Former Drug Agent's New Challenge: Busting World Records
Many people visiting a pancake house eat themselves into a coma. But George Hood goes for the exercise.
At least that was the case this month, when Hood entered the Eggsperience Pancakes & Cafe in his hometown of Naperville, Ill., and started to do a plank, also known as the static abdominal hold. He competed and then set his fourth Guinness World Record. He will try for his fifth world record next spring.
Breaking world records is something of a habit for the 54-year-old former Marine.
Why do it? "The adrenaline," Hood says. "I don't get paid to do what I do. I just enjoy inspiring others, and for a brief moment, it's like being a rock star."
Hood set his first world record in 1986: He jumped rope for 13 hours, 12 minutes and 11 seconds. After that, he didn't attempt another record for another 21 years, busy with his career as an NCIS agent (U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service) and then as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. He also was married, had three sons, and got divorced.
After retiring in 2007, Hood began looking for new challenges. He worked in Afghanistan for several months. He became a certified fitness trainer. He also started chasing world records.
Frequently, in the chase, he also raises money for worthy causes. In 2007, Hood rode a stationary bike for 111 hours, 11 minutes and 11 seconds, setting his second Guinness World Record and raising $35,000 for a special needs organization. After his record was beaten by a Tasmanian, Hood rode 177 hours and 45 minutes and took it back. Then a German rode 200 hours.
So Hood rode 222 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds -- that's nine days, folks - and raised $25,000 for a memorial fund for an American soldier who was killed in Afghanistan and left behind a wife and three young children. Then an Italian rode for 224 hours. Next spring, Hood will try to beat that record, and then no more.
"I've just taken that too far. It really is an operation to put it together," Hood says, referring to the challenges of riding a stationary bicycle for more than a week.
At least achieving the world record for the plank (previously 50 minutes) only took Hood an hour, 20 minutes and 5.01 seconds. "George is one of those characters who you can't help but want to succeed," says Philip Robertson, a New York-based Guinness adjudicator who documented his recent feat.
The plank shouldn't be confused with planking, a fad in which people find unusual places to lie down, flat as a board. The plank involves "resting" elbows and forearms on the ground while keeping your back and stomach straight, your core tight, and remaining still for as long as possible.
"I was really concerned," says a friend, Miriam Korte, of watching Hood plank at the pancake house. "Especially when I saw how much he was sweating in the first five minutes."
The last several minutes were brutal. "The spasms were taking over, and I couldn't control the shaking," Hood says. "I couldn't spit, and I burped up some acid and knew I was getting thirsty and dehydrated."
Hood brushes off concern that what he does is dangerous: "The only inherent risk I run is developing an aneurysm. That's nominal."
Hood says he'll stop competing if his doctor ever objects, but so far, so good. At his last colonoscopy, the physician said that he didn't want to see Hood for another five years.
That's a lot more time to break more records. Hood is taking a hard look at getting on the elliptical machine for some ridiculous amount of time, and he also wants to train others to set their own records.
Hood credits much of his drive to his parents, who pushed him but were never satisfied with his achievements. Of course, things have a way of working out. "I always was being compared to the next guy," Hood says. "Now I'm compared to other world record setters."
SecondAct contributor Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist based in Loveland, Ohio, and the author of several books, including C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America.