New World Record For Uppingham

James Holroyd reports:

04/03/19: At 3.45am on Saturday 9th February 2019, four Uppingham pupils gathered on a dark, windy and cold morning to start the World Record attempt for the longest continuous game of Fives.

The record had been set by Uppingham pupils 30 years previously, when they played for 38 hours, but this was soon broken by Shrewsbury pupils at 40 hours. Zara Tweed, Charlotte Bowman, Blair Morton and Archie Tweed were hoping to create history by going for longer, and at 4.00am they got underway.

The first few hours, albeit cold, were fairly plain sailing. Spirits were high and the players were singing along to the songs booming from the speakers set up on court. As Saturday lessons came to an end, the crowd in the Fives court started to build, with pupils and staff calling into the courts to cheer on our four players. It was great to see and this support played an invaluable part in their endeavours.

One of the aims for this attempt was to promote Fives at Uppingham and to encourage more people to get involved. The four record attempting players wanted to open Fives up to the broader community, and this was certainly achieved over the course of the weekend with lots of pupils and staff keenly giving Fives a go in the adjacent courts to the record bid.

As lunchtime approached, the players stepped off court (the players were allowed a five-minute break per hour and had accumulated a 20-minute break since they had been playing for four hours straight). They had big smiles on their faces and Zara and Charlotte, in particular, were confident of breaking the record and bringing it back to Uppingham after 30 years.

During the afternoon, it was great to have friends from neighbouring Oakham School come and join us on the adjacent courts. After a match against our Fives team they also offered their support to the fearless foursome. Old Uppinghamians and parents also played their part over the course of the afternoon, playing Fives and cheering on the players.

The first signs of fatigue showed up as the team hit 6.00pm; the 14th hour of playing. Spirits were soon buoyed, however, by the arrival of pupils from two of our boys’ boarding houses, Highfield and School House. They sang hymns - “Libera Me” and “Shine Jesus Shine” were two of the highlights - they chanted “God Save the Fives”, and this support brought the energy back into the courts and boosted the morale of our four players. The boys’ houses timing was impeccable and a much-needed boost for the pupils who had the daunting night stint ahead of them.

As time passed by and the players moved into the 18th hour, the strain of the challenge began to show, impacting the youngest of the team most, Archie, but he dug deep, plugged his headphones in and continued his journey...

Midnight approached; the crowds disappeared to fall into bed and the players were left with the solace of night. We knew this would be the toughest stint of the challenge. For company, the four players had a coffee machine, an unlimited amount of food and the some teachers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, without the support and lusty singing of the crowds, their morale dipped. Blair’s feet were in agony, and Zara and Archie were feeling low. The arrival of some fresh socks and trainers helped Blair with his feet and an unexpected visit from their father at 3.00am was a much-needed and timely boost to re-energise the Tweeds. Charlotte was a machine! She just kept going, unflappable in her efforts. Before we knew it, light was appearing over the horizon - they had made it through the night.

The second day and the final 12 hours were always going to be tough. Fortunately the crowds of pupils returned after Sunday chapel; the 32nd hour. Everyone was amazed at how the players were holding up and still playing. But after a whole night of Fives, plus the cold and dark, the task in front of them began to take its toll. Both Zara and Charlotte hit a wall of tiredness and emotion. Remarkably this didn’t stop them from playing. Again, it was the support of their peers, their families and the staff which motivated them to carry on.

With nine hours to go, the mental and physical struggle became more apparent. The team were overwhelmed with their emotions, their tiredness and the pressure of the goal they had set themselves. BUT they had come so far and did not want to give up now!

In the 36th hour, Zara and Archie’s mother arrived with hot chocolate for the team – she genuinely couldn’t have chosen a better moment to arrive. There were tears… and hugs aplenty. She was followed by more morale boosting singalongs – this time from pupils from two of our girls’ houses, Fairfield and Johnson’s. The crowds spurred on the players with songs from Grease, Legally Blonde and Hamilton – our pupils have a great knowledge of songs from the musicals! And Blair was not only singing along as well but he even had the energy to dance.

As evening fell and the players had their dinner, the tiredness was almost overwhelming; the players could barely keep their eyes open. The fatigue and pressure was almost too much to bear, particularly for Archie. It was at this stage that the decision was taken to reduce the target to 40 hours and 15 minutes. They had made it through 38 hours, so had just 2¼ hours to go to surpass the record. With the support from his parents, pastoral staff and his peers Archie took to the court again and kept on going. The end was in sight - adrenaline would get them through.

With the news that the team were heading towards a triumphant finish spreading around the School campus, the courts again became packed with supporters. And as we’ve established, there is one skill that all Uppinghamians are good at – singing. From “Sweet Caroline" to "God Save the Fives" the supporters almost raised the roof.

The four players reached their hundredth set in the last hour, a great achievement but the struggle was evident. Archie was hurting, his legs barely able to keep him upright, and the impact of sleep deprivation hitting hard. The finish time was moved forward again to 8:02pm; we would still exceed the previous record by two minutes.

With thirty seconds to go, chants of “Fives is coming home” echoed around the courts. The countdown began. The buzz was electrifying. "5,4,3,2,1". They’d done it!

Applause deafened the courts and the players embraced one another. Tears of joy and relief hit them. Perhaps the biggest hug was given to Archie. He had kept going and done it too! The chanting began again. This time the crowds sang "We are the Champions". This awesome foursome had become our heroes; they still are. What a tremendous achievement.