Pogo stick flips. The longest didgeridoo note. The fastest 100-meter dash on all fours. Be on the alert for the weird and wacky today as more than 420,000 people around the globe celebrate Guinness World Records (GWR) Day.
The annual mid-November event marks the date in 2004 when "Guinness World Records" earned its own superlative as the planet's bestselling copyrighted book. The book was first published in 1955 after the manager of the Guinness beer brewery in Ireland teamed up with London-based fact-finding twins Norris and Ross McWhirter to answer questions about the world's biggest, fastest and strongest. The book quickly became a British blockbuster.
The United Kingdom is embracing the challenge as it usually does, with a gusto normally reserved for Marmite and squabbling with the French. Brits have won categories as diverse as longest-lived duck (20 years) and biggest tongue (3.86 inches from tip to lip — so, roughly the length of a cigarette pack). The UK boasts the grandest Star Wars memorabilia collection (20,000+ toys) and the largest simultaneous self-check for testicular cancer by 208 gentlemen at an Essex factory outlet. Even Her Majesty Elizabeth II racked up a few certificates as the busiest ruler (16 nations), the longest-reigning queen alive and also the individual most featured on currencies (35 countries).
England's accomplishments include a "big cheese" version of the country's signature cold meal: the ploughman's lunch. The award-winning platter groaned under 132 pounds of tomatoes, 6,500 pickled onions, 1.1 tons of Seriously Strong cheddar and other goodies, for a whopping total of 4,090 pounds. Celebrity chef Paul Merrett fed this supersized "pub grub" to more than 1,000 attendees at 2011's Foodies Festival.
The British penchant for automotive engineering also has shone with the smallest roadworthy car (41 inches high and 52 inches long) and the fastest mobility scooter, complete with twin exhausts, five gears and a top speed of 72 mph. But the country's silly side gets a good airing as well, with the largest pirate gathering (8,734) and the most underpants worn in one hour (144). Not to mention 10-year-old Sophie Smith's worm-charming win of 2009 (she coaxed 567 invertebrates from a roughly 10-foot-square plot in a half hour by vibrating the earth with a fork). Good thing we had the sticklers at Guinness to weigh in on that hotly contested title!
Fame can be fleeting, though. London landed the world record for people dressed in superhero costumes — 1,091 at Twickenham Stadium — in 2010. Just six days later, Melbourne beat the benchmark by 154 caped crusaders, an honor it soon ceded to Los Angeles' 1,580-strong Justice League. Because in a world of one-upmanship, only the latest is the greatest…
Britain has been out in force today, trying to dazzle the Guinness judges. Among other attempts, Leicester ironman Manjit Singh will strain to lift 55 pounds with his eye sockets. The 62-year-old "serial record breaker" last hit international headlines pulling a double-decker bus across London's Battersea Park with his hair. Meanwhile, East Sussex's Dani Maynard squeezed 28 limber ladies into a Mini Cooper — one more than her team was able to achieve last year — in the iconic Potters Fields Park overlooking London's Tower Bridge.
The fun doesn't stop when Big Ben strikes midnight, though. Records set on GWR day may be fast-tracked for the next edition, but intrepid Brits continue to push the boundaries throughout the year. Next up: Premier Christian Radio ups its own ante on the world carol-singing record, a victory it used 18,100 vocalists to snatch from Disney's jaws in 2009.
Austrian Felix Baumgartner cast a large shadow over everyone else's feats of derring-do with his 24-mile supersonic space jump in October. But don't worry: There's still plenty of hope and glory to go around for the Brits — and the rest of us.
by Amanda Castleman