by Andrea Lopez
“The Knitter” is back at it again.
Trying to fit in running with craft time – it just wasn’t happening for UCM faculty member David Babcock. That’s when his curiosity of combining the two activities turned into a chance at beating a Guinness world record in October 2013.
Babcock, associate professor of art and design, said he researched online to see if anyone else had tried knitting and running, and that’s when he came across Susie Hewer – a United Kingdom resident who initially set the world record in London in 2008 for knitting a scarf while running a marathon – all for the cause of Alzheimer’s.
“Not even thinking about the record, I had made it part of my run,” Babcock said. “It worked quite well – it helps the miles pass, you get something done and it’s kind of a fun creative challenge.”
While Babcock is not personally affected by Alzheimer’s, he said he chooses to support the cause because Hewer incorporated that aspect into her races, and he didn’t want to take that away from the record.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t have to wait till it’s you or your family who’s affected to do something for charity,” he said. “I’m a little removed from the direct experience, and I tell people that, but I like trying to do something I don’t have to do.”
Babcock put his needles to the test during the 2013 Kansas City Marathon as he broke the world record by knitting a 12-foot scarf in 5 hours 48 minutes and 27 seconds.
“I love silence, even the sound of my breathing,” he said. “When I knit, I can count the stiches as I make them and get them into a really great groove just thinking about what stitch comes next.”
After watching the NYC Marathon years ago, Babcock said the amazing emotional experience of seeing all the people at the end of the race finishing and being so tired but trying so hard, made him think that was something he would like to do.
While the NYC Marathon is typically hard to get into unless you live in New York or are a very fast runner, Babcock said he was afforded the opportunity through his sponsorship with Lion Brand Yarn Company alongside the Athletes to End Alzheimer’s team.
Babcock raced in the New York City Marathon alongside 50,563 other runners Nov. 2. It’s safe to say he was the only racer knitting his way through the 26.2-mile stretch.
“It’s really fun to think that this is full circle on that experience – being able to be that person in the race in New York that I watched.”
Due to tight security regulations, Babcock was unable to bring any knitting tools to The Big Apple.
After doing some experimenting, he found that he could use his fingers in place of needles and get a decent sized scarf. He said his goal was to create a smaller, reversible, more complex scarf that spelled out the contraction “I will remember for you.”
“The idea of this legacy of a parent teaching a child and the child is the one who carries on the legacy,” Babcock said. “That burden of remembering is all on the caregiver. Carrying on those legacies, those memories, those skills, the love.”
When a race is complete, Babcock said he donates the scarves in return for stories.
“I had a deal with Lion Brand Yarn company where I gave people scarves in exchange for their blog posts where they shared their personal Alzheimer’s stories,” he said.
Babcock said he’s not always trying to break a record or make a super long scarf.
“I just focus on keeping the old body moving,” he said. “I like racing – there is a lot of energy and excitement from being with all the other runners.”
To get to the level of marathon running, Babcock said it takes patience.
“You have to figure out the right equipment and running style that will allow you to run without injury,” he said. “You also have to be consistent with finding time to run. It is so much better when you do something hard when you do it for someone else,” he said. “Every runner should have a charity.”
Babcock seems to carry that influence in the classroom with his students.
While junior graphic design and illustration major, Amanda Fuson, said knitting and running isn’t something she could do, she admires Babcock for his intentions.
“He’s been getting a lot of attention for his knitting and running, and I think it’s really inspiring how he’s using that to bring attention to a cause that he believes in,” she said. “Babcock has always encouraged his students to get the most from our experiences. Watching him put his beliefs into motion, gives me the confidence to do so myself.”
Babcock is still the holder of the world record for knitting the longest scarf while running a marathon. As for the future, Babcock said he doesn’t know what’s next – but if it helps raise money for Alzheimer’s or another good cause, he’s up for it.
“People think it’s funny, cool and interesting, but if they focus, they remember, ‘oh yeah there’s this Alzheimer’s thing that matters – and (while) the story’s funny, let’s remember we want to donate money.’”
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY DAVID BABCOCK David Babcock knits his way through the NYC Marathon, finishing at 3 hours and 56 minutes.