It’s been a bad week as far as the John O’Groats to Land’s End World Record Relay (JOGLE for short) is concerned. But following much frantic activity, the attempt is now dead in the water .
The idea started a few months ago via Twitter, when Sharon Duggan cycled from John O'Groats to Land's End and had the idea of getting together about 20 cyclists from different backgrounds to attempt a relay record. Amazingly, so it seemed, no such record had been set before, even though there are relay running records, individual cycling records, and so on. (Incidentally, the individual record time from Land's End to John O'Groats on a bicycle is held by a gentleman called Gethin Butler, who in 2001 did it in the amazing time of 44 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Remember that time…)
Back to the story. Sharon contacted various people on Twitter and started putting the team together. She contacted Guinness World Records who confirmed that this would be a valid, new record if it were to be set. She did lots and lots and lots of other work including getting multinational firm JCB to agree to be the team’s sponsors, and for us to support the good work of the NSPCC.
Just two weeks ago several members of the team met up in Droitwich, had a ride out together and then spent time discussing all aspects of how the ride would work. Things seemed to be going so well…
Then this week Guinness World Records didn’t just move the goalposts – they relocated them to a different football pitch in a different town. Admitting that they had inadvertently accepted the challenge in error (!!) they produced a set of rules which, quite simply, torpedoed the whole attempt. They insisted that there should be no more than 12 cyclists. Well, perhaps we could live with that. Then they said they would not even consider the record unless the time were under 40 hours. 40 HOURS?
If the record for one man - non-stop – is 44 hours, what makes them think that a team can do it a full 10% faster? (By the way, for any non-physicists out there, riding 10% faster involves a 30% increase in work rate. A 30% higher work rate than the guy who holds the outright record!) The idea was for the team to be amateurs; the only kind of team that could do a sub-40-hour ride would be professional or semi-professional! And to be honest, they’re all too busy either doing big races like the Tour de France, or competing in the Olympics and World Championships.
Guinness World Records were expecting each rider to do a 70-mile stage at an average speed of over 21 mph. They claim that their records are ‘not just for professionals’, but that just doesn’t ring true here.
And yet, by the way, the rules also state that:
"As a general rule, the participant(s) should not remain stationary (i.e. if he/she does not make any progress towards his/her destination) for longer than 14 days"
14 DAYS? Who wrote these rules? Can you imagine the Olympic 4x400 relay with a fortnight’s break between legs? Am I the only person who thinks that Guinness World Records really have no idea what this record was to be about? ‘Out of touch’ would be an understatement.
We wanted to have ordinary people – keen, of course, but including those who ride for fun, cancer survivors, one who has lost 8 stone in 12 months, and so on – to do something extra-ordinary; and to set a standard which other people could have a go at, and to be honest, it was going to be a record which wouldn’t be too difficult to beat, which we didn't think was a bad thing.
So after discussions within the team, and lots more discussions and arguments with Guinness World Records, we were faced with no alternative but to drop the whole thing. Sorry folks - it would have been a lot of fun – fun for the team, fun for sponsors and supporters, and fun for generally interested onlookers. I feel desperately sorry for Sharon, who has put so much time and effort into this – I guess it’s been a full-time obsession for the last three months at least – and now it’s all in ruins.
By the way, if you can get more than 485 people to dress up as Mahatma Gandhi, or hold more than 16 mugs in one hand, or if you can collect more than 571 model Daleks, you can still get into the Guinness Book of World Records. But if 20 of you want to pedal your backside off doing a great challenge and helping a worthwhile charity at the same time, Guinness World Records would rather you didn’t bother.
Because Twitter limits you to 140 characters, abbreviations are commonplace. I guess the one for this situation is ‘WTF?’ I’m sure non-Tweeps can work that one out for themselves.