I’m sorry – your world record has been cancelled

My 13-year-old sons are disappointed. They feel betrayed. They did what was expected, but Guinness World Records changed the rules in the middle of the game. Photo: Nancy Sathre-Vogel

BOISE, Id, July 29, 2011 - It was all laid out very clearly. Guinness World Records sent us detailed guidelines outlining exactly what we needed to do. They told us where we needed to start and end and how we needed to choose our route. They told us how we needed  to document our journey, and what we needed to do to file the claim upon completion of our epic family journey to the ends of the world. That was the easy part.

The hard part, it seemed to me, was cycling from Alaska to Argentina. We would battle headwinds and climb impossibly steep hills. We would swelter through extreme heat and shiver in bitter cold. Cycling 17,000 miles isn’t an easy task.

It took us three years to reach the end of the world, and my sons were overjoyed when they reached it. They had done it! They had done what they set out to do so many months before! And they had broken the world record as the youngest people to cycle the length of the Americas in the process.

From the very beginning the world record was secondary. We had made the decision to cycle from Alaska to Argentina well before we decided to contact Guinness World Records about a possible record. The primary motivation was the journey itself, working together as a family and being together as a family on the road. The world record was a minor consideration in the big picture.

And yet, it was a consideration. Maybe it wasn’t the most important factor in our continuing on nor was it the the driving force behind our journey. But it was a driving force and that’s all that matters right now.

Although Guinness World Records knew we were on the road and were making an official attempt to break the record, they said nothing when they changed their policy in 2009. In order to not encourage young children to sail solo around the world, Guinness decided to pull the “youngest” category from their books. Suddenly the record my sons were attempting to break no longer existed.

But we didn’t know that.

Had Guinness written to us back in 2009 and said, “Sorry, but we’ve cancelled your record,” we would have been OK with it. It would have been a bummer, but not an insurmountable one. We would have packed up and continued on, maybe making slightly different choices than the ones we eventually made.

But they didn’t. Even though they knew we were on the road and they knew we were making an official attempt at a “youngest” record as well as being in frequent contact with them, they said nothing.

When we got back home to Idaho we spent hours compiling the documentation and then sent everything (including my beloved maps where I painstakingly marked our progress every day) to London. We waited for three months until…

…the letter came. “Unfortunately, we at Guinness World Records, have decided to rest this record, meaning we have decided to no longer recognize the category as a record, due to the fact that the record would reach an age where a person would no longer be able to break it or attempt (i.e. a two-year old attempting to do it) and as it would become limited under these terms, we choose to no longer recognize it as a category.”

What? You cancelled our world record?

So now, where do we go from here? Part of me says to simply let it rest. Ultimately what GWR would give the boys is nothing more than a piece of paper. The real accomplishment has already been done and nothing can take that from my sons. Is a piece of paper really that important?

On the other hand, yes, it is. Official recognition from Guinness World Records that we completed the feat as set out in their guidelines is important, especially to 13-year-old boys.

But really, what bothers me most about this whole thing is the very fact that an organization like GWR can arbitrarily cancel a world record. It can hand out official guidelines and enter into a contract of sorts and then pull the plug whenever it feels like it.

I can’t help but feel this is like the Boy Scouts suddenly deciding to not award the Eagle Scout any longer. They’ve told kids exactly what they need to do to earn it. Kids spend years working toward that goal. And then, when they present their documentation at the very end, they’re told the Eagle is no more. You simply don’t do that to a kid!

My sons are disappointed. They feel betrayed. They feel they upheld their end of the stick and should be presented with some sort of official certificate from Guinness World Records. The record they wanted has been cancelled, but surely Guinness can find some way to officially recognize my boys for what they’ve done.

Surely that can’t be too difficult.

If you feel GWR is wrong, please add your name to this petition to ask Guinness World Record to recognize my sons for their accomplishment. You can find other ideas to help spread the word here.

Cycling past bison in northern British Columbia, Canada


Entering Honduras


Nancy Sathre-Vogel is just a mom who decided to take a bike ride. On the longest road in the world.  

Some people say she’s exceptionally brave. Others say she’s outrageously foolish. She doesn’t think she’s either. She’s just a mom who wanted an adventure and time with her kids.

Her most recent adventure was cycling from Alaska to Argentina, a journey she documented at www.familyonbikes.org 

Follow her on Twitter @familyonbikes and Facebook Family on Bikes

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a modern-day nomad and vagabond who travels the world in search of beads and other treasures.

Her preferred mode of transportation is a bicycle, although she’s been known to travel in car, bus, plane, boat, donkey cart, elephant, and camel. She is now pedaling the length of the Americas because her eleven-year-old sons have decided they want to get the Guinness World Record as the youngest people to cycle the Pan-American Highway.

Although there are times when she questions her sanity, she somehow keeps going, knowing that treasures await in countries far and wide. You can read about her and her travels at www.familyonbikes.org. Emails are always welcome.

Contact Nancy Sathre-Vogel


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