Guinness Champion Ashrita featured in The New Yorker

The New Yorker feature New York based Guinness champion Ashrita Furman in its latest issue, here is part of the article as it is published in the online edition:

PROFILE of world-record breaker Ashrita Furman. Ashrita Furman went to Peru to climb the mountain above Machu Picchu, which is called Cerro Machu Picchu, and is ten thousand feet above sea level. This was late last July. Furman, who lives in Queens, where the highest point is two hundred and fifty-eight feet, allowed himself a day to become adjusted to the altitude. Furman hoped to climb higher than anyone ever had on stilts. The record, according to Guinness World Records, was 7,242 feet, set in South Dakota, in 2002. No one had stopped Furman at the Great Wall of China in 2005, when he completed the fastest mile on a hop ball, fifteen minutes and three seconds—a record that he broke in 2010, doing thirteen minutes in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Nor had anyone interfered when, in 1993, he climbed to the snowline of Mt. Fuji on a pogo stick, sixteen miles up and back, which was the greatest distance ever travelled on a pogo stick, or when, in 1987, he jumped underwater on a pogo stick in the Amazon River for three hours and forty minutes, longer than anyone ever had. Yet he was turned away at Cerro Machu Picchu by security. Furman, who is fifty-seven and the part owner of a health-food store in Queens, is the world’s leading practitioner of a pursuit that is known as Guinnessport—the undertaking of challenges designed to get a person into an edition of Guinness World Records. He has set more world records than anyone ever has: three hundred and sixty-seven. Currently, he holds a hundred and thirty-one records, one of which is the record for holding the most records. Twenty-seven thousand jumping jacks, done in six hours and forty-five minutes, was Furman’s first record, in 1979. Furman’s records involve at least seventy discrete skills, the bulk of which he learns for the attempt. Slicing apples in the air with a samurai sword took a year.

A few years ago, in order to hold a hundred records simultaneously, Furman took up pure Guinnessport. Furman has lived a little like a monk, in the same house, in Queens, for thirty-eight years. He has never driven a car, and he is celibate. When he was sixteen, he became a follower of the pacifist wise man Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy, who had been a decathlete, believed that extreme physical pursuits offered a means of transcending the self, and, in May of 1978, he encouraged his followers to take part in a twenty-four-hour bicycle race in Central Park. The race started at noon. By midnight, Furman was among the lead riders, and twelve hours later, he finished tied for third. “I had barely trained, so there was no doubt in my mind that it was all the meditation.” Mentions Furman’s father, Bernard. Sooner or later, nearly all professional athletes play despite being in pain. “I always notice you get to a point where you say, ‘I can’t do this,’ then you go past it,” Furman says. Describes Furman climbing Mt. Baden-Powell, which is about nine thousand four hundred feet high, outside of Los Angeles, on stilts.


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