Hardly a man is now alive who would want to do what Ashrita Furman has just done. Furman, 31, went head over heels into the record books when he traversed—in reverse—the route of Paul Revere’s 1775 midnight ride. No, Furman didn’t ride a horse and he didn’t shout, “The British are coming!”—anybody could have done that. Instead, Furman somersaulted the entire 12-mile, 390-yard route, wearing mittens, a padded cap to protect his head from the potholes of the Lexington-to-Charlestown roadway and a T-shirt with foam rubber to cushion his spine.
Buoyed the night before by four slices of pepper-and-mushroom pizza, Furman, who manages a health food store in New York City, took 10 hours, 30 minutes to cover the distance (with 30 minutes for rest and one bathroom stop), completing 8,290 forward tumbles en route. Furman’s purpose for bopping through the countryside on his forehead was to honor Sri Chinmoy, his guru of the past 15 years. Chinmoy, headquartered in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., teaches his disciples that they can benefit spiritually by stretching their physical limits.
Furman’s previous homages to his master include marathon hand-clapping (140 claps per minute for 50 hours and 17 seconds), walking 24 miles with a milk bottle on his head and somersaulting 10 miles around New York’s Central Park, all of which made the Guinness Book of World Records. He also tried to pogo-stick up Japan’s Mount Fuji, but couldn’t make the summit (although his total of 11.5 miles set another Guinness record). This time, he took the reverse route of Revere’s ride, because it’s largely downhill. Repeating “I am not my body, I am my soul,” he fought off nausea and ignored bruises and blisters. Afterwards, on his way to an Italian meal, Furman, whose first name, Ashrita, means “protected by God,” said, “I feel really good, except for bad cramps in my stomach, and my wrists are sore.” Then the Carl Lewis of oddball athletics walked (upright, at last) into the sunset of sporting history, savoring the thrill of victory, the agony of the forehead.