Achieving a Guinness World Record boils down to two things: continuous dedication or a crazy enough idea. Although, sometimes, the simplest thing, such as enjoying Spanish Iberian ham, can be enough. This is pointed out by Craig Glenday, editor of the famous book of records, who during a telephone conversation with El PAÍS notes that no one has yet tried to set a Guinness Record for eating the most ham in one minute. “People have proposed doing it with croquettes, even detailing their dimensions,” he says. “We rejected that idea and suggested meatballs, although now, honestly, I don’t know why. Try ham.”
Guinness World Records receives over 100 requests a day to attempt to break or set a record. A specialized team evaluates each proposal. The minimum 16-week wait for a response reflects the rigorous nature of the process. “We turn down between 90% and 95% of the applications we receive,” Glenday says. “But one of the most fun parts of the job is reading all these proposals; many of them are truly ingenious and creative.”
To be accepted, an application must meet basic criteria such as being measurable, surmountable, and verifiable. In addition, the organization discards ideas that are ethically questionable or involve illegal or dangerous activities.
The pages of the book, which sells 3.5 million copies annually, are brimming with feats that could well have sprung from the imagination of Roald Dahl. Recently, a man in Missouri set a record by rowing 38 miles aboard a giant pumpkin. A month ago, another person achieved the feat of performing the highest number of pull-ups while hanging from the landing gear of a helicopter. In 2008, nearly 1,200 individuals dressed up as Smurfs at the Mukno Mania Festival in Ireland.
Jaime Oms, artistically known as Fakir Testa, is one of the few fakirs in Spain. He performs acts of pain resistance, such as swallowing straight and crooked sabers, hooking a butane cylinder to his eyes or drilling his nose with a giant drill. He started out aged 23 after a stint in the theater. Last year, Guinness World Records contacted him to propose a challenge on their television show: to run as fast as possible on 28 sharp swords. “I took a big gamble because it’s an extremely dangerous challenge,” he says. To prove its authenticity, he had to demonstrate the sharpness of the swords by slicing a piece of paper. In addition, he was required to pass a minimum mark. “In a test with shoes, it took me about two minutes. I was informed that I had to do it faster to get the record. Finally, I made it in one minute and five seconds.”
Christian López, 35, holds the Spanish record for the most Guinness World Records with 126. “On average, I beat about 20 a year,” he says. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child, he ignored medical advice to avoid high-intensity sports. He became an athlete, studied sports science, and ended up earning a doctorate. Today, he combines his role as a university professor with that of motivational speaker. “My goal is to show the world our ability to achieve the unimaginable,” he says.
On the very morning our conversation takes place, he started his day by running 10 kilometers backwards, a discipline in which he has already set records ranging from 50 meters to 1.5 kilometers. After completing that challenge, he already has the next one in mind: to run the fastest mile wearing swimming fins. He has previously proposed a new challenge: crawling on his hands with his feet resting on an abdominal wheel. Stronger than ever, he feels capable of continuing to break records beyond the age of 40. “The good thing about Guinness is that there are 47,000 records, and there will always be something new to beat.”
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