Emily Jones ’23.5 was surrounded by over 100 of her fellow firefighters, friends and Middlebury students as she broke the Guinness World Record for fastest mile run by a woman wearing full firefighter turnout gear — including a respirator — on Saturday, April 8. At eight minutes and 25 seconds, Jones successfully completed the mile almost three minutes faster than the previous record at 11:00.
“I was kind of obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records as a kid, and I just selfishly wanted my own record for something. And so I’ve sort of had my eyes on different records or things for a long time,” Jones said.
She was specifically inspired to attempt this challenge after reading about the men’s record holder, who was also a college student. Due to her personal training and background as a volunteer firefighter with the Middlebury Fire Department, she felt confident about the possibility of setting a new record.
“I just happened to look up the women’s record and saw that it was at 11 minutes flat, and I thought ‘I could beat that,’” Jones said.
After learning about this record, Jones talked with some of her fellow firefighters about what it would take and got their support to make this attempt on the world record.
“I decided to talk to the chief of the department, and some other friends of mine in the department. They were all super supportive and, rightfully so, thought it was a little bit crazy. And a lot of people weren’t optimistic that I could actually do it,” Jones said. “But here we are!”
With the assistance of volunteer firefighter and Professor of Political Economy and International Law Jeffrey Carpenter, Jones did just one practice of running the mile while wearing all of the required equipment. This was to minimize the possible strain placed on her body by training in the full, 60 pound suit. Because of this practice and her experience wearing a weighted vest during her own runs, Jones felt fairly confident about the possibility of breaking the record.
“Running with all the gear is obviously pretty horrible, and not something you want to do all the time,” Jones said. “I accidentally broke the record in the practice round, so I thought I would have a good chance.”
Among the crowd of supporters on Saturday were dozens of college students, including Jones’ teammates from Middlebury Water Polo. Additionally, some Middlebury professors and local families attended to demonstrate their support. The event grew to include more people after Jones realized she needed two videographers, a photographer and independent witnesses in order to validate her accomplishment to the Guinness Book of World Records.
“My original plan was for it to just be me and some friends and people from the town helping out and it very quickly turned into a much bigger community event than I was expecting,” Jones said. “Everyone really came out and rallied to the event, and I think that definitely helped a lot and made for a super fun day.”
Isabel Tseng ’23 volunteered at the event as an assistant photographer, and she enjoyed getting to witness the unique experience of watching a Middlebury student break a world record.
“I was super excited to go because it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was so cool for this to be happening on our campus,” Tseng wrote to The Campus.
Tseng was also impressed by the commitment and physical endurance Jones exhibited while attempting to break the record.
“It was honestly crazy to watch her break the record,” Tseng added. “It was specifically wild when she would run past me because I could hear her breathing through the oxygen mask and it was clear how much effort it was taking — this really displayed the difficulty of what she was doing.”
When asked how she recovered from the intense run Jones explained that because she only spent eight minutes in the suit that day, she avoided any serious consequences. “[After the run] I went and played a water polo tournament,” she added.
As for her future plans, Jones does not have any other records in her sights right now but she looks forward to finding new challenges for herself.
“This summer I’ll be up in Alaska, and then I’m maybe hoping to run an ultramarathon or two,” she said. “I’m always kind of doing weird things like this. It’s not my first rodeo.”