You could say that Robert Winckler is a bit of a Guinness world record nut. He has held three Guinness records for fastest half-marathon: one dressed as a swimmer (which he set at 1:47:51 in 2016), one dressed as a cowboy (1:51:56, set in 2017) and one while, believe it or not, carrying a set of golf clubs (1:57:58, set in 2018). All three were set at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. In 2018, an Australian took his swimmer half-marathon record down to 1:39:10. Next month, Winckler plans to reclaim it, running in swim trunks, water wings, and a mask, goggles, snorkel and swim cap, regardless of the weather. His goal time is 1:32:08–a full 15 minutes faster than the time he ran in 2016.
“I’ve been running 1:33 halfs every day,” says Winckler, who trains himself for his Guinness attempts, though he’s been a member of the Guelph Victors in Guelph, Ont. since moving to the southern Ontario city from Orangeville in 2010. “I’ve run that time easily, multiple times.”
When asked why he does it, Winckler laughs. “I’ve been asked that question a thousand times. I do it because it’s different. It’s different than running in your singlet and running shorts. I do it to challenge myself–to do something different.” He says his wife, who taught aerobics for 20 years, is very supportive of his running. “She gives me a lot of encouragement, and she always worries about me.”
Winckler has been running since he was 18. (He’s 54.) He’s dealt with the odd injury over the years, but never anything so serious that he had to give up running–which is impressive when you consider the number of miles he has logged with a golf bag containing 13 clubs on his back. “I mastered the technique,” he says, though he admits it took a few weeks (and a few Bandaids, since he experienced brutal chafing on his back) to figure out how to run efficiently while supporting the bag with one hand while the other swings freely.
Spectators at the Nutrience Oakville Half-Marathon on October 6 can get a sneak preview of Winckler’s record-reclaiming performance, since he will run it in costume as a tuneup race.
UPDATE Thursday, October 10: A family situation has made it impossible for Winckler to race the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon this year. He tells us he will be back next year.