After ringing a bell for almost 24 hours straight, Ryan Althaus was ready for food and sleep. But the founder of the Team Sweaty Sheep ministry pledged to keep ringing until he reached his goal of 36 hours in an attempt to set a world record for longest continuous hand bell ringing by an individual.
Althaus was one of 24 people across the country participating in The Salvation Army’s bell ringing contest, which began Thursday afternoon. He ended up ringing the bell for a little more than 36 hours, breaking the record. Darrell Tureskis of Springfield, Ill., set a new record with 60 hours of ringing.
Althaus is no stranger to endurance activities — he won a recent half marathon here — but the bell ringing was a new challenge. He had never gone so long without food or sleep and rang the bell outside through the night, which had a low of 30 degrees. That was a struggle for Althaus, who said he normally eats 4,000 calories and sleeps eight hours a day.
Nevertheless, Althaus said he tried to make the most of the challenge.
“This is fun,” he said while bouncing and ringing on a mini trampoline. “It’s not too often you get to wish a whole bunch of people Merry Christmas.”
That interaction with others has helped him keep going, Althaus said. He set up his ringing station in the middle of 4th Street Live, an open-air entertainment district in downtown Louisville. People leaving bars and restaurants on Thursday night greeted and talked with him. And they donated money to The Salvation Army — Althaus’ bucket was full on Friday morning.
“Louisville’s taken this on as their whole challenge,” Althaus said, adding that the Sweaty Sheep ministry is about pushing oneself. “Competition is a biblical thing. It gets people together. We’re not competing against people — we’re competing with people against hunger and homelessness.”
Once the competition is over, Althaus said he hopes to explore ways for local Presbyterians to partner with other groups in the community like The Salvation Army and the Southern Baptist Convention, whose Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is in Louisville.
“When are we going to learn to be friends with everybody?” he said. “Hopefully this is just the start.”