At first, the idea of knitting a scarf while running the length of the New York City Marathon was merely a joke shared between Meredith Parmalee and her former employer, We Are Knitters.
But as the Northeastern University senior continued to ponder the concept, she realized she could use the attention-grabbing feat to bring awareness to, and raise funds for, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Parmalee has never participated in a 26.2-mile marathon before. But she said she has been training hard since the summer, a ball of yarn wrapped around her wrist like a bracelet, and feels ready for the challenge.
“The more I started doing runs while knitting, the more it became second nature for me,” she said. “It helps distract me from thinking about running . . . and my legs hurting and my arms hurting. It helps me keep my mind off of it.”
Parmalee, 22, is being sponsored by We Are Knitters, where she did a co-op job for school, to run with the charity group Team in Training. Her interest in running while knitting was inspired by other marathoners who completed a similar task.
As she jaunts through New York Sunday, Parmalee will use a technique called “finger knitting,” rather than two long needles, to weave a long scarf.
To finger knit, Parmalee starts by making a slipknot around her index finger, and then loops the yarn around each of her three other fingers, skipping the thumb. She then brings the “yarn tail” back around each finger, so there are two loops on each, and slips the second loop off each finger, starting with the index finger.
She repeats the process, slowly binding the yarn together in tight knots. Making sure she threads the yarn correctly between each appendage requires a certain level of hand-eye coordination, but it also helps Parmalee keep a steady rhythm while she runs.
The New York native first learned to knit as a child, taught by her grandmother. She picked the hobby back up in March when she began her co-op duties.
Parmalee said although it sounds complicated, the process is actually pretty simple with a bit of practice.
“The hardest part is probably just getting used to having one extra thing on you when you run,” she said. “I’m used to just carrying an iPod.”
As the scarf grows on race day, Parmalee’s fingers moving smoothly as if she’s playing the chords of a guitar, she will wrap the homemade garment around her arm. It’s sweaty — but it’s the best way to keep it from dragging on the ground.
Parmalee said the plan is to have supporters at designated mile markers along the race route so that she can replenish her yarn supply.
When she crosses the finish line, she has no plans to add the scarf to her wardrobe for Boston’s gelid winter, however.
“I don’t really know if I want the scarf when I’ve finished the New York Marathon — I’ll probably just hang it out to dry,” she said. “I never really know what to do with them.”