journey in Vladimir, Russia. If you do the math, that means he was going about six miles per hour.
Longest Lawn Mower Ride
If you don’t have a tractor, just hop on your lawn mower. That’s what Gary Hatter of Portland, Maine, did to establish his world record. Hatter rode from Portland through forty-eight U.S. states, Canada, and Mexico before stopping in Daytona Beach, Florida—a distance of 14,594.5 miles—between May 31, 2000, and February 14, 2001. After spending 260 consecutive days on a mower, he must have thought finally dismounting was a great Valentine’s Day gift.
Longest Backwards Motorcycle Ride
For some, simply riding a long distance isn’t enough; you’ve got to do it backwards. Hou Xiaobin did just that on his motorcycle in Binzhou City, China, for 93.21 miles on October 4, 2006. Guinness doesn’t mention which direction Xiaobin himself was facing, nor does it list a record for the most people run over by a motorcycle on the same day.
Longest Journey by Solar Electric Vehicle
Now that we’re in the twenty-first century, world-record setters are taking advantage of new technology. For example, the Midnight Sun Solar Car Team from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, has made the longest journey by solar electric vehicle to date. The team members drove their vehicle 9,364 miles through Canada and the United States, leaving Waterloo on August 7, 2004, and ending in Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada, on September 15, 2004.
Longest Journey on an Electric Mobility Vehicle
Some Guinness entrants aren’t merely after their fifteen minutes of fame; they use their feats to aid charities. John Duckworth of England rode an electric mobility vehicle (scooter chair) around mainland UK on a Horizon Mayan scooter on behalf of Scoot-A-Long, a nonprofit organization that helps disabled children and adults purchase scooters and become more mobile. Duckworth rode from June 20, 2004, to July 27, 2004, finally ending his journey in Hincaster, Cambria, England.
Longest Motorcycle Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire
Want to make your Guinness feat even more exciting? Just add fire. That’s what Curt Ewing did for his stunt on NBC’s television special Guinness World Records: Live—the Top 100. Ewing rode a motorcycle for two hundred feet through a tunnel of fire on January 27, 2008. Guinness doesn’t list his speed, but I imagine he hit the gas once the heat was on.
Longest Continuous Unicycle Ride
Setting a world record on four, three, or even two wheels is kid stuff for Joze Voros of Slovenia, who covered 89.14 miles on a unicycle without letting his feet touch the ground, on October 18, 2004, in Murska Sobota, Slovenia. Seriously? I can’t even stand on one foot for more than a minute at a time.
Longest Distance on a Treadmill in Twenty-Four Hours
Considering all the unconventional vehicles that make their way into Guinness World Records, entrants who use only their feet to travel long distances may seem, well, boring. But it’s refreshing to remember that human beings are capable of remarkable feats without all the trappings. Arulanantham Suresh Joachim of Australia and Edit Berces of Hungary hold the male and female records, respectively, for the longest distance run on a treadmill in twenty-four hours. On November 28–29, 2004, Joachim ran 160.24 miles at Square One shopping center in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Berces ran a slightly shorter but equally noteworthy distance—153.6 miles—at the Eurocentre Shopping Mall in Budapest, Hungary, on March 8–9, 2004.
Long Story Short
The men and women listed in Guinness World Records are all extraordinary, some for their actual physical abilities and others for the creative ways in which they set new standards for human achievement. I wonder what crazy feats people will attempt during the next decade: skipping across the United States? Riding through China on a wheelbarrow?