Is there anything better to brag about than being a world record holder? To count yourself as one is to say that you have done something so impressive, so ambitious ― or, let’s be honest, so weird ― that no one else in history has achieved it. The fastest mile ever run. The most T-shirts ever worn at one time. The most watermelons smashed with your skull.
This weekend, Santa Barbarans big and small will have a chance to join the ranks of true immortality. All you will have to do is walk backward for six and a half blocks on State Street, from Canon Perdido to a half block past Micheltorena. It’s not a race and no real skills are required other than showing up and not turning around (though a slight twist of the neck is permissible) while moving in reverse for one kilometer. The current record stands at 1,107 people.
“I’m not sure I know how this all got started,” laughed Cameron Benson recently when asked about his motivation for organizing the event. Like so many of us, Benson, who is the Creeks Division Manager for the City of Santa Barbara, was fascinated in his youth by the old encyclopedia-sized Guinness Book of World Records. And so, while waiting in a doctor’s office a little over a year ago, he stumbled upon a modern-day version of the book (now simply titled Guinness World Records) and dared to ask himself, “I wonder if there are any records in here that are actually beatable?” After flipping a few pages, he saw the current record-holding back-walk in India from 2014. As a longtime veteran of the State Street Mile, Benson knew immediately that getting over 1,100 participants downtown was possible. What he didn’t know, however, was just how difficult it would be to secure the blessings of the Guinness brain trust.
Fast-forward a year through a tedious amount of planning and strategizing, and all the various permits are now in place. The gatekeepers at Guinness have signed off, and Benson has worked with the State Street Mile organizers to piggyback on the 20th anniversary of their race held on the same day. Participants will walk through a gate, spin around backward, and begin a butt-first walk that no one will forget anytime soon. “I think Santa Barbara can do this,” said Benson with a touch of mischief. “We are going to need to get the numbers, but after that, it’s all about having fun and making some history.”
4•1•1 | The Largest Backwards Walk in the World is scheduled for this Sunday, June 2, at 11 a.m. on State Street. Registration is required and costs $5. All proceeds go to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Crime Victim Emergency Fund. For more info, go to sbmile.com or email SBBackwardsWalk@gmail.com.