took to world record-breaking in
2004 after being inspired by a record-setting rally
driver in Kenya. What began as a hobby soon escalated
into an active publicity pursuit. Today, he promotes the
work of social and environmental causes. For these
purposes, the most fitting game plans are chosen; then
world titles are attempted and frequently created.
Wall Street Journal:
Shaking On It in Times Square
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Behind every world record attempt is the expertise of professionals in their field.
Their success underpins Alastair's.
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Furthest light bulb throw: 28.66 metres
This is the story behind my Guinness World Record™ for the Furthest light bulb throw.
When I heard the voice on the other end of the
telephone saying I'd been invited to a public record-breaking event, I
had to restrain myself from howling raucously with excitement. Instead,
I replied calmly and admirably, “That would be lovely”. What an
understatement! I was silently throwing my fists in the air, and acting
out some impromptu dance I'd never known before. It was all too much,
and my thumping heart was already energising me.
I couldn't help myself, and interrupted the
caller, “What world records can I attempt? How many? What are the event
conditions?”... each answer seemed to be met with twice as many
questions. After a quarter of an hour, I'd satisfied myself that this
could be worth the input. I agreed to take part.
Oh no! I'd just confirmed my involvement in a
world record event I wasn't familiar with. It was too late, so the best
I could do was plan. I sat with a hot drink and relaxed as the day
faded and the house lights came on. Thoughts flooded my mind; big
thoughts and small ones, stupid thoughts and commendable ones, complex
thoughts and the extremely simple. When I'd noted them all down, the
list was rather extensive. I had to choose. Fizz! Instantly, I was in
the dark. A light bulb had blown.
Right then, I had no idea what world record I
would attempt, and I was alone in the darkness. The ugly light bulb, I
thought – why had it chosen to fail at that time. The light bulb! The
bulb – that could be it. That would be what I could use for a suitable
world record attempt, I suddenly realised. I jumped up and changed the
bulb. When the room was lit once more, I ran my finger down the list of
potential ideas, but none seemed as appealing as playing with a light
But what exactly would I do? There were people
who'd eaten light bulbs, and others who'd smashed them for attention.
But I was wanting something more engaging. Smash? Crush? Strike? No –
I'd throw the things! Right, I set about investigating.
First, I had to see if I could find a bulb with
sufficient weight to fly a fair distance. The local lighting supplies
shop was entertained by my request, and took me out to their rubbish
yard. There, a staff member and I rummaged through a lot of cracked and
blown bulbs of many shapes and sizes. Immediately I saw most, I knew
they'd not be suitable. But amongst those, I found a selection I
thought might work: slender ones, heavy ones, patterned ones and more.
I left the shop carrying a bulky load of someone else's unwanted items.
I was pleased.
Next, it was over to me to practise. In a vacant
car park, I threw several of the bulbs, aiming for the grass verge each
time. Thankfully, no bulbs smashed, but instead bounced to a standstill
on the greenery. That was good, since it'd have been my responsibility
to clean up any mess I made. What's more, there was a slight chance
some of the light bulbs could contain mercury, although the shop staff
had picked out the mercury-containing bulbs they saw among those I
chose. I'd been grateful for the help, and now it was up to me to show
what I could do with them.
It quickly became apparent that certain types of
bulb would never perform at this, while others would do well. I
separated out the promising ones from the rest and left the car park.
There was a lot of admin to attend to next, so the actual throwing of
the bulbs would be the least of my concerns. But it was definitely the
most exciting part of the world record attempt. So I hurried through
the necessary admin, all the while dreaming of throwing techniques.
There were even days when I wondered about competitive discus throwers
and javelin throwers, thinking about their arm muscle movements when
tossing items. All this investigation, I kept reminding myself, was for
a purpose: to try and get me the world record for throwing a carefully
chosen light bulb.
day arrived. I was there early, with my
helpers. Spectators and contestants milled around, people registered
and began laying out what they'd need for their activities. I was shown
a very narrow service road along the sports track and told to go
smashing things there. When I had a look, all seemed good. The sealed
tar strip was no wider than a single family vehicle, but it was
straight and lined by a wide grassy verge to both sides. Small road
cones had been placed between this section of tar and the sports track
where the main event was to be held, reminding me that safety was
paramount. The day's activities had been planned on a detailed
timetable, and my light bulb-throwing attempt was scheduled for early
afternoon. Everything appeared in order. I was feeling confident.
It was time. I had become intensely worried. I
paced back and forth on the sports field, not concerned with anything
but my face. My face! The breeze on my cheeks was getting stronger by
the quarter-hour, and it was strongest across the tar service road.
This was the worst possible angle for a wind to blow from, and having
any air movement at all would disadvantage my efforts irrespective. In
disbelief, my helpers and I moved the bulbs, goggles and tape measure
to the road. We set up, and a group gathered to watch. I wished they'd
go away, because the cross-wind would make me look like an
under-performer. Of course, I couldn't say that, so I continued getting
Volunteers placed themselves along the road,
weary of smash-prone projectiles. I wriggled my arm to loosen the
muscles and flex the joints. With a bulb in hand and goggles on my
face, I swung my arm back and forth to keep my shoulder muscles warm
and active. During a lull in the wind, I threw the bulb, angling it a
mentally calculated distance into the cross-wind to compensate for the
counter-force. But during the light bulb's flight, the erratic wind
changed direction and blew the bulb far onto the grass. Spectators
found it amusing to see a light bulb in mid-air change course and head
sideways. I was anything but amused.
My assistants and I had estimated that this
attempt would take 20 minutes. We were wrong. It went on for almost an
hour, because we all had to wait for calm periods in between windiness
each time I threw a bulb. Several by-standers offered to use their
licked fingers as wind indicators, telling me the strength and
direction of air movement every 10 metres along the road strip. This
was pathetic. No world record attempt ought to be made under such
uncooperative conditions, I felt. The event management was keen for us
to finish, so they could announce the next public event. That put more
pressure on me to throw just one bulb an impressive distance.
Almost due to frustration, with obvious
determination, I picked up the biggest bulb I'd brought. It had a heavy
base, was constructed of thick glass, and looked the most sturdy. In my
mind, I spoke to the bulb as a father rebuking his son. “You will
travel far. You will not let me down. You're the only chance I've got
at success. There is no choice here: get me this world record. I have
nothing more to say”.
With squinted eyes from intense concentration, I
warned those standing along the bulb's flight path of this one's
weight, and told my team to focus. I took a deep breath. Feeling slight
aggression toward the wind, I resolved to succeed. Within seconds,
while there was a brief lull in the wind, I launched that light bulb
into flight as if it were motorised. Relief! Or stress? A gust of wind
caught the glass and metal projectile, and it veered off-course. Two of
my helpers had to jump aside to escape being struck as the bulb
plummeted to the road. Smash! My anxiety intensified in an instant.
Thankfully, when the bulb was returned to me, I
saw it hadn't actually smashed as the noise had suggested. The base had
cracked, and only small shards of glass had flown off. I wriggled the
bulb and realised it was still fine for my purposes. And by then, my
adrenalin level was high. Very high. One could say I was on a mission
to overcome my temporary adversary, the wind. With great force, I
clutched the undamaged tip of the bulb. It was going to serve me well.
That was my final command.
Much to my surprise – and that of my team, plus
the spectators, the next throw was what we'd all been waiting for. The
light bulb sailed through the air, unhindered by any wind, and landed
in the middle of the narrow tar road. People began expressing their
relief and I smiled for the first time since the wind had come to
harass me. Great! I let out a very long sigh. My assistants relaxed.
When we measured the distance, it was a happy moment. I thought I'd
In addition to needing to complete the required
admin, there was a job for us all. People brought dust pans, brooms and
bags. From the other side of the sports track, the 8 of us must have
looked like foraging baboons – doubled over, searching for, and picking
up pieces of glass as we walked up and down the stretch of road I'd
used. A few of us cut ourselves, but we weren't worried. Who could be
worried when a world record may have been made in the process?
It was a wonderful moment when I learned that I'd
succeeded at this world record attempt. I was then free to tell every
living human on the planet that I can throw a light bulb further than
any other. And that's what I live for.