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Olds man unable to break world record in firefighter gear

Breathing problems, chafing, sore shoulders were too much

Olds firefighter Noel D’Arcy gave it his best shot on Sunday, Aug. 18, but in the end, he was unable to break a Guinness World Record for running a half marathon in Edmonton in full firefighter gear.

That included jacket, boots, helmet, air tank and breathing through an apparatus that supplies dry, compressed air. In total, all that gear weighed close to 50 pounds.

Difficulty breathing via the air tank, sore shoulders from the weight of all the gear and chafing — primarily in his feet from the firefighter boots — proved to be too much. He got pretty hot in the jacket and pants as well.

A half marathon is 21.1 kilometres. It was one event during the Servus Edmonton Marathon.

D’Arcy says up until now, there’s been no official Guinness World Record for doing a half marathon in full firefighter gear. So in consultation with Guinness officials, he set a target of three and a half hours to complete it. However, he ended up completing it in a little over three hours and 50 minutes.

D’Arcy said the difficulties he faced — especially the breathing issues — cropped up at about the nine-kilometre mark. After that, the goal became simply finishing the race.

“It was survival mode towards the end. I just wanted to get it done,” he said.

He alternately ran and walked the course. The jacket and pants also made him sweat.

“I was pretty happy to get my gear off and cool down a bit.”

D’Arcy entered the race partly to set the record, but also to raise money in support of the Terry Fox Foundation to eradicate cancer. He’s an organizer of the annual Terry Fox Run fundraiser in Olds.

The goal to raise funds during Sunday’s half marathon was realized to some extent.

“There were a lot of people curious as to why I was doing what I was doing so I had a few people approach me out on the course. They wanted details on how they could donate and whatnot.”

He was pleased about that.

D’Arcy went to work Monday and was still suffering from Sunday’s efforts.

“I’m not moving as quick as I used to, but I’m in recovery mode now at this point.”

D’Arcy’s dream has been to beat the Guinness World Record for running a full marathon in full firefighter gear. He gave it a shot back in 2016 during the Calgary Marathon.

He finished that marathon in five hours, 25 minutes and three seconds, well off the world record of three hours, 41 minutes and 10 seconds.

D’Arcy was asked if, in light of Sunday’s result he still wants to try to break that record.

He’s not ruling it out.

“I had to revert to getting it done because the real disappointment would be if I didn’t cross the finish line at all, so I’m not really treating it as a failure. I’m going to treat it as something to maybe educate me maybe a little bit on how to approach this in the future if I ever decide to do it again.”

For the past few months, D’Arcy had been struggling with whether to make this world record attempt or not. On Aug. 10 he made a final decision to do so.

“I think I might have been in my own head a little bit. Maybe I was trying to find an excuse not to do it, but I’m like, you know what? It’s now or never,” he said.

D’Arcy is 34 years old. He admits he’s slowing down as he gets older.

“It’s kind of one of the reasons I want to get this done, because if I let it go any longer, my body is not going to work as well with this, right?”

With files provided by Doug Collie