A Guinness World Record for these running Redlegs

Now that's a chain gang!

Now that's a chain gang!

They’re pretty damn fast, but we were able to catch up with the 5-man crew that ran the Flying Pig Marathon tied together this past weekend. Not only did they break a Guinness World Record, they did it in style, sporting head-to-almost-toe Reds gear during the race. You can’t possibly get any more OMG than that!

Team member Scott Bihl was gracious enough to take some time out of his post-race rest and relaxation to answer a few questions for us. Hope you enjoy!

So, introduce yourselves! Also, each of you ran as a former Red, right? Who was who?

  • David Szeremet – Pete Rose
  • Chris Cavanaugh – Chris Sabo (with the specs – before the race someone really thought he was Chris Sabo)
  • Rick Dravenstott – Eric Davis
  • Scott Bihl – Sparky Anderson
  • Mark Ragase – Dave Concepción

Bench and Larkin were high on the list among many others, but we ultimately went with our favorites and a bias towards the light-hearted spirit of our record pursuit. A team theme and strong presence on the course was an absolute must for us since we wanted to make the most of it for ourselves and the spectators. As Cincinnatians in Cincinnati, the Reds theme was a no brainer. Chris definitely committed with the Sabo glasses, and he wins our spirit award since David refused to get a Pete Rose hair cut.

How did you all come up with this crazy scheme?
A couple of years ago some of us were lounging in a coffee shop after a run, and while thumbing through a random copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, we noticed an entry for a “5 person linked marathon” that had a not especially impressive time. We decided that we could get a group to beat the record, and that it would be an entertaining endeavor. All of us are good runners who have won a small race or two here or there, but as what we call the “sub-sub-elite”, we are not going to get any prestigious records or victories. This presented an opportunity to call ourselves world record holders with an effort that people could look at and say yeah, that’s pretty good. David served as our captain, taking the lead on coordinating with Guinness and doing the legwork.

5-man team at the Flying Pig Marathon

Going for gold!

The 2011 Boston Marathon was our first target, but our pre-event publicity (required by Guinness) was noticed by a stodgy Boston race official, who, with stick lodged firmly in butt, commanded in no uncertain terms that we not to do it there. Other groups also noticed our publicity, and with the same idea, they lowered the record to more challenging times at other events before we finally made our run and took it at the Flying Pig.

Now really, how hard was this? It’s not like you all just ran a 5k. That was 26.2 miles all tied to one another. Only as strong as your weakest link, right?
Running a marathon at any pace is a challenge. Anyone can have a bad day, get sick, step in a hole, or any number of things, and spreading that risk across 5 makes it that much more difficult.

Working out the belt and rope system with the right lengths and some flexibility was key, and we actually did practice running, moving around, getting water, etc. The original record holders were dressed as a prison chain gang with real metal chains, and while we respect that authenticity, we opted for a more functional and comfortable setup. We went so far as to make sure we could have one of us get in and out of a port-o-let without breaking the ties and doing what might be required. Fortunately on race day such provisions were unnecessary, but I’m sure the folks who saw us practicing are still wondering just what it was they saw that day.

We are very pleased with 3:04 (7:02 per mile), which put us at 44th-48th overall in the Pig, and put the record into “it is going to take some serious recruiting and planning to beat this thing” territory. We’d have loved to put it under 3 hours, but with the warmer than ideal conditions we had to peg against the old record of 3:06 and be absolutely sure we got that.

What was the toughest part of the course to be tied together?
Without doubt the start was the hardest for being linked. The density of people was very high, and we were on alert to stay tightly bunched and out of everyone else’s way. We took the turns wide, and we made a lot of noise about what was coming and where we were going. The people at Boston did have a legitimate concern with safety, but we were on top of it, and we were surely less of a hazard than people tuning out the world with headphones and the slow people who seem to insist on lining up right at the front and get in the way.

Water stops? That had to be a challenge!
It was. For those unfamiliar, even in normal circumstances, a marathon water stop can be like Black Friday at a toy store with only 10 units of the latest must have fad. We skipped the first water stop entirely. As the crowds thinned out, we positioned ourselves well in advance of the water stops, and the person on the side grabbed and passed cups over to the others. We might have trampled a couple of people, but they got what they deserved for stopping abruptly in front of us. Only kidding on the last bit, but as anyone who as run a marathon can attest, sometimes you wish you could.

Was there ever a point where you thought it might not happen?
Nope, this was a 1990 Reds wire to wire run. As mentioned, no marathon is ever easy, but we held our pace throughout and had no major problems. Towards the end there were a couple of complaints, met quickly with “quit being a *****” replies, but that’s just marathoning.

5-man team at the Flying Pig Marathon

Bringing it home on Pete Rose Way

How was the crowd support for you guys?
We can’t say enough about the excellent support on the course. 5 guys all in red definitely made a big visual impression and people loved it, but the spectators and volunteers seemed especially into it this year overall. The reactions were as entertaining to us as we were to the crowds.

While we were clearly on a mission to get that record with some serious running, we made sure to do a lot of high fiving and bantering. Other runners enjoyed it, and sometimes having a distraction from the discomfort can make all the difference in holding it together for another mile. That, or the motivation of not being beaten by a pack of idiots with gold cord dangling between them. Regardless, our theme and attitude fit well with the Flying Pig’s national reputation of being a fun, supportive, and somewhat whimsical event. The Pig really is among the best events of its kind in the country, and the community involvement is no small part of that.

What was it like crossing that finish line (swine) knowing you broke a world record?
Into mile 24 as we could sniff the finish, the air had a definite charge and emotions were running high. As silly as we all know this is, it was still a very proud culmination of a lot of planning, and a much harder and longer than anticipated journey to get there. We’ve finished hundreds of marathons between us, many of them a good deal faster, but none had as much joy at the finish. We had momentarily turned the marathon into a team sport.

Now, you guys are believed to have broken the record. Where are you in the process of getting certification with The Guinness book of World Records?
Guiness requires “evidence” in the form of multiple photographs and official results. We have submitted these, and as with seemingly any mail order item, free t-shirt, or cereal box redemption worth having, we should have our certificates in 6 to 8 weeks.

How did you celebrate after the race?
Food was our first priority after burning 3,000 calories, and that was followed quickly by beer and partying with friends and fellow runners. Some marathons lay out bagels, bananas, and bars in their finish area, but the Pig goes the extra mile with donuts, Little Debbie treats, and Cheetos, among other things – you know, stuff people actually want to reward themselves with after pushing their bodies into utter exhaustion.

Our non super hero identities as parents and/or working stiffs meant we had to untie and scatter before too long, but rest assured the stories and merriment will extend well into the future.

OMGreds noticed you got some action on Channel 5. Any other media in Cincinnati give you some love?
Continuing the celebration theme, we had a chance to reassemble and view the Channel 5 coverage on the DVR. They mean well, but their woefully misinformed and misstated accounts of what we were up to had us laughing out loud. Their interview with coma survivor Alison Delgado trumped our crossing of the finish line, but they rallied by having us as the final highlight in their recap montage. The evening news broadcasts on multiple channels had some good clips, including our own post race interview, and they used us well for some levity. Overall we got far more attention than we expected or deserved, including this fine venue.

Any crazy plans for upcoming races? Redlegs Run for Home?
The Redlegs run is a must since it is a great race, and we definitely want to get more than one use out of those outfits. We won’t run tethered there, but further out on the calender the Hudepohl 14K has divisions for 3 way and 6 pack teams. We’ll be holding auditions for a sixth runner if anyone is interested….

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