Brett Meyer and James Meyer, a father and son duo in New Zealand, are the Guinness Book of World Records holders for the longest squash singles match in history. They set the original record in 2008 at twenty-five hours, fifty-five minutes. In April 2015 the Meyers went at it again, on the same court at the Howick Squash Club. This time they played for thirty-six hours and two minutes.
Squash Magazine: Tell us about 2008.
James Meyer: In 2008 we set the original record by playing for twenty-five hours and fifty-five minutes. Dad and I have always been interested in endurance events— marathons, Iron Man triathlons, long-distance off-road running—and we had always talked of doing a squash marathon but never got round to it. In 2007 a close family friend of mine was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone). He was twelve years old. This was the final inspiration that we needed and straight away we sent through a request to Guinness to do the record. It was incredibly tough watching one of my best friends go through cancer at such a young age. He requested that we raise money for the Child Cancer Foundation, which supported him and his family for the eighteen months that he had cancer. Sadly, he passed away three days before the event. We were going to pull out, but his family said that this was one of the proudest parts of his life. The image on the glass at the back of the court served as a motivation to keep going; it said, “Burning Rubber for Michael.”
SM: What was the record you were trying to beat this time?
JM: Since we set the original record, it has been beaten numerous times. We are proud to have started the trend and that others have followed in raising money for charity. This time we were looking to beat a record of thirty-three hours and eight minutes. On the same day, some New Zealand lads over in Perth, Australia, Darren Yates and Adam Fisher, were doing a marathon simultaneously. We talked to them and they said that they were going to stop at thirty-five hours. We were going to carry on. They had an official Guinness adjudicator on site, so it would be verified on the spot. We opted to do it ourselves which meant it would take a month or two to be recognized. We knew when they got to thirty-five and stopped, so the last hour of play for us was amazing knowing that every minute we are setting a new world record.
SM: What was the final score?
JM: We played a total of 245 squash games (which I managed to win 137 to my father’s ninety-eight…shhh…don’t tell Dad). I think the highest game score that we ended up on at one point was 25-23.
SM: What about equipment?
JM: We used approximately ten shirts and twenty pairs of socks each. Dad broke one set of strings, and we cycled through three racquets each just to keep changing grips and using a fresh racquet. We used three balls and ended up breaking two. I still have them.
SM: What about breaks?
JM: To follow Guinness rules, we had to play continuously, with just a five- minute break every hour. Sometimes we accumulated breaks. We had two twenty-minute breaks and for one of them I lay down and closed my eyes for a bit, but I started to fall asleep—it would have been very difficult to wake up. Five minutes goes very fast. We had to eat as much as possible. Food of choice for the first twelve hours was actually pikelets (a type of pancake), but we soon got sick of those. A lot of pasta, and some energy balls that we could have in a mouthful. Most of the food was snacks though. Drinks: a lot of Gatorade mixed with coconut water and some energy powder.
SM: Who watched?
JM: The crowd was absolutely incredible. During the night there was a minimum of twenty people there. The support was phenomenal and they were the heroes. The night was the hardest part for us. We were both tired and wanting to sleep and our energy was very low but the crowd really helped us through. We had referees that worked on four-hour shifts, as a guideline set out by Guinness. They had to do four hours non-stop and couldn’t do consecutive blocks. They kept us entertained.
SM: Blisters: what were the gruesome details?
JM: The blisters were actually a lot worse the first time we did it in 2008, so we had an idea on how to avoid them as much as we could. I got a lot of blisters this time on my hand, was literally at least one or two on every single finger. My hand was bandaged up completely and I went through a whole box of bandaids. The worse pain that we felt was in our lower backs and our calves, the constant standing and excruciating pain in the soles of our feet, which is not something that we expected. It becomes a mental fight more than a physical one. I reckon it was a 20% physical challenge and 80% a mental challenge.
SM: When did you decide to stop?
JM: We decided to stop when we hit the thirty-six hour mark, but just to make sure we played an extra two minutes in case there were any timing problems during the event, as Guinness checks all the footage. As soon as the countdown started from twenty seconds, Dad and I were fighting tears more than anything. It was such a huge relief to be done.
SM: What did you do afterwards?
JM: I think we hugged every person in the club straight after. There wasn’t a dry eye in the club that night at all. Had a nice relaxing shower and a beer, talked to everyone at the club and made sure that the clean up was all going to plan and then I went home. I fell asleep within about five minutes. That sleep was awful. Was in a lot of pain, any movement woke me up. It was the same for Dad. Tried getting up in the middle of the night for a drink and that took me about ten minutes. We only got about seven hours of sleep because we needed to be up at 6.30 the next day for a television breakfast show. I was back at the club the next weekend for a hit.
SM: Money raised: $26,000 last time in 2008. How much this time?
JM: We raised a total of $28,000 this time so far. Our fundraising page is still open at https://give.everydayhero.com/nz/squashworldrecord and I will leave it open for the rest of the year. The bottom line with this is that it isn’t about us. It is to raise awareness for the Child Cancer Foundation and all of the incredible things that they do for the children that need it the most, for the families that have to go through cancer and for the bravery that they all show. That is the motivation, and that is what got us through. To see these children, not as sick, but as incredibly strong and brave, fighting for their lives and giving it everything. They are the reason we do this and that was all inspired by Michael Clark. The lights that burn shortest are the lights that burn brightest.