Speed-Crawling Seattle Woman Aims for World Record

The parents of Laura D'Asaro have long accepted that they do not have a typical teenage daughter.

So when a few weeks ago, Laura 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.

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

At 5 foot 10, 135 pounds, the 17-year-old gymnast has the endurance to crawl very fast.

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

Said Laura's mom, "This wasn't something particularly more surprising than any of the other million things she's done."

After all, this was their daughter 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.

Her fellow students accept that Laura is who she is.

As Reed Stutsman, 14, a freshman, put it, "She's out of the box A LOT out of the box, but in a good way."

The annual Guinness World Records book is full of categories that most readers didn't even know existed.

For most readers, it's an interesting book to idly flip through and perhaps wonder about the inventiveness of people who 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," Laura said. "It makes you stand out."

But what record to break?

"I thought of most numbers of cartwheels completed in one hour (1,293)," she said. "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 didn't mind Laura 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, Laura did not choose easy-gliding, glossy gym floors to work toward her record.

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 only wore volleyball kneepads and bicycle gloves.

"I had blisters on my hands, blisters on my knees, and my ankles were bleeding," Laura 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 enveloped with 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 watched Laura practice her crawling and told her, "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.

It almost seems a prerequisite that people breaking world records tie it to a worthy cause.

Joachim says he breaks records to help the "world's suffering children."

Laura 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, Laura is cheerfully hopeful.

She knows about getting donations.

In summer 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 Laura.

"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, Laura keeps getting closer to breaking the crawling record.

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

A gym class watched her in admiration and perhaps a bit perplexed.

But that is who Laura is, an overachiever with a 4.0 grade-point average, president of two student-service clubs. After her latest attempt to break the world record on Wednesday, 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."