Earlier this month, Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge conquered one of the last remaining limits of human endurance when he became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours. Kipchoge, an Olympic gold medalist, ran a blistering 4:34-per-mile pace on a course in Vienna, Austria, in order to cover 26.2 miles in an unbelievable 1:59:40.
But for a number of reasons—ranging from the historic run's setup, his support personnel, and even the shoes that he wore—his sub-two hour marathon won't be considered an official International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) marathon record. Kipchoge isn't bothered, though.
"I am happy to inspire somebody,” he told TIME in a recent interview. “And even if they say it’s not a world record, I have broken a barrier. Which makes a difference in human life, in a human family. That’s my evidence.”
Those same words could be said by—or about—Ethan Mueller, the 17-year-old who triumphantly downed a 10-patty Whataburger inside the restaurant's Allen, Texas location. Was it a record? Yes, but only for Mueller. Did it break a barrier? You tell me, after listening to an entire fast food restaurant chant his first name, after an enraptured stranger repeatedly leaned across the table to wipe the grease from Mueller's face, after an employee's own Whataburger shirt was draped triumphantly over his thin shoulders.
Mueller's attempt at glory was captured in a dramatically composed TikTok by his friend Blake Reynolds, who seemed to know that he was witnessing history. He told Mashable that Mueller was trying to beat the previous record of a 7-patty Whataburger, but it was unclear whether it was the restaurant's record, or just an unofficial high score from someone else in their youth group. But when Mueller lifted that disgusting clump of already tattered meat and cheese to his mouth, did it matter what or who had motivated him? Absolutely not.
"The way I shot it made it tell a story, building suspense for when he actually finished it," Reynolds told the site. "Viewers would all feel like they just witnessed the impossible."
We felt it, in those 57 improbable TikTok'ed seconds. It was just as improbable as Kipchoge breaking his own seemingly unbreakable marathon record, as incredible as Simon Biles' performance at this year's World Gymnastic Championship, as inspiring as a grainy replay of Neil Armstrong leaving oversized footprints on our own distant moon. But unlike those three trailblazers, Mueller threw up a lot afterward.
When Kipchoge set the current official marathon record with a time of 2:01:39 at last year's Berlin Marathon, that mark was hailed as potentially unbreakable. "[T]his will surely go down as Kipchoge’s crowning glory, his marathon opus," The Guardian wrote. "It would be no surprise if his record stood for a generation, unless, of course, he himself has other ideas."
The same might have been said for Mueller—except he's already eaten an 11-patty Whataburger.
Shine on, you crazy diamond. You crazy, puking diamond.