ALL NIGHT LONG: The event runners watching the security monitors at Toronto's Yorkdale shopping mall earlier this week had a running bet that Ryan Grech, a 23-year-old from Mississauga who confessed to me that “I don't really watch TV that much, to be honest,” wouldn’t last the first two days of the 24 marathon.

Global’s publicity stunt for the return of 24 to the air after a year and a half was inspired – a challenge where nine fans of the show had to stay glued to all six seasons of the show for as long as they could stay awake. Whoever remained alert after 70 hours would break a Guinness record for continuous TV viewing – a record that got extended by an hour last week when someone in Baltimore managed to break the existing record by an hour.

“As I started I didn’t think I was going to last,” Grech told me yesterday, after breaking the new record by a further hour on Friday and winning $24,000, a Sharp Blu-ray player, two LCD TVs and the La-Z-Boy chair he was sitting in. “Twenty-four hours felt so far away that I didn't think I would make it. I wasn't one of the favourites, that's for sure, but I was able to conserve my energy.”

“I had a game plan from the beginning. I looked at the food that they were serving and I'd say 'Well, if I eat this I'm going to have to use the washroom.' I pretty much just shut down my body for three days, and ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and a lot of water. As the competition went on I knew I got stronger.”

The continuing adventures of Jack Bauer, which returned to the air last night with the first half of a four-hour premiere full of the usual conspiracies, catastrophes and character U-turns, is the only show Grech says he watches. The marathon seemed like “a great opportunity to start the year off well,” said Grech, while he waits for an opening at a fire department in Ontario. “24 was just a show that something caught me very early on,” he says. “I set that hour to watch every week, but other than that I'm pretty active - I go out a lot, I play sports.”

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