One flip at a time

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Bethel University freshman Ryan Davis plans to run the world’s fastest mile this spring – wearing scuba flippers.

by Maddie DeBilzan

Freshman Ryan Davis doesn’t get his nickname for nothing.

When Davis was three, he ran around the living room too fast and rammed into his great-aunt Kathleen Layden, splitting her lip. Layden’s husband grabbed Davis to tickle him, and Davis paused to look up at him.

“You better be careful or I’ll give you what she got,” Davis said. Not in a mean way, but in a way that, he knew, would make everybody laugh. And it did. Remember: he was three.

Ryan Davis has always had the kind of flare that makes mothers worried and great-aunts laugh in a “where-did-you-get-that-idea” kind of way. A little spitfire is what he was.

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Freshman Ryan Davis stretches before a workout.

That’s why classmates, coaches and teachers back home in Waukesha, Wisconsin call him Squirrel. He never stops, and even though in grade school he was usually focused on the wrong thing at the wrong time, that’s okay, because he was still focused – he still got things done.

When Davis was five, his brother read a label from the back of a root beer bottle. When his brother pushed the bottle across the table so his Davis could read it, too, he scoffed.

“What are you showin’ me that for? I can’t read.”

Davis admits it himself: he was energetic and, sometimes, a little obnoxious as a kid.

That’s why his family wasn’t surprised when, in sophomore English class, he dreamt up the idea of someday running the world’s fastest mile in flippers. Yes, you’re imagining them correctly: swimming fins. Scuba feet. And, yes, running in them – that’s a thing. The current flipper-mile record-holder is Zach Miller of Maine, who ran (or flopped) the mile in 5 minutes and 48 seconds.

So his senior year of high school, two years after he first came up with the idea, Davis submitted the application to the Guinness Book of World Records.

“I’m sure running the mile in fins won’t be fun,” Davis said. “I’m not doing it because it looks fun. I’m doing it so I can say I did it.”

 

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Davis jogs around the track in the SRC.

 

The record book sent him a list of requirements: the mile has to be on a certified track, the swimming fins have to double the size of his feet, a certain number of people have to be watching him, his body must be fully visible in the video at all times, a few people will have to send in witness statements and there must be at least three timers.

He would have run the mile last year, shortly after the Guinness Book of World Records sent him the requirements, but he got a stress fracture in his foot, and then again in his shin.

Davis is still recovering, and his primary goal is to train for Bethel’s track season. He hasn’t been able to practice running in flippers yet – mainly because running in flippers isn’t the best way to bounce back from two consecutive stress fractures. But stay tuned, because his goal is to earn a world record in the flipper mile this spring.

And he’s pretty confident he can do it, too. His fastest non-flipper mile is about 4 minutes 49 seconds. The current record-holder’s best non-flipper mile is three seconds slower.

“It doesn’t look that hard,” Davis said. “You just have to pick your feet up a little more.”

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