Ashrita posing with his Guinness World Record Certificate for 100 GWRs
I have known Ashrita Furman since 1981. His focus, determination, dedication to his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (like Hanuman, if you know the Ramayana) and his boundless, exuberant, at times quite wild, but basically 🙂 innocent enthusiasm and energy combined with a totally positive attitude have inspired me many times.
What started out at a time when many of our team entered into the field of ultra-distances with the idea to challenge inner and outer limitations in a spirit of self-transcendence (not rivalry) and in search for spiritual experiences, in his case became an intense pursuit, often athletic but also exotic or involving group oneness, to challenge the “impossible” by breaking or establishing Guinness Records.
On April 14th, 2009, Ashrita became the first person ever to hold 100 Guinness World Records at one time, by organising the translation and recitation of a text – the poem “Precious” by our late teacher Sri Chinmoy – in the most number of languages (I heard not all 111 languages were recognised, some being dialects, but the record is valid.)
(Media all over the world picked up the story, here a link to local report in the New York Daily News)
213 records stretched out over a span of 30 years were needed to reach that goal – many broken several times by others in the meantime. Many of Ashritas records, like sommersaulting for 12 miles in 1986, were very tough – physically and mentally. But at the same time he had lots of fun over the years – even with record attempts that never worked out.
Here the official Guinness World Record press release about his latest record. (The stories on his blog are a fascinating read, by the way!)
GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS HONORS ONE MAN’S HISTORIC MILESTONE – 100 RECORDS BROKEN!
Ashrita Furman Becomes First Person to Hold 100 Guinness World Records Simultaneously
NEW YORK – April 14, 2009 – Ashrita Furman reached a milestone today by becoming the first person to simultaneously hold 100 Guinness World Records when he and over 100 participants earned the world record for “A Poem / Literary Passage Recited in the Most Languages.” The historic moment was a long time in the making for Furman, who has been breaking Guinness World Records for over 30 years. New York City Councilman James F. Gennaro presided over the event at City Hall Park in New York City and Guinness World Records judge Danny Girton Jr. was on hand to verify the feat.
Ashrita being honoured by Guiness World Records for his 100st standing GWR
Furman and over 100 members from the Sri Chinmoy Centre recited “Precious” by Sri Chinmoy in 111 languages including Afrikaans, Dzongkha, Kabyle and Picard. The group beat the current record held by the International Social Service of Hong Kong, which recited “Values on Communal Harmony” in 79 different languages on November 23, 2008.
Celebrating cultural diversity – and a tribute to his teacher Sri Chinmoy
The proud record-breaker had this to say about his unprecedented accomplishment, “With more than 170 nationalities represented in New York City this record celebrates the diversity of our city. While it wasn’t as physically challenging as some of my other records, having this record as my 100th is a very special tribute to Sri Chinmoy.”
“What Ashrita did today is an amazing feat for him and Guinness World Records alike,” said Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief at Guinness World Records. “He has a 30-year relationship with Guinness World Records that is nothing less than stunning, breaking records around the world and proving that you don’t have to be famous to be the world’s best.”
New York City Councilman James F. Gennaro (D-Queens) added, “This is exactly the type of event that should take place in the seat of New York City government. To speak and hear the precious utterances of Sri Chinmoy is truly an inspiration.”
Ashrita Furman has been breaking Guinness World Records since 1979, when he completed 27,000 jumping jacks to earn his first Guinness World Record. Since then, the 54-year old health food store manager from Queens, New York has broken records on all seven continents, including completing the fastest mile on a pogo stick in Antarctica and bouncing the fastest mile on a kangaroo ball along the Great Wall of China. Furman has practiced meditation for over 30 years, which helps him keeps his concentration during marathon record attempts. Whether it be performing forward rolls for the entire 12-mile length of Paul Revere’s ride through Massachusetts or racing against a Yak in Mongolia to set the mile sack-racing record, Furman is a determined individual and a true world-class record holder! (end of Guinness World Records press release)
Why he does it? More on his video-interview by Kedar Misani on Live Voices right after the event.
Spring has arrived in Heidelberg – with summer temperatures. Even last weekend it was warmer here than in Dover in August, but now temperatures are up to 24 °C (75 Fahrenheit)! The Heidelberg halfmarathon, which I registered for again, is on April 27th – so I do have to get a bit of hill-training in. Without my training partners from last year, I have a little bit less dicipline. So today I went for my longest run this year – 2 1/2 easy hours, over the Philosophenweg from Ziegelhausen to Heidelberg in the midday heat with luckily some parts in the shade, all the way down, and all the way up and back again, with some rest and stretching in between. The heat really is a problem for me – that was the reason why last year I did not want to put on too much weight. And that is why I don’t think I will ever do the Marathon des Sables. (Two years ago the halfmarathon was in similar temperatures and people collapsed!)
This is one of the most tricky things about the triathlon project: finding just the right balance between heat and cold tolerance.
After my run, I changed into my bathing suit (and some more clothes) and went down to the Neckar. It was incredibly peaceful, no soul around in spite of the holiday (Good Friday), hardly any clouds in the blue sky, the water much clearer now with the dry weather, but still not inviting enough for me to put my head into it. It was easy to stay in for 30 minutes, it must be over 10°C now. I love it, even though it is not real training – breaststroking against the current. Some people passed by and asked about the temperature – I suppose it must have looked quite tempting to take a dip.
Since I am staying in Heidelberg over the Easter Holidays, which is quite unusual, I might just as well use the great weather and make it a new habit to swim every day/morning in the river, as long as it is still moderately cold. No danger anymore that people will call the police, I suppose.
Today was my first dip in the Neckar (or any kind of open water) since January – 17 min. in 8.5°C (47/48 Fahrenheit), with the sun out! Only breaststroking in the yacky water on the spot against the current. I totally enjoyed it – thanks Pragya! I would love to do it everyday by myself, but I am afraid people will call the water police if there is noone to watch me and make sure I am fine.
It happened in winter – one Sunday I was almost determined to go in by myself after running, after a friend had not shown up, but on my run home along the Neckar I suddenly saw plenty of police and an ambulance, and when I asked what it was all about they said they were looking for a person in the water and asked if I had seen someone. A skipper had reported a person going into the water and suspected suicide. I asked if there were any clothes on the shore and when they said no, I said, well, probably someone went for a polar bear dip and had gone home by now. But they were not convinced. A bit later at home, coming out of the shower, I heard helicopter noise right in front of the house over the Neckar – they were still searching! Imagine to have to pay for such a rescue operation!
Yesterday I was very inspired when I found a new Channel swimmer blog: http://www.farbeyondtheblackline.blogspot.com/ by Carrol Wannell, an Australian lady and very strong swimmer, who had been a caravan neighbour with her husband at Varne Ridge last summer and was also unfortunate. She is determined to make it this year – way to go, Carrol! (And I am happy you liked the poems by Sri Chinmoy!)
Sorry for not updating my blog for so long. I am amazed at how many people are still looking at my old blog and wondering who they are!
So I skipped the 12 hour indoors swim in Zurich for several reasons (too little training, a slightly inflamed elbow, lots of work and little time), and even the 6 hour race in Nürnberg, and changed my plans a bit. I have been concentrating more on my work over the last few months, wanting to finance my project now more with my own funds, after friends and the team helped so much. But I am not sure how much I will be able to save until summer.
Training has still been reduced. As soon as I am in the water and swimming or out running, I feel really good, but the warm pools are difficult and I do need more discipline. And the Neckar has not been inviting at all – it has been muddy ever since the snow melted. Some yoga – including my children yoga classes – and a little weight training at home help to keep my muscles up. My preferred pose, great for arm and shoulder training: the dolphin (video)!
Moved to September
But August started to look more and more improbable and I had not even paid my full deposit – so I talked to my pilot and he agreed to move my 4th place slot to September – with the idea of maybe only doing another Channel solo this year, with a more comfortable amount of body fat, and postponing the triathlon project to 2010. That would allow me to do the Zurich lake swim beginning of August as a great training swim (instead of the 12 hours now in March) – and give me a good reason to keep training on a more intense level than I would otherwise and enjoy the way even longer. I often feel, sports can be like a spiritual sadhana – for others it may be art, music etc. (In a way I am quite grateful it didn’t happen last year – I feel there is much more to get out of the whole adventure, on many different levels.)
Should I win the lottery I might still concentrate more on the triathlon – only I am not buying any tickets. But right now, the idea of a second “training” Channel solo this year and returning to Dover again – where I had the greatest time last year – in 2010 feels good. In Germany we have a saying: “Aller guten Dinge sind drei – all good things come in threes”. So I am trying to leave it up to a higher will.
Updates will be a bit more frequent now, I promise.
Over the weekend I got immersed in Lynne Cox`s gripping and deeply inspiring autobiographic “thriller”: “Swimming to Antarctica”. The title is slightly misleading, because in this book she recounts most or even all of her important and historic swims – from the Channel world record swim in 1972 to her swim of the Millennium: crossing the 40°F Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia during the Cold War in 1987. Including the incredible story about her Cook Strait crossing, where dolphins came to help her when conditions got so bad she was about to give up. It is all about absolute dedication, determination, vision, self-transcendence and a deep awareness of the oneness of humanity.
A friend from Seattle had sent me a copy of the book with a signed personal note from Lynne (we have only met on Facebook so far, as part of the open water swimming community). I realised I could have met her in 1987 in New York, where she was celebrated after her world-changing feat – only we were so caught up in the launch of the first edition of what has become the World Harmony Run since then. It is great to see, however, how the ideal of a global world family is persued and expressed in so many different ways. Hope you will hold the Harmony Run torch one day, Lynne – in case you come to read this!
As to reading the book – absolutely recommend to anyone who is into the spirit of breaking barriers – you do not have to be a swimmer to get carried away and inspired by it!
Since last September, my swim training has been pretty reduced, but I put on some more weight, without much effort, and was happy to find that running is still possible at 85 kg (my weight of 1985, last year it was only 77 kg) – although it may be easier in winter than in scorching heat in summer, but now my first and foremost goal is the Channel – the rest will work somehow. I am trying to acclimatise better to cold water this year and plan to use the Neckar and a nearby lake quite a bit more.
A dip in the Neckar on Jan. 11, 2009
Today, pool training started, with a view to participate in the 12 hour indoor swimming event in Zurich on March 1st.
Welcome to my new Channel-Triathlon Blog for 2009. To find out what happened in 2008, please visit my old blog.
The White Cliffs of Dover seen from the French Coast – looking so close! But….