Guinness Book of World Records celebrates big milestone

The first Guinness Book of World Records was created 60 years ago Thursday. What started as a bit of harmless promotion for the brewery has become one of the best-selling books of all time, CBS News' Debora Patta reports.

Published every year, it's an assortment of accomplishments -- from jaw-dropping achievements to absurd feats.

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Guinness Book of Records 1st edition "Guinness Book of Records"

When Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, Guinness was there to record it.

It was also there to document the world's finest jumping on a loaded spring and blowing out fireballs.

You will find the tallest man and the shortest woman, even the oldest practicing gymnast, who, at 86, is still doing backflips.

The Guinness Book of World Records believes that it is the final word on everything.

Craig Glenday, the book's editor, has traveled the world adjudicating on it all, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

"We celebrate them all equally," Glenday said. "Whether you're Usain Bolt, who can run a 100 meters in 9.58, or you're the guy from Germany who can run it in clogs in 16 seconds, or on all fours, or backwards. It's that rich variety, and we treat them all the same."

What does he think about people's drive to break records?

"I think it's an inherent part of being human that you have to push yourself," Glenday said. "You don't really need to climb that mountain, you don't really need to sail that ocean, but people do because it's a challenge, because it's there."

Jan Meek rose to that challenge and became the first woman to row an ocean with her son.

"My son was going to row the Atlantic with his best friend, who had to drop out. And he phoned me one morning and said, 'Hey, mum, how would you like to spend Christmas in Barbados?' I said, 'Wow, that's brilliant!' 'There's just one snag: we're going to have to row,'" Meek said.

She was 53 when they rowed for 101 days. Ten years later, she walked to the North Pole and is planning a trip to the South Pole when she turns 73.

Over the years, the Guinness Book of World Records has broadened its focus from conquering the track or dominating the airwaves to the longest fingernails and the world's largest Zumba class. Animals get their fair share of glory too.

But if you're the best at it, and Glenday is there to observe it, you get more than just the bragging rights.

"It's in the Guinness Book of Records! So yes, you did. You can prove it! It's proof. It's a medal. It's an Oscar," Meek said.

In the age of the Internet, it begs the question whether there is a need for such a book, but there is an online version as well.