Guinness World Record? Again? Are you MAD!!!!!!!!
This weekend marks 2 years since I became the Guinness World Record Holder of the Longest Flute Marathon (by an individual). I have to be totally honest and say that there are times when I hardly believe it myself. Not that it has been 2 years, but that I did it at all…………. for a second time!
The first time I went for the record I was creating a Guinness World Record that had never existed before. I had great support from friends, Cancer Research UK (who I was collecting for) and family. The Bedworth Civic Hall were equally wonderful, allowing me to use their facilities and providing staff (who stayed unpaid) throughout the night to ensure that everything was OK and went smoothly. My preparation had been limited, but I had practiced playing the flute for 6 hours at a time, as that was the longest I was expecting to play without a break. Guinness rules allow you a 5 minute comfort break for every one hour completed, so if I was able to play for 6 hours I could have a 30 minute break for food, rest etc. In some respects that was the easy part. On top of that there needs to be witnesses and timekeepers for the duration of the record, and this meant 2 timekeepers who were there at all times and 2 witnesses at a time who had to change every 4 hours. To say that I had a huge support team behind me is no understatement, but the majority of the logistics had to be organised by me, and this was very time consuming, leaving less time for practice.
To say I was nervous about taking on such a challenge is an understatement. I wanted to raise as much money for charity as I could, and to do that I knew I needed to set a good time. Not only that, once a time was set others would target it and try to beat it. I think the first 12 hours or so were OK. I managed to follow my plan and complete two 6-hour sessions. By this time I was a little tired, but I was holding it together. My lip and breathing were fine, but I did have some discomfort in my neck and left hand. Playing through the night however proved more of a challenge.
The first record was completed in February. It was my wish to achieve the record before my 40th birthday. I became the World Record Holder the day before my birthday! Playing through the night during one of the more miserable months of the year, when it stays dark for what feels like forever, was really hard going and it was such a relief when the sun started to peep through. My friends, family and witnesses really played their part too. Their support, cajoling and love got me through those difficult hours, and I was able to complete 25 hours and 48 minutes before I decided I had had enough. My very last piece was Vocalise by Rachmaninov, my absolute favourite composer, but if truth be told I couldn’t bring myself to play that piece again for about 4 years.
Nearly 26 hours of flute playing took its toll, both on the flutes and me physically. It is true that I went straight from the Bedworth Civic Hall to McDonalds for a celebratory McChicken Sandwich meal, and after a couple of hours sleep I was more than ready for my 40th birthday party the following day. However, I lost the feeling on the tip of my right thumb, where the flute had been resting on it, for about 2 weeks, and it was a few months before the feeling returned in the lower part of my left index finger and I was really worried that the feeling would never come back.
So why put myself through it all again? Well…………….. my record had been broken! The previous year I had also lost my mum to cancer, and I wanted to again raise money for cancer charities and regain the record in memory of my mum.
There had been 5 years between the two records. A lot had happened in those years. I was 5 years older and had become a mum, so had a 4-year-old daughter. The requirements laid down by Guinness were the same, so timekeepers and witnesses had to be found. I had decided, in my wisdom, to do this second record attempt during August. This meant that some of my previous witnesses were away on holiday. Other friends and supporters stepped in, but trying to find enough people to cover 33 hours of flute playing, which was the target I had set myself, was no easy task. So much time was taken up with the logistical stuff there was very little time left for practicing.
In 2012 I had 4 hours of music to play. In 2017 I had 6 hours of music. I published my set list so that people could have pieces dedicated to friends, family and loved ones. The Bedworth Civic Hall kindly allowed me to use their facilities again, and all systems were go. We even had live Facebook and Twitter feeds throughout the record attempt. I was prepared enough to strap up my fingers and thumb, remembering the issues there had been in 2012.
I am not a quitter, and when I set my mind to something I will do all I can to achieve it. I regained my Guinness World Record in 2017, but I know I could have achieved more. I didn’t get to my target 33 hours – a special number because I was playing my 33-year-old Yamaha student flute that my parents had bought me (which, up until the record attempt still had its original pads). I achieved 27 hours 32 minutes, 32 seconds. No mean feat in itself, but still I know I could have done better!
Exam season is a very busy time for me, so May, June and July were very hectic and preparation was limited. I managed to practice for 6 hours only once. The day before my record attempt I was still printing off the paperwork Guinness required for the timekeepers and witnesses to complete along with the rota for who would be witnessing when. Both my flutes had been serviced and I had decided to play as much on the Yamaha as possible. This put me at a disadvantage from the outset. My professional flute, the Muramatsu, is made of silver and has a silver head joint. Not only does this give it a purer tone, it makes it less energy sapping than the silver-plated Yamaha. I played the first 6 hours on the Yamaha, something I hadn’t done in 2012, and this meant I was far more tired at this point than I had been first time round. By 12 hours I was already struggling. The lack of stamina building during the previous months was taking its toll. My husband, who had been there for the duration of my first world record couldn’t be there all night this time – someone had to take my little girl home and put her to bed. This made the night, although much brighter than 2012 because of the time of year, very tough. I was ready to give up at 2am, and really had to dig deep.
By the early morning my energy levels were at zero. Both flutes were trashed and were struggling to play. The pads were waterlogged, and I had friends with tissues desperately trying to soak up the moisture from the pads to make them playable. Another friend even brought in 2 of his flutes to ensure that I had a playable instrument. I was being made to drink Lucozade rather than my preferred diet coke to try and get my sugar levels up. As soon as the local pharmacy opened I was presented with glucose tablets. Breathing was becoming much harder than my previous record attempt due to my sugar levels being so low. Unbeknown to us at the time I was also iron deficient anaemic, which wouldn’t have helped!!
I was determined to get past the 27 hours 10 minutes mark! AND I DID!! 27 hours 32 minutes 32 seconds was as far as I was able to go, but I did it against the odds. I had 2 very poorly flutes that took days to dry out and then had to have a lot of pads changed. After a couple of days of rest I was OK, although the left index finger did not complete the record unscathed. This time I pulled the ligaments at the side of the knuckle joint, which took over a year to heal.
So, would I do it all again? Insanely, yes I would. I would still want to do it to raise money for charity, and Cancer Research UK is a charity very close to my heart, but there would have to be certain conditions for it to happen again.
So much preparation time was taken up in 2017 with organising rotas, witnesses etc. This was because I could not afford to pay for someone from Guinness to come and verify the record as it happened. This meant that recording equipment, more than one camera and various other bits and pieces had to be organised beforehand. This was all time when I should have been practicing, and it was very stressful in 2017. We still didn’t have all the required witnesses 24 hours before the record was about to take place. The last-minute arranging and work meant that I was up past midnight the night before my World record attempt. I would want to find a way for Guinness to be paid to send someone to do the verifying to allow me to concentrate on the record itself. August, although it seemed a good idea at the time, was not the best month to complete the record. A cooler and less holiday filled month would be better. I would ensure that energy drinks, glucose tablets, food etc were more readily accessible so that energy levels could be maintained throughout. I would give greater thought to the set list, as some of the pieces seemed a good idea at the time, but in hind site were not. Anything that involved playing long notes for 8 minutes (like Pat Spiegel in Spiegel) would be cut from the set list. I wouldn’t start the record on the Yamaha flute, although I love it dearly and use it daily. I would have to use the Muramatsu as much as possible and have a good supply of tissues on hand to complete running repairs on the flute.
So, WILL I do it again? Never say never. At the moment I still hold the record. Part of me would love to give it another go, despite it all. I could bear the pain and discomfort to feel that I was making a difference, but I would want to raise far more money that I did in 2017, and I would want to smash my current record. I haven’t lost sight of that magic number – 33 hours. So lets wait and see what next year brings. You never know!