Whether it was Cheryl Baker 20 years ago or Felix Baumgartner a few months back who introduced you to the Guinness World Records Book, there's always been something special about the record-breaking tome that's seen it retain an incredibly cool status, no matter what your age.
To be recognised across the globe alongside humanity's elite (even if your own record-breaking skill borders on the bizarre) remains an incredible achievement. But, even if you have the skill, it's still no walk in the park making it onto those hallowed pages. The Guinness World Records team receives more than 50,000 record attempt applications every year, and only around 4,000 of them make it into the books. Looking to maximise your chances of being immortalised in print by the Guinness World Records team? Follow this guide, and you'll be boasting of your claim to fame for fears.
We've all taken one look at Usain Bolt; did a double-take at the hot-dog on our plates and the bottle of beer in our hands, and wondered how different life could have been. So, unless you're incredibly gifted, don't set your sights on becoming the world's fastest human, or longest jumper. And equally, don't buy a rack in the hopes of stretching yourself into the world's tallest person -- it isn't going to happen.
Instead, think of something a little closer to home, in line with your strengths and interests. Are you the cupcake-eating king or queen in town? Or able to walk up steps doing a handstand without breaking a sweat? Then you could be in with a very good chance of breaking a record. If it's not something you're truly passionate about, it'll be a chore to even attempt it.
"If it was technically impossible for a record to be broken, then it would never qualify as a Guinness World Records title to begin with," explained Craig Glenday, Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief.
"It's all down to a person's mentality and perseverance -- if you think something's impossible, it will probably be impossible. Remember the four-minute mile? The world thought it couldn't be done, but Roger Bannister proved a human could run a mile in less than four minutes. Then two months later, the record was broken again! Now the record stands at 3 min 43.13 sec."
This one goes without saying, but if your record attempt necessitates breaking the law, or puts yourself in unsurmountable danger or endangers those around you, it's probably not a good idea to pursue the record attempt. You'll have to put your plans of revealing the world's first homemade nuclear fusion reactor on hold for now.
The same goes for any record attempts that involve animals. The record-awarding adjudicators won't even consider anything that puts your pet's health at risk, so think again before doubling Rover's pedigree chum servings to make him the plumpest pooch on the planet.
Even if you aren't force-feeding the world's fattest hamster or trying to pull off the world's longest quad bike wheelie down a motorway, there are still a number of conditions that must be met before you can apply for a valid record attempt.
All records must be a.) measurable, b.) based on a single variable, c.) verifiable and d.) breakable by someone else at a later date if they have the chops to do so, as well as the record attempt itself needing to be performed in public. In other words, being "The Happiest Person Named Humphrey To Sleep In His Own Bed On December 23rd 2013" just won't cut it. In the Guinness World Records team's own words "if you can't take a tape-measure to it, weigh it or count it -- then it's probably not a record!"
Those under 18 must get permission from an adult, and records involving minors come under increased scrutiny from the related regulatory bodies, so keep that in mind. Also, if you're going for a large food record, make sure it gets eaten -- Guinness World Records don't like waste, especially when so many people in the world go hungry, so make sure nothing is thrown away that could serve someone in need elsewhere.
This is a personal one -- maybe I'm just lazy, but if I found out there was someone doing what I planned to do above and beyond my capabilities, I'd probably just give up and go back to sitting on my butt watching Jackass re-runs all day. But maybe you thrive on competition! In which case, PICK OUT YOUR RIVAL AND DESTROY THEM. Well, destroy their hard-earned record score, anyway!
Applying for a Guinness World Record is, surprisingly, free -- the team wants everyone in the world with a talent or gift to share to be able to do so, regardless of finances. It's the simple matter of filling in an online form, which can be found here. That's not to say it's quick though! With so many people attempting to set records, you have to expect a wait of up to six weeks for your application to be processed, and 12 weeks if you're looking to set a brand new, never-before-attempted record.
Once processed, Guinness World Records will get in touch, giving you the green or red light on your proposal. If you get the go ahead, and it's for an attempt at an existing record, Guinness World Records will send through the guidelines you need to follow to make your attempt, as carried out by the current record holder.
"The guidelines are the rules that the current record holder stuck to," says Glenday.
"By sending them out to each subsequent applicant, we can make sure we're judging each record fairly and giving everyone a level playing field. If it's a brand new record being attempted, and we all agree that it qualifies as a record that we can measure, then we'll write new guidelines specially for your suggestion."
If time is of the essence, you can pay an optional £450 to use the Fast Track service that will have your application prioritised and processed in just three working days. You can also pay to have an official Guinness World Records Adjudicator present when you make your record attempt, who will be able to verify on the spot whether or not you've broken a new world record, and hand over your well-earned certificate the very same day. Having an adjudicator check out your attempt is a great way of building up hype around your record and all the added media attention that comes with them may be particularly useful for the next point...
People love record breakers! Loads of people will be paying you far more attention if you're making a daring record attempt, so why not harness that and try to do some good along the way, as well as boosting your ego? Get in touch with a charity that may be vaguely relevant to your record attempt, and see if there's any way your record-breaking campaign can make money for them. Even if you fail at your attempt, at least you'll know you've helped out a great cause, and it could improve your chances of making it into the book come the time of its compilation.
You've gone through all this effort and made it your life's work to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, so don't go and blow it on the big day! You need to be in tip-top condition to achieve whichever record attempt it is you've set yourself up for, and have to be in a totally zen-like state, free of nerves when the time to perform arrives.
Of course, some records take considerably less effort than others. The man with the world's longest beard, for instance, didn't need to lift weights all day to cultivate his flowing facial fluff. But many other record attempts take skill or physical conditioning to pull off. The best way to do this is to get into a proper practice routine -- set daily goals, working up to the record-breaking level over a finite period of time and, if you can, get a pal onboard to join you for moral support. As you get closer to (or, on a dry run, even beat) your target, you'll be filled with confidence when the time for the real event finally comes.
"The human race has always strived towards bigger and better things -- it sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom," enthuses Glenday.
"Since Guinness World Records began publishing humanity's greatest achievements, it's been clear to the public that they too can have a go. It's not the reserve of Olympians or Nobel Prize winners; anyone can achieve something incredible."
If you're going for a record, chances are you already think you can pull it off with your eyes closed, but don't let your bravado get the better of you. Put the time in now, and be the envy of your mates once the certificate is in your hands.
If you haven't paid to have the record attempt overseen by an official adjudicator on a specific date, when the big day comes you're going to have to be prepared to collect plenty of evidence to prove you are indeed a member of the record-breaking elite. What is required of you will be laid out in the guidelines pack sent through from the Guinness World Records team. It'll likely take the form of some video and/or some photography, as well as the signatures of some independent witnesses. You'll then need to send it all off to Guinness World Records. Make sure that your unique Claim ID number is on every individual item sent, including the packaging -- that way, if any part of your evidence parcel gets separated, it'll be far easier to reunite all the pieces that make up your record-breaking package.
Unless you had an adjudicator on hand at your record attempt, you're going to have an agonising wait ahead of you, anything from weeks to months. But, did you think it was going to be easy getting yourself listed as one of the unique achievers among the human race? No way! That's what makes the Guinness World Records so special -- we humans have some crazy-mad skills, and being awarded a place in the world-renowned book as recognition of your alpha-ness is an incredibly-coveted prize. While only the best-of-the-best record breakers make it into the annual book, all successful record breakers get the highly-coveted certificate of excellence from the Guinness World Records team.
"Beyond the prestige of the record breaking, the book captures a unique snapshot of the world every year, in all its insane, inspiring, life-affirming and even sometimes unsavoury glory," says Glenday.
"It documents the ongoing story of humankind and its desire to attain what was considered impossible, and that's an incredible thing to be a part of."
If you've followed this guide to the letter, then, congratulations! You're a record breaker! Or, at the very least, armed with all the knowledge you need to become one. Pat yourself on the back (as many times as you can in 30 seconds...)
Read all of our tips on how to crack the big book of records, and are convinced you've got what it takes to muscle your way in there? Better put your shoes on and jump to it -- but first, check out O2 Guru TV's interview with the bespoke trainer designer Daniel Reese in the video below.