Record Breaker Gets on All Fours for Charity

Speed Demon: Harvard Student Sets Record for Fastest Crawl
Andrew J. Petschek

The day was perfect: overcast and misty. Eyeing the familiar high school track, she tried to hold back her nervous excitement as she adjusted her biker gloves and knee pads. Today, she had ditched the bubble wrap that usually covered her hand and knee padding. But she had added something new: elbow pads on her shoes.

A large crowd of students, faculty, and parents gathered behind her, chanting, “Let’s go, Laura, let’s go!” But their voices slurred into a muted blur. She could not hear them.

Slowly, as she had practiced so many times before, she bent down on her knees. Her fingers edged up against the white starting line. Then someone yelled, “Go!”

Placing one knee and hand in front of the other in a perfect rhythmic motion, she began to crawl.

As a high school junior, Laura E. D’Asaro ’13 broke the world record for being the fastest person to crawl a mile. In doing so, she raised over $5,000 for the American Cancer Society during a Relay for Life fund raiser. One-and-a-half years after that momentous June day, D’Asaro—an unconditional optimist who seeks inspiration in unusual non-profit ventures—continues to explore the philanthropic potential in breaking world records. Her latest project is starting a club at Harvard that will work to raise money for charity by breaking world records.

“WORLD RECORD IN PROGRESS”

D’Asaro’s crawling adventure started in January 2008, when she flipped past the flashy cover of the “Guinness World Records” at a bookstore near her home in Seattle, Wash. Intrigued, she entertained the idea of pursuing a record herself.

Two of the entries especially caught her eye: a man who had done the most number of cartwheels in an hour, and another who had the most number of snails stuck to his face for 10 seconds. But though she had some gymnastics experience, she did not feel up to the challenge of doing over 1,000 cartwheels. And she did not “want to be known as the girl who stuck snails to her face.”

Then D’Asaro saw the record time for crawling the mile: 23 minutes and 45 seconds. Realizing that crawling is “not a popular sport,” D’Asaro decided that this was the record she wanted to break.

In her initial test crawl, which took place on her school track, she completed the mile in 45 minutes. Armed with newly purchased biker gloves and kneepads, D’Asaro spent a week crawling around her neighborhood. On her second attempt around the track, D’Asaro found that she had improved her time by 10 minutes. She realized then, she said, that her project was actually “feasible.”

Every day for the next five months, rain or shine, D’Asaro padded her hands and knees as soon as she came home from school, securing them in layers of bubble wrap with long strips of duct tape. Then, wearing a sign on her back that read, “World Record in Progress,” she would begin her daily crawl. During these 45-minute training sessions, she sometimes brought her dog along, attaching its leash to a harness on her back. Other days, she asked a friend to walk with her.

“You had to walk briskly to keep up,” said Matthew E. D’Asaro, her older brother.

Meanwhile, D’Asaro’s school began organizing its annual Relay For Life, an event during which participants run or walk for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. D’Asaro realized the fund raiser would be the perfect occasion to break the crawling record.

Now, when she went out on her daily crawls, the “World Record in Progress” sign taped to her back sported an additional line: the URL for her Relay For Life donation page. Money from neighbors and passersby soon came pouring in.

A NATURAL PHILANTHROPIST

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