John Orth, a friend of mine from my local rock gym, decided that his original Guinness World-record of 7,600 pull-ups in 24 hours could be beaten. So, he made a pledge. It would not only be an ambitious physical reach, but also a chance to represent a No Barriers life.

Each month we share a story of someone who exemplifies No Barriers, and as you’ll see below, John’s personal summit goes well beyond pull-ups:

From John himself, “I thought I had trained for a physical challenge, but the event I participated in was a mental one. The formula is simple: one person, one bar, and one clock racing; 24 hrs. to complete as many pull-ups (I needed 7,601 to break my record) before the clock ran out.

a photo of john orth starting his 24 hour pull up challenge
Just started and feeling good

Gloves on, clouds of chalk in the air, countdown, and go! After months of training and weeks of stress I felt weightless. It was amazing. The first few hours went by like any day in the gym with an easy pace of 600 pull-ups per hour. But then, dehydration kicked in, and my muscles started to tighten. Thankfully, I had friends and supporters cheering me on, as well as a team of volunteers responsible for keeping me fed and hydrated, and monitoring my form. They all kicked into high gear to keep me moving, and the constant massages seemed to help, but my back was getting increasingly worse.

a photo of john orth doing pull ups at a climbing gym with a counter at 2347
Orth up to 2,347 pull-ups at Earth Treks climbing gym in Golden, CO

At 5,000 pull-ups, I hurt – a lot. At 6,000, I cried. I fell from the bar and curled up on the floor. Tears poured from my eyes while everything ached. I thought of my friends, family, our sponsors, and my pledge of no barriers. At 6,800 pull-ups I was broken, both physically and emotionally. At one point, I was told, I passed out. Too sick to move I sat in the locker room and contemplated quitting.

Walking back out I had a clear view of the scene. My crew was still there waiting, never having given up hope. Within a few steps of that crowd and my bar, something clicked. The stomach pains eased and the adrenaline flowed. I was now determined to see this to the end despite the pain. I wrenched on my gloves to excited screams and grabbed the bar. It felt like coming back from the dead.

a photo of a shirtless john orth
John Orth takes on his own world record

Less than two hours later, with the music blaring, I tied my previous record of 7,600. I needed one more. With the entire crew cheering, I crossed a line I feared I would never reach. In the end, I did 7,670 pull-ups in 24 hours. I had never pushed so hard for anything, and I knew I hadn’t pushed through it alone.”

Take your own No Barriers Pledge today.