Guinness Champion Ashrita Furman featured in the Wall Street Journal

In today’s edition, the Wall Street Journal featured the famous Guinness Record champion Ashrita Furman from Queens, NY that holds the most Guinness Records. He always gets new inspiration thanks to his meditation and connection with his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. Here is the article:

Most visitors to Antarctica go to see the penguins and the glaciers. Ashrita Furman went to hop on a pogo stick. Mr. Furman, seeking to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest mile on a pogo stick, jumped up and down a landing strip on the Antarctic tundra in 2003. “The conditions were pretty hard,” says the 56-year-old New Yorker, noting that extreme temperatures caused his pogo stick to freeze up midway through the event. He nevertheless completed the feat in 17 minutes, 45 seconds, setting the world record. It was just another day in the life of Mr. Furman, who holds the ultimate Guinness world record: The record for Guinness world records. Since 1979—when he set his first record by completing 27,000 jumping jacks—Mr. Furman has set 312 Guinness records, more than anyone else. He currently holds 120 titles.

Thursday, Guinness is holding its annual Guinness World Records Day and has flown Mr. Furman to London to participate. The company expects more than 300,000 people world-wide to compete in activities ranging from the largest gathering of people dressed as characters from “The Wizard of Oz” to the heaviest road vehicle pulled by human teeth. Mr. Furman’s mission: break the record for walking with the heaviest shoes. He’s hoping to add enough weight to a pair of custom-made metal boots so that each foot will weigh about 160 pounds. “He’s living and breathing what Guinness is all about,” says Alistair Richards, Managing Director of Guinness World Records. “He lives by a philosophy that nothing is impossible.” Mr. Furman has been defying the impossible for more than 30 years. In 1981, he clapped his hands for 50 hours straight—loud enough so that the sound could be heard 120 yards away—at a pond near his home in Queens, New York. “The hardest part was staying up,” he says. In 1986, he somersaulted continuously more than 12 miles through Massachusetts, along the route followed by Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride. After eating four slices of pizza the night before, Mr. Furman became ill during the somersaults. “I was exhausted, nauseous, and my abdomen cramped with each roll,” he says. But he made it. In 2005, he broke the record for spinning the largest hula hoop—14 feet 6 inches—at least three revolutions. The following year, he, along with some friends, built the largest popcorn structure—20 feet 10 inches—in the shape of a multitiered cake. One of his oddest endeavors involved cutting the most apples in midair with a samurai sword—27 apples in one minute. “It took a year of practice and I stabbed myself often,” he says.

Guinness says it receives about 1,000 applications a week for new record categories. About 80% are rejected. It currently has about 40,000 categories. “We are very, very broad,” says Guinness’s Mr. Richards. “As long as it’s measurable, as long as you can quantify that measurement, as long as it can be broken, as long as we think it’s interesting, it stands a chance.” Unlike many reigning champs, who secure endorsements, Mr. Furman doesn’t profit from his victories, and he’s happy to share the secrets of his success. He has turned down endorsements and instead manages a health food store in Queens, not far from where he grew up. He gets a little financial help from his father—a retired lawyer and executive. Mr. Furman says he fell in love with the Guinness World Records Book

when he was 10. “I remember carrying it around and reading it under the covers at night,” he says. Since he wasn’t athletic as a child, he figured he could never break a Guinness record. His father, Bernie Furman, says there was little sign that the younger Mr. Furman would become a world class competitor. He cut gym so often that his mother had to plead with an assistant principal to let him graduate on time from Jamaica High School and attend Columbia University. After two years, he dropped out of college to study meditation with an Indian-born spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy. Around this time, Mr. Furman, whose birth name was Keith, changed his name to Ashrita, which means “protected by God” in Sanskrit. He says the meditation he learned from Mr. Chinmoy allows him to perform beyond his expectations. In 1978, Mr. Chinmoy convinced Mr. Furman to train for a long distance road bike marathon. After surprising himself by coming in third, Mr. Furman set his sights on Guinness records. Mr. Furman, who is single, gets most of his ideas from studying existing records and deciding if he can break them. He tries to pick records that work different areas of the body, he says, so he can have a “well rounded” training schedule.

“I would find myself in places, and I would see an opportunity,” he says. While on a trip to Mongolia in 2007, he decided to do a competition there. After seeing yaks, he attempted a one-mile sack race against a yak—clocking in at 16 minutes, 41 seconds, breaking the existing sack race record. He notes that many of his records don’t require much athletic ability. They include egg cracking with one hand, lemon peeling and duct taping oneself to a wall. But winning can take years. It also requires discipline, creativity and friends willing to toss, measure and build. It’s not unusual for Mr. Furman to brainstorm with friends when he’s trying to win a record. Homagni Baptista, a friend from his meditation group, experimented for weeks with different recipes when Mr. Furman was trying to build the world’s largest lollipop. No ordinary sucker, the raspberry lollipop was made after the men spent a few days building a mold in the back of a flat bed truck and another four days boiling sugar. In the end, it weighed about 6,500 pounds. Almost weekly, someone in the world is breaking one of his records. His response: Work to retake it and come up with more competitions. “I want to inspire people,” says Mr. Furman, who is almost always training for three or four events. “If you have a dream, you can achieve your dream. I’m living my dream.” (Source: Julian Mincer, The Wall Street Journal)


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