Adventures in Skipping

There are so many valuable things we can learn from kids, and skipping is definitely one of them. A few months ago, I saw a father and daughter holding hands while crossing Union Turnpike. The little girl was skipping along, the embodiment of the purest joy. At that moment I decided that I would attempt to break the world record for skipping. It was obvious that when you skip, you not only spread joy, you also cannot avoid being joyful yourself!

There was only one slight problem – when I contacted Guinness I was shocked to find out that, after almost 50 years of publishing records, they had never established a category for this absolutely basic and universal sport. Something had to be done immediately! Having already skipped 4 miles and battled with some pretty painful blisters caused by the constant friction on the balls of my feet, I suggested to the Guinness folks that they create a 10-mile skipping event. They surprised me again by eventually electing to make the distance a full 26.2-mile marathon skipped in the fastest time. I knew immediately that this was going to be a challenge!

However, Mother Nature came to my rescue. While visiting Seattle, I decided to go out for what I thought would be a difficult 5-mile skip. It started raining and after a while I realized that I was just gliding along mile after mile, blister free. The rain was lubricating the roads. Once back home, I tried to recreate the slippery conditions by skipping while carrying a can of WD-40 and spraying the bottoms of my shoes every so often. That fiasco gave way to what has now become a fascinating and sometimes dangerous research project into the slipperiness and durability of various types of materials glued to the soles of my running shoes. A friend of mine, Himangshu, who has a woodworking shop, has experimented with rubber, leather, various types of plastic, and even vinyl floor tiles. His job was easy. I was the one almost tumbling down steps, skidding into oncoming traffic, and generally sacrificing my body in the name of science!

Finally, we found a plastic and a gluing technique that worked, and skipping became the awesome joy I had originally imagined it would be. I also discovered that skipping is a superb workout for the calves, thighs, arms, back and abs, and it burns twice as many calories as walking. True, most people I passed thought I was playing with a few cards less than a full deck, but I’m pretty used to that by now! After completing a 20-mile skip, I decided I was ready to go where no man or woman has ever gone before, and I enrolled in the Comox Valley Country Roads Marathon in British Columbia, Canada.

It was a fresh and sunny day at the end of August on an exquisitely scenic course. Vancouver Island is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the people are extremely friendly and easygoing. An article had come out in the local newspaper the day before the marathon about my attempt, so many of the motorists driving by recognized me, shouting out words of encouragement such as, “Keep on skipping, Skippy!” The runners on the course were also very positive, except for one fellow I passed who complained, ” I don’t see what the big deal is about skipping a marathon – why, I’ve skipped several marathons over the last few years before deciding to do this one!”

All was going quite well up until the 8-mile point, when the smooth road suddenly gave way to an incredibly rough back-country road. Within minutes the gravelly surface shredded the plastic coating on my soles and I had to change shoes. I tried to avoid the bad surfaces by sometimes skipping on the horse path adjacent to the course, but after a few more miles yet another pair of sneakers bit the dust. That left me with only two changes of shoes with more than halfway to go. Normally, each pair should last about 10 miles before the plastic wears out, but the way things were going, it looked dismal. A friend of mine, Malik, who was following me in a car, got quite alarmed and raced into town to see if he could scrounge up materials on a Sunday morning to devise some makeshift skipping tread.

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