In 2013, David Babcock broke the Guinness World Record for the longest scarf knitted while running a marathon. That’s right, Babcock ran the full 26.2 miles of the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon with knitting needles and 6 balls of yarn. He replaced Susie Hewer, from England, as the record holder.
At the 2008 London Marathon, Hewer set the record at 5 feet 2 inches then set it again in 2013 with a scarf over 6 inches long. Babcock smashed that record a few months later with 12 feet 1 ¾ inches when he crossed the Kansas City finish line in October.
“I knew that I had broken the record at around mile 15,” said Babcock. “I knew at that time that there was a strong possibility that I would run out of yarn. I carry six balls of yarn and had my son deliver two more balls on the run.”
Babcock had to finish the marathon in under six hours to qualify for the world record, so the slower he ran the more knitting could happen. Towards the end of the race he needed to figure out when to start binding the scarf so he could cross the finish line with a completed scarf. He ended up with a very large, and as he put it, impractical scarf.
“It was fun to wrap up my kids completely in it and take pictures,” he said. “One of my favorite pictures with the scarf has my whole family of six holding the scarf in a train.”
During the Kansas City Marathon, Babcock ran with one of the Runner’s Edge pace groups who he said were very supportive and awesome. He said the two leaders kept the group on time and made it fun. He enjoyed getting to know other people in the group who made it feel like they were a team even though they had just met.
“They helped point out to spectators that ‘we’re breaking a record’ in case they hadn’t noticed,” he said. “I love how the marathon feels like a huge cooperative event, every runner is there for each other. The people at the aid stations are wonderful. I loved the volunteer groups that were in costume.”
Since October, Babcock has completed a few shorter knit-runs. A scarf on the treadmill, on the Weather Channel and also while running in Central Park of New York City. He has several events planned that can be found on his website at KnittingRunner.com. When he decided to try and beat Hewer’s world record, he decided to raise funds for Alzheimer’s just as Hewer did on her attempts.
What’s next for Babcock now that he holds the Guinness World Record? He plans to knit and run the NYC Marathon, which was the very first marathon he ever saw when he was at the finish line in Central Park.
“Standing among the crowds of spectators I was moved to tears watching so many different types of people running and the support they received,” he said. “I decided then that a marathon was in my future.”
Lion Brand Yarn Company is sponsoring Babcock for the NYC Marathon and he will be running with NYC Athletes To End Alzheimer’s, which will have about 150 runners participating. Babcock usually uses needles and carries his yarn in a bag but due to security issues at the NYC Marathon, he has to use his fingers. The New York Road Runner’s Club (NYRR) who organize the marathon, work closely with the New York Police Department to make sure the strict security limitations are enforced. No tools or bulky bags are allowed, which means no knitting needles and no bag to carry the yarn.
“A marathon is all about doing hard things and knitting during one is no different,” said Babcock. “I had to do some research to see what was possible.”
Babcock found arm-knitting too bulky and finger-knitting stitches too small so he had to come up with his own version of finger needle knitting, where he uses his fingers like knitting needles. He has figured out most of the stitches he will need but is still working on double-knitting techniques for patterns. He has tested the finger-knit while walking in New York City and a few days later was able to run 5 miles in Central Park while finger-knitting.
He will be participating in the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Half Marathon as a warm-up race to the NYC Marathon to practice finger-knitting. This Warrensburg resident will be joined by family from Texas who will be returning to participate for a second year in the race. Last year, he ran with his brother-in-law from San Antonio while family from Rockford and Decatur, Illinois ran in the half marathon.
Babcock says running a distance race isn’t easy.
“By doing something that pushes us to our limits, we show our strength and resilience and we are rewarded with personal accomplishment and satisfaction,” he said. “If you are not already running for a cause outside yourself – find one. There are so many people living a marathon-hard life every day of their chronic disease. By running for fundraising and raising awareness you will find greater strength in your service. You will reach your goals knowing that you can’t give up because others are counting on you. Do it for you. Do it for them. I’ll be cheering for you.”
Scarves that Babcock knit while running can be purchased from his website KnittingRunner.com. Proceeds will go to the Alzheimer’s Association.