Going for the record

The record-setting “performance” by Joey “Jaws” Chestnut’s in the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island — he downed 69 dogs in 10 minutes to defeat Hampton Beach summer resident Matt Stonie — got me thinking about Guinness.

Not a tall, smooth Guinness Stout, though that would help wash down a plump juicy hot dog (or 60) on a sweltering summer day. I’m talking about Guinness the keeper and chronicler of amazing world records.

Little-known fact: The fastest 100-meter dash is not Jamaican super-sprinter Usain Bolt’s extraordinary time of 9.58 seconds. The 100m record is actually held by a female — a Cincinnati cheetah named Sarah who covered the distance in 5.95 seconds, topping out at 61 miles per hour. (I’m guessing there was something enticing at the finish line, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a hot dog.)

Whether you’re the tallest man alive (8-foot, 3-inch Sultan Kosen of Turkey), the shortest guy on the globe (1-foot, 9.5-inch Chandra Bahadur Dangi of Nepal) or just an Ordinary Joe, we humans have always been fascinated by world records.

When we were kids, my brother and I found an early-edition green hardcover Guinness book in the family archives, and our imaginations took off. We thought it would be the coolest thing ever to get our names into that book.

The fact that we were not particularly good at anything did little to dampen our enthusiasm for being the best at something. Unfortunately, we stunk at Duncan Yo-Yo tricks and there was no official record for most consecutive hours spent playing Hot Wheels with periodic five-minute breaks for Cap’n Crunch cereal. Years later, I would come up two feet short in my quest to set the high jump record.

Little-known fact: The record for jumping over a bar on a pogo stick appears to be 9 feet, 6 feet inches (it’s on video, set at Pogopalooza 7 in Salt Lake City in 2010).

But back to the dog-eat-dog world of professional dog-eating…; We watched a live video “feed” here in the newsroom on the Fourth as Matt Stonie — renowned locally as Hampton Beach’s favorite “gurgitator,” he turned pro sometime after winning the Hampton Beach Lobster Roll Eating Challenge in 2010 — nabbed second in the Coney Island showdown.

No word on whether he suffered the frankfurter hangover known as hair of the dog.

Stonie is currently ranked No. 4 by Major League Eating (ifoce.com), which dubs its top competitors “weapons of mass digestion.” Based on some of their records — Sonya Thomas slammed down 8.3 pounds Armour Vienna Sausage in 10 minutes in 2005, the same amount of time it took top-ranked Joey Chestnut to shove 9 pounds 5.2 ounces of deep-fried asparagus down his esophagus — I’d say these “masters of mastication” truly demonstrate “the power of the chower.”

Stonie said his goal is to become the No. 1 eater in the world. I say, make a wish. After blowing out the candles at his 21st birthday party in May, he is credited with pounding a record 5.5 pounds of birthday cake in just under 9 minutes.

Bless him, the kid has a dream. Though it’ll be tough to top Takeru Kobayashi’s record of gobbling 17.7 pounds of cow brains in 15 minutes. And I think Sonya Thomas’ mark of 65 hard-boiled eggs in 6 minutes 40 seconds would make even movie legend Cool Hand Luke puke.

Here in the Seacoast, we’re blessed to live in fertile territory for records involving old things. Settled in 1623, Portsmouth occasionally gets called the nation’s third-oldest city (a claim the people at Guinness would neither confirm nor deny).

And while we are in the midst of a downtown building boom, neither the Portwalk project nor the proposed Maplewood Avenue development will become the world’s tallest building. That distinction is reportedly held by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at a staggering 2,716 feet 6 inches tall.

However, it does sometimes seem that Portsmouth officials are going for the record for most annoying, scattershot approach to parking planning and enforcement (a nickel buys me two minutes on Market Street, three minutes just 100 feet over, and four and a half minutes on the third Thursday of each odd-numbered month, except during leap year).

Yet sadly, our historic little traffic magnet by the sea can never lay claim to the world’s first parking meters — those were installed the business district in Oklahoma City in 1935.

As for me, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, other than most brain cells wasted on ridiculous ideas involving iron pyrite, vintage Pez dispensers and Cornish game hens, I’ll probably never break a world record.

Though strictly for my own amusement, I looked up highest high jump for old-timers, and the mark for spry sexagenarians age 65 and older is said to be 5 feet, 5.3 inches.

Despite my near certainty that I could no longer attain that modest height, perhaps if tomorrow I launch into an intensive 14-year training regimen, and lay off the hot dogs…

— John Breneman

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