They finished six hours ahead of schedule, but nearly came up three miles short.
Eight medics at Fort Meade, out to set a world distance record for carrying a stretcher with a 140-pound dummy on board, started their endurance test believing they had to go 150 miles to top the mark set a decade ago.
But as they passed the halfway point of their non-stop, two-day journey, the volunteer litter-bearers of the 85th Medical Battalion learned the ante had been upped. A Canadian team had just established a new record of 155 miles.
Rather than give up, the medics pushed on and carried their load 158.2 miles in 46 hours and 30 minutes, finishing the trek at 5:05 Friday morning.
The two teams of four medics started out Wednesday morning on their walking tour of Odenton, Fort Meade and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The teams swapped places every hour to adhere to a Guinness rule that required the stretcher to be in motion at all times.
Mark Young, editor of the U.S. edition of the Guinness book, said he got a call Thursday from his headquarters in London notifying him that a Canadian field ambulance team based in Germany beat the record of 142.3 miles, which had been held by another Canadian team.
When Fort Meade called, he passed along the information, surprising the weary medics who had steeled themselves for the 150-mile challenge.
Had Fort Meade not called to ask about any new attempts on the record, the medics might have stopped 3.2 miles short.
International sabotage at work? The whole thing smelled fishy to the soldiers at Fort Meade.
"We can't prove this, but it seems that the Canadian team found out about the Fort Meade event," said Don McClow, a spokesman for Army base. "It's possible that it's a coincidence that the Canadian team bettered their mark to make the '93 edition of Guinness, but it's a good likelihood that they knew about our attempt."
Young said it is not unusual to have many groups around the world competing in the same event, especially in May, one month before the deadline for publication.
But vying for top honors usually involves something more mundane, like coin stacking or musical chairs. "Stretcher carrying isn't one that is attempted that often," Young said.
The attempts by both the Canadian and Fort Meade groups still have to be verified by the Guinness Book of World Records before one of them appears in the 1993 edition, which has a June deadline.
Right now, it appears the medics from Fort Meade are the pick of the litter-bearers. But the Canadians warn it may not last long.
"Not bad," said Sgt. Major Douglas Shepard when told of Fort Meade's record.
Shepard, whose Calgary-based field ambulance unit held the record for more than a decade, said, "I think we're gearing up to do it again. It's the medics. They love doing this type of stuff."