It wasn’t until I started practicing that I realized how hard hopping on one leg can be. After about 100 yards of the awkward activity, your hopping leg tires painfully and you desperately want to put the other leg on the ground. I guess, unlike flamingos, human beings are meant to support themselves on two legs! Anyway, based on the experience of my few attempts, I proposed to Guinness the creation of a new category: a hopping record for the fastest mile and at every ¼ mile you are allowed to change legs. (Even that would be a stretch, but I figured that I could manage it with enough training)

Guinness liked my proposal except for one minor detail – they decided that changing legs was for sissies! They stipulated that you have to hop the entire mile on the same leg and that the other leg must never touch the ground. Also, they added a time standard. In order to be accepted, the mile would have to be covered in less than 35 minutes.

Okay, I’m always up for a challenge, but after months of trying, I could barely hop halfway around a quarter mile track. I was getting pretty discouraged with the whole project. I mean, I love hopping in all forms – playing hopscotch, hopping in a sack while sack racing, hopping on a pogo stick, etc. – but this one-legged thing was giving me no joy. After a year of half-hearted training, I was getting nowhere and I was cursing the day I ever read that darn Russian’s fiction! Gratefully, when I went on an extended trip to Malaysia at the end of November 2005, the whole situation changed dramatically!

When I arrive in Malaysia, I was floored to learn that Malaysia is known as the record-breaking capitol of the world! Record-breaking is practically a national policy! The Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, Dr. Mahathir, was deeply committed to promoting Malaysia’s national pride and encouraged his citizens to strive for excellence. As a result, the Malaysians have their own annual Malaysia Book of Records. As part of this national spirit, in 1998 the Malaysians built the tallest buildings in the world at the time, the Petronis Towers.

Grape catching at the Petronas Towers

Malaysia’s record-breaking spirit “Malaysia boleh” (Malaysia can do it!) captured me. Fueling this inspiration was my daily meditation with my spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, who was in Malaysia to promote world harmony. I decided to make Malaysia a world record-breaking tour. I could barely contain all the positive energy that was welling up inside, even after exhausting myself with multiple daily training sessions. I broke the tiddlywinks mile record at the sparkling clean Kuala Lumpur International Airport; then the grape-catching record with my friend Bipin at the brand new KL Convention Centre near the Petronis Towers; two hopscotch records at the magnificent Awana Kijal Hotel Golf Resort; and the crawling mile record at the spectacular grass Selangor Turf Club horseracing track in Kuala Lumpur. I broke more records in 3 months than I usually break in an entire year. And something was happening with the hopping!

The hopping was bobbing! The first time I went out to practice, I was able to hop almost twice as far as ever before, and each practice was an adventure in self-transcendence. Before long I was hopping a ½ mile at a time, but it was still very painful. My struggle must have been obvious because, during one hopping session on the road, a car stopped and a very nice gentleman popped his head out the window and offered his concern, “You poor fellow, do you need a ride to the hospital?” !

For this, no, but for another record I was working on, maybe: underwater juggling. I already had the record of 48 minutes for juggling 3 balls underwater continuously, but I thought it would be fun to attempt to push past this at the state-of-the-art Kuala Lumpur aquarium. The aquarium had a few species of sharks in their main tank, some quite large and highly dangerous. But the idea thrilled me – instead of running with the wolves, I would be juggling with the sharks! Some of that thrill was converted to genuine concern when the curator, while giving me permission to attempt the record, also made me sign a full waiver. He also made it clear that in case of an attack, he could only guarantee that his divers would get me out of the water alive, but beyond that he couldn’t make any promises!
I donned the scuba gear, submerged into the tank, and started juggling in front of a large media presence on the other side of the glass. The flashes from their cameras were distracting, as were the bubbles from my own breathing apparatus which obstructed my view of the balls every few seconds. However, after about 15 minutes, I finally got into a rhythm and thought to myself, “Hey, this is pretty cool.” Suddenly, a huge white object caught my attention-a 16-foot white shark headed my way! I was determined not to let him interrupt me as he bumped into me, but then he actually knocked the balls out of my hands! Fortunately, that was the extent of his aggression and, although I started juggling again, I couldn’t muster the same concentration and with that came a failed attempt. Although it was embarrassing having to face the press afterwards, still it was a great experience. I have come to realize that you do your best and then be detached from the results. However, I left the aquarium more determined than ever to pursue the hopping.



There is an exceptional bird park in Penang. Because I am such a bird lover, and because most birds are hoppers, it seemed like the perfect venue for the hopping record attempt. I called the curator, Dr. Ooi, who was extremely kind and didn’t even think my request to use his facility was weird! There was a straight 200-yard stretch that I could hop back and forth on, and it was lined with cages of colorful and exotic birds. There was even an open-air enclosure full of flamingos! I knew I had to go under 35 minutes for the mile in order for the record to count, and the bird park seemed like the perfect place to do it.



My practice session at the park went well but, as usual, things didn’t go as smoothly on the actual day of the attempt. Although Guinness requires media coverage to validate a record, the press can often be a distraction. Shortly after the official start, a woman videographer was walking backwards to film me and she tripped and went head over heels into a drainage ditch! Fortunately, she was O.K., but I almost lost my balance from the shock!

I eventually acclimated to the reporters scooting across the course in front of me, but with a ¼ mile to go, one reporter came up with the brilliant idea of having a free-roaming emus (the Australian emus is a smaller version of an ostrich) greet me at the finish line! The ensuing chase between the Park personnel and the emus was a fascinating but terrible strain on my concentration. Thankfully, Dr. Ooi finally stepped in and told his exhausted workers to give up the futile plan!


I was glad the emus had outwitted its pursuers, because I had my own idea for the finish. Before the start of the event, I had asked Dr. Ooi if I could cross the finish line with an owl perched on my hand. It seemed like such a fun thing to do, and the owl didn’t seem to “give a hoot” during a trial run. With 25 yards to go, I was handed the gentle bird and we hopped across the finish line together in the time of 27 minutes and 51 seconds. My legs were killing me but I was thrilled. Afterwards, when all the hoopla had died down and the owl had settled on its perch, I couldn’t help but ponder about how far I had come in just a few months. I was filled with gratitude to Sri Chinmoy who inundated me with peace and energy at his daily early morning meditations; I was thankful for the Malaysian people’s dauntless spirit and friendly encouragement; and I was grateful to Mr. Chekhov for his creative and motivating writing!