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Crawling toward a world record

SEATTLE – Laura D’Asaro’s parents have long accepted that they do not have a typical teenage daughter.

So few weeks ago, when D’Asaro announced that she was going to set a Guinness World Record for the fastest time to crawl a mile – as in, crawling a mile on your hands and knees – Danna and Eric D’Asaro basically shrugged.

“This wasn’t something particularly more surprising than any of the other million things she’s done,” Danna D’Asaro said.

After all, this is a 17-year-old who, for Spirit Week at Nathan Hale High School, where she is a junior, went each day in a different costume. One was a cardboard car she had made, complete with working headlights and a CD player.

After three weeks of practice, D’Asaro is within 58 seconds of surpassing the record: 23 minutes, 45 seconds.

At 5 feet 10 inches and 135 pounds, the gymnast has the endurance to crawl very fast.

The current record-holder is a 39-year-old Toronto man.

The annual Guinness World Records book is full of categories most people find hard to imagine.

For many, it’s an interesting book to flip through, wondering about someone who would devote considerable time to, say, collecting the most different sugar packets (2,594).

And then there are a few select readers who view the book in a different way.

“I always wanted to break into the Guinness World Records,” D’Asaro said. “It makes you stand out.”

But what record to break?

“I thought of most number of cartwheels completed in one hour,” she said (she’d have to beat 1,293). “I tried doing cartwheels for 10 minutes and I collapsed.

“Then I saw this one that was about most number of snails kept on your face at one time. But I wanted to be in a record book for something people would admire, not sticking snails on your face.”

There is no training manual for speed crawling. You have to figure things out yourself.

The current record-holder, Suresh Joachim, crawled on glossy wood floors in a gym, wearing sweat pants, gloves and socks.

Joachim said he doesn’t mind that D’Asaro is trying to break his crawling record. He has bigger things in mind.

“My aim is to have set more records than anyone, maybe 500 records,” he said.

Right now, Joachim said, he holds 53 records that include singing Elvis Presley songs for 55 straight hours and the couch-potato record, for which he watched 69 straight hours of TV.

Unlike Joachim, D’Asaro did not choose easy-gliding, glossy gym floors.

Weekdays after school, she practices crawling on the Burke-Gilman Trail, or at Matthews Beach or Magnuson Park. To time herself, she goes to the artificial-turf track at Nathan Hale.

Her first time out, she wore volleyball kneepads and bicycle gloves as her only protection.

“I had blisters on my hands, blisters on my knees, and my ankles were bleeding,” D’Asaro said.

Now, her sneakers are enveloped with bubble wrap, and even so, she’s on her third pair. When she crawls, the sneaker toes scrape the ground and break apart.

She wears heavy-duty knee pads and mittens wrapped in bubble wrap, although if it gets too hot, she switches to plain bicycle gloves.

And holding it all together are lengths of duct tape.

“I love duct tape,” she said.

When practicing, she draws stares.

A woman said, “Oh, you’re pretending to be a dog, Sweetie! How cute!”

These days, she wears a sign on her back when she practices. It reads: World Record in Progress.

D’Asaro said she hopes to raise $1,000 by breaking the record at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life the weekend of June 7.

So far, she’s gotten $15 through her Web site, but, as always, D’Asaro is cheerfully hopeful.

She knows about getting donations.

In the summer of 2006, she and friend Hilary Lim baked cookies every morning and sold them on the Burke-Gilman Trail. They raised $13,000 for playground equipment at Matthews Beach Park.

Not much seems to faze D’Asaro.

“I’ve had people tell me to stop smiling so much,” she said. “I say, ‘We need all the happiness we can get.’ “

And practice by practice, D’Asaro crawls closer to the record.

On Wednesday at Nathan Hale, she crawled a mile in 24 minutes, 43 seconds.

A gym class watched her in admiration, and perhaps confusion.

But D’Asaro, an overachiever with a 4.0 grade-point average and president of two student-service clubs, takes it in stride. After Wednesday’s crawl, she was off to help bake pies for a fundraiser.

“I like being in the limelight. I like to be different,” she said. “There is not much point in living if no one knows you’re alive.”


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