Our very own world record holders

Dubai likes to set records: the world’s tallest building, the largest mall, the most expensive license plate, the biggest book and the longest handmade gold chain (measuring 5.52 kilometres). Our small emirate likes to dream big, not only constantly outdoing the region, but the rest of the planet. Our residents are no exception. Connector rounds up some of our lesser-known, homegrown record holders.

Kate WilloughbyKate Willoughby
Dubai resident Kate Willoughby was 32 on 21st November 2012 when she was the first person to swim 25 kilometres in the open sea around Nakheel’s The World islands, a feat that took her 10 hours and 56 minutes.

“When my nephew Harrison was four years old he was diagnosed with a muscle wasting disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” says Kate. “There’s no cure, it’s fatal and there’s very little in the way of research about it. The diagnosis was devastating.”
Wanting to be proactive and help fund more research Harrison’s parents set up the Harrison Fund. To support her nephew’s charity Kate knew she had to do something extreme. No one had attempted to swim around The World islands before so, with the support of Nakheel, Kate decided to take it on. 21st November was selected as the most favourable date for tides and currents. “That gave me 11 months to train. I started with 20 lengths of the pool then gradually built it up. By November I was swimming 12 hours a week, including two hours daily and a longer five-hour open water swim during the weekends.”

The 25-kilometre swim started at 6.30am. “I had two kayaks and a medical boat following me and throwing me drinking water every kilometre to keep hydrated. At no point could I touch the side of the boat or kayaks. At the 3rd and 6th kilometre I got painful jellyfish stings. After eight hours straight of swimming I started to really struggle. The last kilometre was the longest of my life. I felt quite emotional and overwhelmed. It was difficult to see with tears filling up my goggles. I could hear my family - including Harrison - cheering me on right to the end.”

Kate raised Dhs 55,675 and research into possible treatments and cures of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is currently underway. The Harrison Fund continues.

For more information visit www.harrisonsfund.com/news.php.


Andy FieldhouseAndy Fieldhouse
As Commercial Director of Dubai-based corporate team building company biz-events, Andy is a seasoned team-builder. On 28th November 2013, Andy was part of a team of eight members who broke the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for making the longest paper chain in three minutes. “It was 6.91 metres,” recalls Andy. “Our only equipment was A4 sheets of paper, staplers and our combined skills. We had three minutes to interlink as many paper loops as possible to break the previous record. Part of the challenge was that we had never met before, yet to achieve the title we had to recognise and draw on our combined base of conceptual, perceptual, practical and pragmatic skills. We broke into pairs and were only allowed a short practice before the real attempt was made. We worked quickly, calmly and orderly. It was an intense three minutes but once we realised our team were the new titleholders we laughed and screamed like children.”

Events company biz-events is the only company in the world outside the UK that is licensed to run the Guinness World Records Team Challenge Events. “The philosophy behind these events,” continues Andy, “is that they are achievable by anyone. They are designed so that we can all have a chance. This doesn’t mean they are easy - I would estimate a record is broken only 5, perhaps 10% of the time. If it was easy, anyone could hold a world record. No matter how trivial the record may seem, it still requires extraordinary levels of commitment and dedication to be the best in the world at something.”

For more information on the Guinness World Records Team Challenge visit www.biz-events.com/teambuilding-events/event-categories/active-teambuilding/guinness-world-records.


Suzanne Al HoubySuzanne Al-Houby
Palestinian mountain climber and Dubai resident, Suzanne Al-Houby, was the first Arab woman to summit Everest on 21st May 2011. She is also the first Arab woman to climb Mont Blanc, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Vinson and Denali (the highest mountains in Western Europe, Europe, South America, Antarctica and North America). She has also summited Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, eight times. Suzanne has visited more than 100 destinations worldwide, carried a backpack half her weight and camped in extreme conditions. “If a destination is described as daring, innovative or even impossible, I am immediately attracted. Climbing is never about fame or even conquering the mountain, it’s about exploring your limits and uncovering your own potential,” she says. “When I climb, I want to send a message to the world that we Palestinians want to live in peace. We look for a beautiful life, and we reject killing and destruction,” she says.

Suzanne decided to leave behind the executive corporate life to start her own adventure and sustainable travel company, Rahhalah. “It is easy to be inspired but it’s not easy to act. Life is about living truly worthy moments. It’s about have a treasure of memories that will put a smile on your face any time. What is more thrilling than seeing the colourful and diversified world we live in?”

As an avid environmentalist, humanitarian and explorer, Suzanne Al Houby has inspired thousands of Arab women through her mountaineering exploits. She was ranked number 16 in the 100 most powerful Arab women 2012, number 198 in the 500 most powerful Arabs in 2012 and more recently was ranked number 63 in the Forbes Middle East most powerful Arab Women 2014 list.
For more on adventure travel visit www.rahhalah.com.


Catherine ToddCatherine Todd
The Badwater Ultramarathon describes itself as “the world’s toughest foot race”. At 217 kilometres (or five marathons back-to-back) the course starts in Death Valley, California, at 86 metres below sea level and traverses three mountain ranges with a total elevation of 3,962 metres. It takes place annually around mid-July, when the weather conditions are the most extreme and temperatures can reach up to 55°C during the day. The cut-off time to complete the run is 48 hours, which is tough even for the most seasoned of ultra runners. Entry is by invitation only with an annual maximum of 100 participants.

In 2013, Dubai resident Catherine Todd, associate professor at the University of Wollongong Dubai, not only competed with other elite athletes from around the world, she won it in a time of 29 hours, 55 minutes and 29 seconds, shaving six and a half hours off her attempt the previous year.

“From competing in the Badwater Ultramarathon a year earlier I knew my biggest challenges to overcome were heat and appropriate nutrition intake,” she says. “Summer training in Dubai helps, but in Badwater the heat is much drier. Aside from a constant supply of fluids, my support crew sprayed me with water - just enough to keep cool, but not too much to cause blisters or chaffing - and fed me salt tablets. A good portion of the race was at night, but the midday temperatures were brutal. My support crew also kept me supplied with a carefully measured intake of high-energy snacks while I ran.”

Most of Catherine’s ultra-running training is done here in Dubai, often starting at 2am. “I can run for several hours and still be showered and behind my desk, ready for a day’s work by 9am.”

Motivation for the Badwater Ultramarathon was to raise funds for friend Richard Holland who was knocked off his bike by a car while training in October 2012. His injuries were multiple and life threatening. “He is back home in South Africa now but his rehabilitation continues to be long, expensive and challenging. I wanted to encourage him and help raise funds so he can return to the sports he loves so much.”

For more information on Richard Holland’s progress visit www.backonyourbike.com.


Lee RyanLee Ryan
On 9th January 2015, during a single unbroken 24 hours from 10am through to 10am the following day, Dubai personal trainer Lee Ryan broke not just one but three world records - all related to one of boot camp’s most feared exercises - the burpee. The records broken were the most burpees completed in one minute - the old record stood at 40, Ryan managed 46. His second record was the most burpees completed in 12 hours - the old record stood at 5,730, Ryan broke it by doing 6,800. The third record he broke was the most burpees completed in 24 hours - Ryan managed 10,110 with the old record standing at 10,103. The Guinness World Record sponsored event raised funds for the charity organisation World Child Cancer that endeavours to beat childhood cancer in developing countries.

Lee is no stranger to endurance sports having been in the fitness industry for 11 years. He has completed 11 marathons, the first when he was just 18. “But,” he admits, “this was by far the toughest challenge I’ve put myself through. I’d been awake close to 36 hours by the time the world record attempt came to an end so sleep deprivation was my biggest challenge. We had lots of support through the day but during those cold, dark early morning hours it was a struggle. We were outside with very little cover and it got so cold. I wasn’t able to eat anything solid and my hands felt raw and painful - the official burpee requires landing on your knuckles. Giving up was never an option but I did go to some very dark mental places to find the strength to continue”.

One of Lee’s favourite Christmas presents as a child was a new copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. “I loved reading about what others had achieved and dreamed of one day being a record-breaker myself. Now that I’m in the book, the reason behind the record has become far more significant than the record itself. I wanted to use my own strength and determination to raise funds for brave children battling cancer. The disease has impacted us all; I lost a friend recently and my mum is currently battling cancer. The burpee challenge was my way of helping children who would otherwise have no access to life saving treatment. The support for the event blew me away - we raised an amazing Dhs 77,000 ($US21,000) for World Child Cancer.”

“I challenge myself because I like to have a focus. Getting out for a run is my zen moment. It’s my time to think, reflect and put things into perspective. I’m already working on my next goal.”

For more on Lee’s cause visit www.worldchildcancer.org.

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