Like A Broken Record

From beer milers to long-distance crawlers, the unending appeal of being No. 1. 

Andy Warhol is famous for saying we’d all be famous, if only for 15 minutes. He didn't really say it, but still, in January 2013, applied mathematician Samuel Arbesman added up the number of Wikipedia’s “notable” living people (604,174), divided that by the number of people in the world (7,059,837,187), and concluded that Warhol had grossly overestimated. Forget 15 minutes; according to Arbesman, each of us has only a 0.0086 percent chance of being famous at all.

There’s one way to break into that rarefied percentile: Be the best at something—anything. This was my reasoning at 15 years old, that age when fame is so alluring. But what could I excel at? I had no skills. So I picked an obscure event far from Olympic glory that demanded only determination and focus.


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