What is something you think you could do forever? Chances are most people reading this can think of at least one activity that they love and/or are quite good at. What’s yours? There might just be a world record for whatever it is you said.
From jumping on a pogo stick to hanging from a rope, there are endurance records for almost everything except longest Netflix binges. Here are ten of the weirdest, and occasionally deadly, endurance events people have taken part in.
Lots of people want to get their hands on a brand-new vehicle, but several competitions have tested this desire to the limit. There have been various events where a truck or car is parked somewhere, and members of the public have been invited to touch it and win it. (An example from Texas is shown above.) The catch is that once your hand is on the vehicle, you cannot (except for designated breaks) stop touching it. The last person with their hand on it gets to keep it.
This seems simple enough, but most contestants struggle with another one of the competition’s rules—you cannot fall asleep. In 2001, a version of this contest called Touch the Truck aired on British TV. While the show’s host claimed, “It’s the most fun you can have with your right hand,” ratings were low. Something about people standing around mostly motionless failed to resonate with audience.
After 81 hours, 43 minutes, and 31 seconds, Jerry Middleton claimed victory and won the truck. Then, being an anti-car activist, he sold his new truck and used the money to fund a new political party. When Middleton ran for election to the UK parliament, he managed to receive 54 votes.
It is said that 16th-century astronomer Tycho Brahe died from a ruptured bladder when he held in his urine at a banquet because he thought it would be bad manners to get up and relieve himself. In one sad case from 2007, it was not the lack of urination that caused a woman’s death but the rules of the contest.
Jennifer Strange joined the contest called “Hold Your Wee for a Wii,” run by KDND 107.9 radio in California. To win the Nintendo game system, all competitors had to do was not go to the bathroom for as long as possible. The last person standing with their legs crossed would get the prize. To make things extra difficult, though, those taking part were forced to chug bottles of water every 15 minutes. Strange told people at the event that she was doing it for her children. She finished in second place and had to call in sick to work with a headache. People heard her crying, but that was the last time the mother of three was heard from alive.
Strange died of water intoxication in her home, which is when too much water in the body alters the concentrations of electrolytes. A jury later found the radio station guilty of negligence in her death and awarded her family $16 million.
Any kiss with someone you passionately love can feel like it is gloriously lasting forever. Some people are not content, however, to simply leave it at that; they want to quantify exactly how long their lip-locking lasts.
For those seeking to break the record for longest continuous kiss, there are a series of guidelines that have to be followed. Obviously, once the kiss begins, the lips of the couple are not allowed to part, but other rules are less romantic. If one of the pair falls asleep during the kiss, they are disqualified. And couples must be accompanied to the bathroom by an official to check that they do not stop kissing. Unfortunately, diapers and incontinence pads are also banned for competitors.
The current record is held by Ekkachai and Laksana Tiranarat of Thailand (pictured above), who managed to remain locked at the lips for 58 hours, 35 minutes, and 58 seconds on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Another seemingly romantic contest that might give you more time with your partner than you want is the marathon dance. The rules are simple enough, in that you have to dance, or at least shuffle about, for as long as possible without stopping.
In the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, marathon dances became a craze. Couples could be seen bopping away for hours upon hours. The rules were that as long as one partner was still purposefully dancing with the other, then they were still in the contest. This led to some bizarre images being captured wherein a man flings his unconscious partner about to stay in the game. Not everyone survived their attempt to set a new record. One man died after 87 hours of dancing.
For those unable to find a partner willing to dance with them that long, there are individual dancing records. The current record-holder for that is Bandana Nepal, who danced for 126 hours straight.
What could be more relaxing than a nice sauna? In Finland, they take their saunas extremely seriously, so it is no surprise that it is there that having a sauna became an endurance event.
Beginning in 1999, a sauna contest was held each year in Heinola, Finland. While most sauna users enjoy a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius (176 °F), the saunas used in this contest were heated to 110 degrees Celsius (230 °F)—higher than the boiling point of water. Contestants simply had to stay inside for as long as possible. In 2009, the men’s winner lasted 3 minutes and 46 seconds.
In 2010, however, tragedy struck. Timo Kaukonen, the 2009 winner, had to be dragged out of the sauna with severe burns after six minutes when the organizers realized something was wrong. Kaukonen and his challenger, Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy, were both brought out, but Ladyzhenskiy did not survive the ordeal. The contest was canceled after this.
The pain of extreme cold is often compared to that of burning. Holding your hand in iced water can become excruciating after less than a minute. Worse is that while extreme heat can kill you quickly, most people can last a long time in the cold. And that is why cold endurance records are so fiercely contested.
In 2014, Jin Songhao set the world record for longest time a body has been in direct contact with ice. For 1 hour, 53 minutes, and 10 seconds, he sat in a box as buckets of ice cubes were poured down on him. He also holds a world record for standing barefoot on ice. Songhao’s record for being submerged in ice was broken in 2019 by Josef Koeberl (pictured above) when he lasted 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 47 seconds in a box of ice wearing nothing but a bathing suit.
Perhaps the greatest cold champion is Wim Hof, who is able, by thought alone, to raise his body temperature to be able to withstand freezing conditions. Hof holds records for the longest swim under ice, running a half-marathon in the Arctic Circle barefoot, and climbing tall mountains just in shorts.
It is now a thankfully rare thing to wander into the foul cloud left behind a pipe smoker in the street. Some people have found that the best way to get their nicotine fix is by carrying around a small bonfire that can render a whole road reeking. Yet there are those who would turn even this noxious habit into an endurance event.
Slow smoking contests see participants given a set amount of tobacco, and they are then challenged to make it last for as long as possible. Elaborate rules have been drawn up that govern such events. Participants in this glamorous sport are told that they “may remove the mouthpiece from the pipe for a few seconds during the competition in order to get any liquid out of it by knocking it on the sheet of paper or by blowing through it.” But they must not blow into the bowl of the pipe through the nose—that is cause for instant disqualification.
One of the worst of offenses is to burn the bottom of the pipe. Those found to have smoked their way through the tobacco and started inhaling fumes from the wood forfeit their place in the contest.
There is a legend that the sport of ferret legging dates back to a time when only wealthy people were allowed to keep ferrets to be used in hunting. When a poacher was about to be caught with a ferret, he would hide it down his trousers. This seems unlikely, and others suggest that it began during drunken nights in pubs when people wagered bets on how long a ferret could be kept in the trousers.
Whatever the source of ferret legging, it is a simple activity. A ferret is introduced to a pair of pants while a person is still wearing them. Then the person has to keep it in no mater how badly the ferret scratches or bites him. And competitors are not allowed to wear underwear.
One former champion ferret legger used to wear white trousers so that the blood from his wounds showed more easily. From a mere 40 seconds in 1972, the world record was raised to 5 hours and 26 minutes in 1981. That record still stands today.
Some of the most annoying people are those who are completely unable to stop talking. Listening to them yammering on can drive you insane. Perhaps that explains why the “Noun and Verb Rodeo”—where people had to talk nonstop for as long as possible—was a complete flop.
Put on in New York in 1928, the rodeo was just another of the endurance events that took the US by storm from the 1920s onward. Contestants were given a platform to speak from, and the only rule was that whatever they said could not be profane. Their speeches did not even have to make sense. As long as they were talking, they were in the competition. Whoever spoke the longest would win $1,000. Thirty-five people took up the challenge.
After a few disqualifications, it looked as if two people would make it to the four-day finish line. The organizer of the event, who had made is name in hosting marathon dances, then stepped in. Attendance had been negligible, and he had lost $10,000 already. He stopped the contest 15 minutes before the four-day end point and claimed that as it was a draw, no one would win the money. There was never another Noun and Verb Rodeo.
One of the final two contestants of the Noun and Verb Rodeo was a well-known practitioner of one of the most famous endurance events of the period—flagpole sitting. This fad was exactly what it sounds like. People would climb up a pole and sit there for as long as they could. While it may seem like a terribly modern event, in fact, the modern flagpole sitters were following in footsteps of saints like Simeon Stylites, who stayed up on pillars for years at a time.
Flagpole sitting began in 1924, when Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly climbed a pole in Hollywood and stayed there for 13 hours and 13 minutes. He had been paid to do this stunt by a theater looking to attract a crowd. It worked, and soon, Kelly and many others were being paid huge sums to do nothing—but to do it at height.
Soon, the record for flagpole sitting was being contested across the United States, and sitters would last for days. By the end of the 1920s, the record stood at 51 days. Interest in flagpole sitting, however, disappeared with the coming of the Great Depression.