Did you know I am a former Guinness World Record holder? Yes, it’s true! Here are 10 tips for setting a Guinness World Record.
I’ve written race recaps for over 60 marathons and ultras on this website but never anything about this.
It’s not exactly something I lead with but it’s definitely what you’re going to see if you Google me because it was covered in 2016 by People, ABC News Parents Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Runner’s World, Good Morning America, & a number of other outlets.
Why now? It’s finally far enough in the rear view that I have some solid takeaways for any would-be Guinness World Record Holder:
1: Know your “why”
Out triplets were born at 30 weeks and in the NICU for the first 2 months in 2015. It was a huge part of our lives and changed my priorities, personal faith, and trust in God.
That was 2015.
So, in 2016 I wanted to do something big for their NICU homecoming anniversary. For our family, this was as big a celebration as their first birthday.
Know your why- and it shouldn’t be for a wall certificate
2: Lean into obscure advantages
I unexpectedly won a 5K that May with the triplets in the triple jogger. After a social media post about it, a fellow runner- also a Guinness World Record holder coincidentally- wondered out loud if that had ever been done.
Turns out, it had- and 3 minutes faster than my 22 minute time. If you’re a runner, you know 3 minutes is a lot so I wasn’t going to even try for that record. In my research though, I found nobody had done 13.1 miles, or, a half marathon.
Right there, I decided THIS is how we would honor the work God did through the respiratory therapists, nurses, and neonatologists – with a fundraiser for the NICU they were in for the first 2 months of life!
3: Expect lots of red tape
Let me tell you what the application for a Guinness World Record is like: a part time job. Seriously, I think I began it mid June for a November 1 race and that was almost too little time!
First, I had to state my intention with proof of my predicted time from the 5K, get permission from the race I wanted to run.
Then, I had to get permission from the race director, which was more challenging than you’d think. A 3.5 foot wide stroller is not exactly something people want on course for safety purposes.
Finally, I had to send video and photo of my stroller with side by side seating and proof it hadn’t been doctored up for speed or ease in any way.
I would suggest at least 6 months to get the application together if you’re setting a record in a newly established category.
You can cut that in half if you’re breaking someone else’s- you’ll still need to make the folks at Guinness aware you are attempting it so they can provide the very detailed documentation requirements (mine was 17 pages) or provide a staff member for you to verify.
Fun fact: you can pay $500 for them to speed up your application. I was not about that- I’m a triplet Mom and that’s a lot of diapers!
4: Train for the terrain
In terms of the training itself, the kids were freshly minted 1 year olds which meant they weren’t quite eating solid foods so I had to plan my training runs precisely around their meal times and be careful not to be gone for too long.
I ran in my neighborhood, which does not have a lot of traffic. I would do anywhere from 3 to 4 miles with that stroller and incrementally increased only to 10 prior to race day- this is mostly due to a desire to keep the kids comfortable.
Running in the stroller was a happy place and I wanted to keep it that way.
It definitely became easier once they could have snacks in the stroller, but As they grew and gained weight it didn’t make it any easier to push the stroller, which weighed 55 pounds alone!
At the time we finally raced, the collective weight of the stroller plus the three kids was about 120 pounds, equivalent to my body weight!
That, combined with hilly terrain, slowed me down by at least a couple of minutes per mile. This was fine, of course- it was a different type of effort!
Even if your potential Guinness World Record isn’t of the sporting variety, be sure to do a few dress rehearsal attempts beforehand.
5: Focus on what you can control
It was important to me to keep the kids under their normal schedule, which Is why I was grateful to be participating in a local race.
The hills proved a challenge with about 2000’ of ascent but it was an easy trade off for having the triplets in their own beds the night before.
Having discussed my plans with the race director, I purposely asked my support crew to help me get to the starting lines about 10 minutes before the start. I didn’t want the kids to be in the stroller any longer than necessary.
One of the things I did take a timeout for was speaking with the local ABC news station. Part of my application required we have at least 3 pieces of media. That interview would set off a whirlwind of coverage 24 hours later and I’m glad I didn’t know it at the time. I needed to focus on running!
You can’t control everything, but aim for as many factors as possible
6: Stick to your plan
I need to make this very clear: the race director and I were on the same page about me participating in the race and I am very present in my local running community. Most of the people out there knew me personally from Fayetteville Running Club.
I was sort of embarrassed when they asked me to line up in the front and announced what I was doing, but it was a really nice gesture because it meant I didn’t need to bob and weave the stroller around anyways participants. It was about safety.
After this was all said and done, we got a lot of backlash about safety but even from the starting position, that was already been planned for!
The other participants made me feel nothing but supported, cheered us on, and called out to us by name. I actually felt more like a star during this race than any race ever – even ones that I won out right! Everyone was really excited to see us and the energy from the crowd as well as the other runners around us fed me. The hills on this course were no joke, so it was nice to have something to dissociate from pushing 120 pounds of stroller and babies!
7: Back up your documentation
The course started downtown and then ventured up on the Cape Fear River Trail, which is a Greenway system. It is very hilly, as I’ve mentioned before, but closed to traffic so I felt really good about that with the kids.
I had a camera on the front of the stroller as well as on the handlebars for proof with my Guinness application. I also had people who saw me at certain mileage or ran personally with me fill out witness statements.
I did Facebook Lives (which were really new at that time) as backups to my backups. Everything, y’all- I was not going to make this attempt again if I didn’t need to.
If Guinness provides several options for documentation, use them all. If something doesn’t pass due to technical or subjective error, you have other pieces of evidence.
There were strict rules about me being the only person who pushed the stroller, so even when I needed the help for something like getting more crackers or adjusting a camera, I had to explain why someone couldn’t just take it for a few seconds!
8: Back up your plan
I even had a backup plan for what to do if one of the triplets was unhappy or just not feeling it that day- we were going to sub them out with big brother, Christian! Sure, he weighed a few pounds more but he was still only 3 years old and a few extra pounds would be far better than having to attempt this again.
Per the Guinness World Record rules, this would have been acceptable- provided I was the one to lift the child out of the stroller and be the sole person to pick up the new child and put him in the stroller.
I had a support crew, including both Grandmas and the triplets’ Godmother Jen, ready to take a rouge baby if needed but it never happened. I’m glad the plan was in place for peace of mind.
Get some peace of mind so you can enjoy the attempt as much as possible!
9. Manage performance expectations
There was a point around mile nine when Gabe had to have his diaper changed – he made a cry that only his mother could have recognized as “I’ve pooped my pants and it is uncomfortable”.
I’ll be honest with you- I ignored it for about a half mile, but even if you would have told me in that moment the couple of minutes it took to change his diaper would cost me my sub two hour race, I still would have stopped to change him.
By that point, I knew that we were going to hit the 2 hour and 15 minute mark Guinness had set for us to set the record and I didn’t want to be so uptight about the race they missed out on a fun time, which is what running had been to that point.
So we stopped. No regrets.
Enjoy your attempt!
Around mile 11 1/2 or 12 somewhere, all the hills caught up with me. My shoulders ache and my back was sore.
The downhills proved more challenging than I’d anticipated- with 120 pounds in the stroller, I ended up doing some major breaking with my heels and body. Didn’t want the stroller to go flying on it’s own, but boy did I pay the price physically!
Anyone who has raced any longer distance (even without a stroller!) knows exactly what this feels like. You have to play mental games with yourself to keep going.
I don’t think I would have called it a day at this point or anything but it sure was a blessing to see you one of my friends, Britt, from Fayetteville Running Club on the course. She had shown up that day specifically to run me into the finish. She asked my permission to do so and it was greatly appreciated. She jumped off the course again when I had about a quarter mile to go but it was exactly what I needed.
We crossed the line in 2 hours and 1 minute, just shy of my sub 2 hour running goal. Nonetheless, it was enough to earn us a Guinness World Record! Additionally, we were able to raise over $5000 for the NICU.
10: Be prepared for backlash
The Monday morning after the race, I received a text message that said “you’re on Good Morning America!”
I was still working full-time at the time, so I was knee deep in a spreadsheet and didn’t think much of it. Soon after, my phone started blowing up. Our local ABC affiliate from that pre race interview had passed the story to GMA.
I don’t know why, y’all.
I think it’s because we were at the end of a particularly exhausting election cycle and people just need a good news. Nonetheless, all the ABC franchises started passing it around and it later got picked up by runners world, people, and even cosmopolitan.
If this sounds cool, it was. For about a minute. It actually helped me raise about $1000 more for the nick you so I can’t be mad at that but let me tell you what was hurtful:
She’s a danger on the course for other runners
Her husband looks gay
Adopt, don’t shop
Are those triplets Frankenbabies?
Those are just a handful of the many hurtful things that showed up in comments on these sorts of articles. I had to get off social media. You say you won’t look, but then you do. The really sad thing is for every one negative comment there were 10 positive. I remember the positive ones, to include many of my friends and colleagues defending me to Internet strangers.
It’s just that the negative ones cut really deep.
Waiting for some positive spin or thoughtful mindset lesson on this part of the story? I’m sorry to disappoint you.
The reality is when you say hurtful things to people, even if it’s online, it stays with them.
If you are a private person, don’t attempt a world record
4 years later
So, what do I think of all of this four years later? I am proud of it!
I don’t want anyone to think I’m some sort of super athlete because it’s a very niche record – but it also shows what you can do with a platform.
It wasn’t a record for a record’s sake.
The race was a memory preserved for the kids- the certificate hangs on our school room wall along with the medals from that race.
I have friends, including a few women who have since broke the record, from THIS experience. Good friends! Phenomenal women and athletes I am shocked to even share the same category with.
We actually had our family photos done one year on the exact Greenway we ran on; it’s a special place to us!
It was a fundraiser to honor the work God did through the NICU staff.
Our contribution funded a giraffe bed, which is a piece of expensive equipment that has a very speciality use.
Now, we did not know this when we handed over the check.
Here’s the cool part: Gideon needed a giraffe bed and his first week. It saved his life!
This race is part of our story and one of my favorite running experiences!
Pssst- want to be on my show or start one of your own? Contact me for a rate sheet!