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Training with David Babcock, the Knitting Runner: Can He Crochet the World's Largest Doily and Run a Marathon?

This week, David Babcock -- aka The Knitting Runner -- shares his crochet plans for the first of two marathons he's running this fall. Read on to see what he'll make!

David BabcockLion Brand® is sponsoring David in not one but TWO marathons this fall! David is running to raise money for Alzheimer's research and he needs your support - last year, with your help, David raised $10k, will you help David beat that?

Please donate today: http://lby.co/1Kl24cG.

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In 2013 I broke the Guinness World Record for the "Longest Scarf Knit Whilst Running a Marathon" which was originally set by Susie Hewer to help raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer's. This year I am trying to establish my own record to continue to fight Alzheimer's and support caregivers. I wanted to do something that would be very visible and funny. When I think of crochet doilies I think of my grandmother. As out-of-place as a scarf is in a marathon I think that seeing a man running a marathon while working on his giant lacy white doily would be even more engaging - I'm calling it the Doily Dash!

Doily Dash Plan:

  • Lion Brand®'s Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® super-bulky yarn
  • A 9mm crochet hook
  • Carry all of the yarn with me in waist packs
  • Run at an average 10 minute-mile pace, a 4:20 finish time.
  • Create a doily, a flat decorative and lacy crochet mat radiating out from a center.
  • Follow a repeating pattern with at least 25% yarn-filled.

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With that in mind my training began, first the running. I think that I am like most of you when you think about running: A) you can't imagine deliberately engaging in the pain and discomfort and would rather stay in bed on a cold morning, and/or B) you both love and hate running for its health benefits and messing with your brain to convince you to keep doing it. I've worked up to running a half marathon at 8 minutes per mile (without knitting). You can see my progress on Strava as user David Donotstaple. Most record-breaking races only require that you finish in under 6 hours. The longer you take to run the race the more time that you have to work on your knitting. A student told me once that when they were talking to their friends about my record they were somewhat dismissive saying that it wasn't a serious marathon effort (like they could do better). While I do see a marathon as a collaborative and friendly supportive event, I also like passing people obviously younger than me. So for this race I'm looking for a balance. While it will give me less time to work 4:20 is a respectable time that a lot of people aspire to and not too far from my personal record of 3:56. I'll run with a pace group for control and the chance to make some new friends.

Yes, I do crochet training. The first problem is that I had never made a doily before. I've made snowflakes with some success but I've found that making a large flat doily is difficult. I have a strange sort of crafter's pride where I don't like to follow other people's patterns (but I hope you'll follow mine). I'm an artist, a designer, a creative professional, I thought, "I can handle this". I love experimenting and failing and learning something new. I needed something easy enough to deal with during the stress and frustration of a marathon while still being impressively doily-like. I'm not a math genius and it took a lot of failures to find an appropriate pattern and increase per row that would lay flat. I couldn't go too long with a chain stitch because my other hand would always be holding the work. I wanted to maximize stitches going into spaces rather than hard to target previous stitches. I needed to keep the counting simple and repetitive, easy to see where I was without memorization or referring to a pattern.

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I've developed this pattern that seems to work and satisfy my needs. After the initial start it is always the same thing over and over again. It is a regular hexagon with spokes. The repeat is a single US double crochet into the space bellow followed by two chain stitches. The new row relates to the previous one like staggered bricks in a running bond. The increase happens at the beginning and end of each of 6 hexagon segments by adding one more double crochet and two chains into the staggered spaces of the row below. At each spoke or corner of the hexagon I replace the double crochet with a slightly taller US half treble crochet. Yes, it is not a typical stitch but it is very useful. A treble crochet is too long and a double crochet too short. I yarn over twice before diving into the back loop and pull through two loops and then three at once.

So what is it like to actually do this all while running? I've done some training on the treadmill and have found that I can use a whole skein of Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in 1:17, 2 1/2 hours and 17 1/2 miles later I have a nice doily 30 inches in diameter from two skeins. I should be able to use 3 skeins in under 4 hours to get to 36 inches in diameter. I'll carry 4 skeins and try to make it over a meter. So, no, it isn't a 15 minute scarf, but if you aren't running you could make yourself a nice little rug in about 3 hours. While I'm running my hands get sweaty and just advancing the yarn can be a struggle requiring very aggressive and overstated crochet motions. And of course there is always the bouncing around of a moving target for my hook. Just breathe, relax the shoulders, two chains and a double, advance & repeat.

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I'm hoping that the visual effect of my Doily Dash will be wonderful, funny and inspiring. I get teary every time I think of any sincere human struggle and a marathon is a great place to witness that. It's those runners that fight for their last steps to finish that make me want to cheer, "Go humanity!" Too many people are fighting the uphill battle with Alzheimer's and their struggles are mostly unseen until you are affected personally. I'm trying to be crazy and visible to help lift them up and finish strong. Fundraising is all about getting people to stop and remember that they want to help. I hope that you'll follow me in my Doily Dash on the 17th of October in Kansas City and in my Flower Run in NYC on November 1st. We are all in this race together to end ALZ.

-- David Babcock, the Knitting Runner (and Running Hooker?)

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David Babcock David Babcock ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 3:56 (a PR) and raised just under $10k for Alzheimer's research.

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