I love to play footbag! Or, Hacky Sack, whatever you want to call it. My specialty is knees: Funky knees, fast knees, bumpy knees, and now, running knees.
I hold the 9th highest marathon consecutives record in the world at 20,004 kicks without missing, the 6th highest speed consecutives record at 853 kicks in 5 minutes, and I was inducted into the Footbag Hall of Fame in 2005 for lifetime dedication and achievement in the sport of Footbag.
I am a former World Record holder in the 5-minute timed (speed) consecutives, having used my unique knee style to establish the first world record when the event was introduced. But, that record has since been buried, by Andy Linder. A short time later, my wife went on to set the Women’s World Record in 5-minute timed, and still holds that record today.
I had been dabbling in the idea of doing distances playing footbag. Again, that crazy Funky Chicken knee style was a natural for running forward using a knee juggle. I imagined myself trying to footbag a 5K Run/walk. To test the idea, I participated in the Mizzou Inclusive Excellence Mile Run, playing Hacky Sack the whole way. Result? 25 minutes, four drops, all in the first third mile. Finished the last half strong!
At first, the challenge of just a singe mile run dissuaded me from the dreamy notion of trying a 5K. That mile was way harder than I had estimated. It destroyed me! A 5K is more than three times that?!? Insanity! I would stick to the mile run, thanks.
The call came out in October. Guinness folks would be at SkillCon in Las Vegas, the US Footbag Open venue in mid-December. They were interested in footbag World Record attempts. Footbag juggling. Consecutive torques. Oldest competitor. And “Distance Traveled?” Wait, I think I just heard my name being called? And could I finally catch back up to my wife in the Guinness World Record department?
It took me a few weeks tasting the idea, but tourney director Aaron Clevenger’s relentless encouragement lured me in. I took the bait, and booked my trip. Then, with barely 5 weeks to go, I started training for real. The title I was going for: “Distance travelled while controlling a footbag in one hour.”
In One. Full. Whole. Freaking. Hour. That’s … that’s gonna be brutal.
I started with 20 minute heats on the running track. Pushed that up to 30. Even missed hearing my timer and put in 40 minutes once. But I strained some muscles early on in practice, and couldn’t shake the injury. I had to cut way back on my training the last couple weeks to let my muscles heal a bit.
In the meantime, the event was taking shape: rules clarification with Guinness. Securing a venue. The flight out, getting the bike rental guy in trouble at the airport, and finally, the dazzling glitz of Las Vegas! It was time.
We arrived at the University of Las Vegas Myron Partridge Track & Stadium at 1:45 pm Saturday December 15th. It’s a gorgeous, state-of the art track. The weather was ideal. (Shoutout to Coach Angelina & UNLV for facilitating this event!) I stretched & warmed up while the track team finished their practice. We set the cameras. We readied the stopwatches.
Three, two, one… GO! Mere seconds later, another runner on the track came up behind me, and literally bumped into me, instead of going around! I falter, drop the bag, and stop the attempt. My adjudicator agrees: Interference, by a jerk. I tried talking to the guy, but he made it clear lane 1 was his and he was going to run over me if I was in it. I moved to lane 3.
Three, two, one… GO! Then… NO! Less than 100 meters in, an upper body foul. Dang. I just burnt my first real attempt, that fast. Not good, but I’d rather that be early than farther in, I guess. Get it out of the way, I rationalize. The pressure mounts!
Third start, second official attempt: That’s the charm! I took off clean, shook off the early jitters, and established pace. I was over a half lap ahead, dropless, at 30 minutes. But, I was starting to feel it. The lack of hard training the last two weeks was taking its toll. I started fading. A drop. I scoop it up, serve, take off again. “Just hold this pace.” I kept telling myself.
Another couple laps. Another drop. Now I’m really struggling with control. I’ve lost track of time and laps, but I know I’m falling behind. Another drop. And another. I try to rally with a burst of speed, making most of a straightaway at top speed! But I can’t keep it up. As I near the lap line, I hear the call: one more minute! I needed 5 Km to set the record. I think I’m short. A final drop parteaycinto the turn, with just a few seconds to go… I bent over, heaving, waved away the footbag, looked up at my adjudicator and said, “I’m done.”
“TIME!” He calls.
So close, yet so far! I went the whole hour, not dropless, but no upper body fouls. By my calculations, I was just 100 meters or so short. But, my calculations were based on using lane 1. Because of the other runner, I stayed in lane 3. It’s a little bit farther. We wanted to double check the distance in that lane.
Coach got out the measuring wheel. They paced the track and did the calculations, while I collapsed into a heap of dejected, twitching flesh. “I Failed” I tersely texted the tournament group chat. Then I got up and looked at the number on the adjudicator’s phone: 5010 meters for 12 laps, plus anther 43.9 meters past the full lap.
5053.9 meters. Five Thou… Thou… Thou… Five… My mind got stuck there for just a second. After being convinced I had fallen short, then seeing that number, it finally sunk in. I whooped: “WOOOOO! FUCK YESSSSS!!!” … followed by a sheepish apology for the language. “YES! WOOOOO!” I yelled again, without the expletive this time.
I DID IT!
I set the Guinness World Record Title of “Distance travelled in one hour controlling a footbag.”
I did it.
As I sat in the airport waiting for my flight home, exhausted and sore, but filled with joy and gratitude, I spammed Social media with the journey’s epitaph:
“I came to gamble nothing less than my reputation. I leave with nothing less than a Guinness World Record Title. TY all, Goodbye Las Vegas. Top rated experience. Would love to do again!”
Eternal gratitude to Aaron, Jeremy, all the Guinness staff who were all so kind and supportive, and many thanks to everyone else who offered their encouragement, support, and help to make this event possible.
I love to play footbag!