Son Of Fallen Scranton Fire Captain Attempts To Set Guinness World Record In Scranton Half-Marathon

April 7, 2019

“Draped in a coat that can withstand the heat, with a helmet on his head, boots on his feet, he came to the perfect conflagration. ... He considered it a treacherous sin to run away from such a beautiful chore, because such a thing he does adore ... ”


— Ryan Robeson, Dec. 13, 2007

At age 17, Robeson wrote these lines, part of a poem titled “Such a Thing He Does Adore” — an ode to a firefighter who rushes into a burning building and saves a trapped child moments before it collapses. He gave it to his father, Scranton Fire Department Capt. James Robeson, as a Christmas gift that year.

Just 24 days later, on Jan. 6, 2008, Capt. Robeson died after being electrocuted when the bucket lift of his firetruck came in contact with an arc from a power line. Two residents — W. Richard and Maria Fenstermacher — also died that day in the Ash Street fire in Scranton.

Since then, Robeson, an only child, followed his father’s footsteps and became a firefighter in 2016, working in Scranton until recently relocating to York.

Now, the 28-year-old is finding another way to honor his late father and their profession.

During Sunday’s sixth annual Scranton Half-Marathon, Robeson will attempt to set a Guinness World Record by running the 13.1-mile race in full firefighter personal protective equipment — boots, helmet, gloves, hood, turnout coat and pants and breathing apparatus. All together, the gear weighs between 35 and 50 pounds.

He also is raising money for two charities: Foundation 58, which helps families of firefighters and first responders suffering from cancer; and Operation Scranton United, the Scranton Fire Department’s annual winter coat giveaway for underprivileged Scranton School District students. Most importantly, he is running to raise awareness of how hard firefighters work daily.

It is the first time anyone is using the Scranton Half-Marathon to attempt a Guinness record. Race officials are excited.

“He used to time for us and worked for us here in the (Scranton Running Co.),” assistant race director Justin Sandy said. “With the story of his father, he always had a passion to become a firefighter. We’ve always supported him in every effort. We’d love to see something big happen, especially because he’s doing everything for the right reasons as far as raising money for the charities.”

Running background

At Scranton Prep, Robeson was a Lackawanna Track Conference Division I coaches’ first-team all-star in the 400 meters. He has run 5K races, and the Scranton Half-Marathon three times, finishing 33rd last year in 1 hour, 23 minutes, 59.04 seconds.

In July, he ran the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vermont, a 60-hour, nonstop, military-style race. Sixty-three athletes started; Robeson was one of just 12 to finish. One competitor, Eric Hutterer of Alliston, Ontario, Canada, set a Guinness World Record for farthest distance crawling under barbed wire for 12 hours (7.541 miles).

Watching Hutterer make his mark inspired Robeson to try to set the record in the Scranton Half-Marathon. He decided to make it a fundraiser, too.

As of Friday evening, his website, ryansrecordrun.com, showed Robeson had reached 76 percent of his $5,800 fundraising goal.

“If you ask my wife, I’ve probably spent a little too much money on racing,” Robeson said. “So, I tried to switch gears a little bit this year and see how I could use my training to give back to the community. Why not try to go big and incorporate my job as a firefighter into some kind of charitable event to help raise money for these charities?”

Robeson submitted his proposal to Guinness in the fall. Three months later, it was approved. Then, he approached the Scranton Half-Marathon officials about it. First, they had to verify some things with Guinness to make sure the course was acceptable to their standards. Then, they cleared it with the Scranton Police Department.

“They go the extra mile to help us out the whole weekend. We didn’t want to overburden them or do something that would create a problem for them,” Sandy said. “But everybody seemed to be right on board and all for it.”

For it to be considered a world record, Guinness says he must complete the race in less than 3 hours, 30 minutes. And, he must breathe through his air cylinder while running.

To train for the race, Robeson has been running with a 50-pound backpack to simulate the feel of having the air cylinder on his back. He also completed several long runs in full firefighter gear.

“I was running outside for a while, but people were driving by, thinking I was crazy. A lot of weird looks like, ‘Who is this guy? What the heck is he doing?’” Robeson said. “So, I switched gears and started doing runs on the treadmill.”


Spartan Firefighter training for world record attempt

Death Race Finisher, Peak Ultra racer, and York City Firefighter Ryan Robeson is attempting to set a Guinness World Record for running 13.1 miles in approximately 50 lbs of full Fire Fighter gear to raise awareness and money for two charities, Foundation 58 and Operation Unite Scranton. Join us as we support Ryan is his effort! For more info & to donate visit https://secure.foundation58.org/run “In the year of 2018, I went on to get my Spartan Delta, Master’s of Endurance Delta, and finish the Death Race Resurrection. I am constantly looking for new ways to challenge myself and find that limit which is how I came up with the idea to run a half marathon in Full Firefighter PPE while exclusively breathing from the Self Contained Breathing Apparatus we use on the job. I’m sure along the way I’ll find those mental and physical walls I hit during the Peak Ultra and, thanks to the experience gained from it, I look forward to running right through them.” #SpartanExtreme Posted by Spartan Extreme Endurance on Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Pulling it off

Air cylinders are rated for 30 minutes of use. However, when firefighters go into a building, the harder they exert themselves, the harder they are breathing. That alters the actual usage time of the air cylinder. Robeson said a good average time is 15 to 20 minutes.

Robeson wore an air cylinder during a few of his training runs to see how long he could make it. He gets about 10 to 11 minutes out of them.

“So, that’s going to put me around a mile, a little over a mile hopefully, if I’m feeling good,” he said.

The logistics of figuring out how many air cylinders he will need and ensuring he has enough is challenging.

He plans to have 20 available, but thinks he will need somewhere around 15.

“It can go either way,” he said. “I could be doing great on cylinders or I could really start sucking them down. Just making sure we’re prepared for the worst-case scenario.”

Then there is the planning during the race. The Scranton Fire Department is letting him use its ATV to carry the air cylinders and follow him around the course. Someone on the ATV also will film his run to document it for Guinness.

However, when the course hits the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail from miles 7.5 to 12.2, the ATV is not allowed. So, bicyclists will carry the air cylinders.

Runners will accompany Robeson to help with the cylinder changes, much like a NASCAR crew during a pit stop.

“A lot of different people need to be in a lot of different places to get this to work,” Robeson said.

Sunday’s forecast — 47 degrees and partly sunny for the 9 a.m. race start on Providence Road, with a high of about 65 degrees later in the day — might also prove challenging for Robeson.

“If it is a really hot, humid day, there would be no way for me to regulate my core temperature,” Robeson said. “I know everybody is kind of rooting for spring to get here. I just want it to hold off one more day. Let it be chilly Sunday.”

While Guinness has set the record mark at 3 hours, 30 minutes, Robeson said he hopes to finish on the shorter end of two hours.

“I have lofty goals,” he said. “In my head, it’s not just to set the record but make it one that will stand for a while. I’d hate for somebody to see it on Facebook, say ‘That’s cool’ and go out a week later and beat it.”

Race officials have tried to help Robeson with the logistics and planning as much as possible.

“It’s a neat thing, especially for myself as a timer,” Sandy said. “I want to say I was there and I timed this world record and it was a close friend of mine who attempted it. It was an extra thing to do, but we all saw it as an opportunity to help someone we care about and to set our event apart, that someone wants to use our course to do something special.”

Robeson said his father, while not much of a runner, probably would have thought the attempt to set the record is awesome.

“He loved his job and loved seeing people push themselves,” he said. “He was a very active and strong person. I think he would be very proud and think it was very cool.”

Indeed, such a thing he does adore.

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