The 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records has just been released. The 57th version of the best-selling book documenting global achievement will be published in 22 languages and is expected to sell around 2.7million copies. Some of the records may seem a little ridiculous, some a little trite, perhaps even unnecessary but I think World Records matter, especially those of human endeavour.
On Saturday I set a new World Record, not in time to make it into the latest edition of the book but a new record all the same. The record I set was for the Enduroman Arch to Arc, a 290mile ultra distance triathlon that involves running, swimming and cycling from London to Paris. Before me, only 10 athletes had ever completed the challenge and recently a fellow competitor was pulled out of the Channel after 16 hours of swimming. It's a pretty tough nut to crack.
I didn't take on this challenge to set a new World Record; that wasn't my primary motivation. What I wanted to do was to push myself to the limits of my performance. To see if physically and mentally I could succeed at something that had such a big risk of failure. And that's why World Records matter, because they inspire people to strive for something, to challenge themselves, they require dedication and self-belief.
Looking on the Guinness World Records website it states "Record breaking is open to absolutely everyone, no matter where you're from, what language you speak, or how old you are. And remember, it's free to apply." Pretty inspiring stuff, I can't think of that many things as open as that. Whoever you are and wherever you're from you can try and achieve something, anything. Set a goal and go for it - that's a pretty straightforward philosophy and one that I think was demonstrated in style by this year's Olympians and Paralympians. They were the super-humans of sport that showed what the strongest, fittest and mentally toughest amongst us is able to achieve. Whilst we can't all be Olympians we can all have a goal, something to aim and work for.
I entered the Arch to Arc two and half years ago, but really I have spent the last 10 years working towards it. In just the two years prior to the challenge I swam Lake Zurich, completed a Channel relay, ran the 2011 Marathon des Sables, took part in one Ironman, eight marathons & 11 ultra distance events. I also failed in three big ultra events; each failure was in some ways a bigger stepping stone to success. In January this year I gave up alcohol, not for the health benefits but to remind me how focussed I needed to be 24/7 and my two holidays of the year turned into training camps.
Before I set off on the challenge I was given a T-shirt to wear by inov-8 which had a quote printed on the back that said "Obsessed is only a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated."
So on Wednesday 5 September, after years of preparation, I finally set off from Marble Arch. As I ran through Hyde Park the relief hit me as I hoped it would. The hardest part is often getting to the start line fit and healthy, the easy bit is getting to the finish line. After 73 hours and 39 minutes of running through London and across English countryside, swimming the Channel and cycling through rural France, I finally arrived in Paris. My lovely wife was waiting for me at the Arch de Triomphe and after a few photos we packed up the car and headed home. I managed a couple of beers in the evening and I was back to work on Monday, job done. It's been an amazing journey not just the three days itself but the years of build up and I have enjoyed everything about it. I can't wait to start preparing for the next big challenge; I'm just not sure what it is yet.
As for the World Record, well I see myself as just a custodian of this until the next person accomplishes their goal and once again shows that anything is possible with grit, determination and dedication.
You watch a mini-documentary about my Arch to Arc challenge here.