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The tricky world of world records

Posted: 20/5/2018

The day after my attempt to break the world record for the fastest 5km on crutches (successfully, as it turns out at 32:13:69), I was reading through the comments on a Facebook post by WIN News and saw this:

PatoFiel Vargas  My best is on 30:39 and 1:00:24 on 10k �� on crutches!

I immediately sent a message to PatoFiel to find out more; the last thing I want to do is claim a world record that's not mine. No response yet.

And then, as I watched Australians break records at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, I grew a little envious of how easy they have it. 

I don't mean to say that breaking a world record is easy. It's not; it takes a lot of hard work and a fair amount of pain. But, if you aim to break a record outside the umbrella of a major international sporting organisation, prepare for some hefty administration.

Michael Robbert Brans, a previous holder of the 5km record had this to say:

"It's not the race that's difficult but it's the evidence check and communication with GBWR (Guinness Book of World Records) that's complicated and it took me more than eight months to get it done." 

So, isn't Guinness World Records the central arbiter when it comes to world records?  Well, no. They track some records and, as I found out just a week before my 5km world record attempt, can (and do) stop tracking a record at any time.

We've been down the Guinness path before. Knowing what I know and having done my research in the lead-up to the 5km attempt, I thought I was well ahead of the game. We had official electronic timing, manual time-keepers, a sanctioned event, witnesses willing to verifiy the time and the distance and a videographer ready to film the entire thing.

My research told me that the current Guinness World Record was 38:50:00 set by Brans in June 2016. Interestingly, another athlete, Derrick Hamel, had set a faster time of 32:55:00 a couple of months before Brans in April 2016. Perhaps Guinness' process was too daunting for him.

Anyway, to be safe, I set a goal to break Hamel's time and, if I felt strong, to crack 30 minutes. 

A week out from the event it was time to get the Guinness process underway. I could have done this after the attempt but I wanted the paperwork there on the day to give to the required witnesses. I went to the Guinness site but I couldn't find the record. I called their offices in the UK and was told they no longer track this record. 

So, congratulations Michael Robbert Brans. You hold the official Guinness World Record for the fastest 5km on crutches FOREVER, despite two people (and perhaps three if PatFiel can provide some evidence) recording faster times.

There is no other body to act as the arbiter for this record but does that mean it's not worth breaking? I agonised over the decision for about 30 seconds. I don't do this stuff to get the accolades. I do it because I like to set myself goals and challenge other people's perceptions of what I can do on one leg. I do it because I have two great kids and I want them to live active lives and push their own limits.

I have since set up a Facebook page called Running with crutches in the hope that people as crazy as me all over the world will join and share their records, their stories and their goals.

And, if PartoFiel Vargas has set a better time in an official race, I am happy to stand aside and hand over the world record title to him but I'll be looking to take it back!

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