Jumping for a record and a cause

A Doylestown mom begins a jump-rope marathon.

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Susan Kennedy, a 43-year-old wife and mother from Doylestown, practicing jump-roping in her garage, is attempting to break the world record for hours jumped - 27 hours in a row. She will also be raising money for the Alzheimer's Association.

A lot of people can't jump rope for 10 minutes, much less 27 hours.

But that's what Susan Kennedy, of Doylestown, intends to do today, through tonight, into the wee hours Friday, until early tomorrow afternoon.

"I'm a good jumper," the 43-year-old mother of four said without embellishment. "I only have to do 27 hours once. I think I'll do it."

Actually, Kennedy must jump 27 hours, 1 minute to achieve her goal, smashing the world record set in 2003 by an Australian at a Queensland shopping mall. If she can verify her stunt she'll get the attention of Guinness World Records.

"There's all different types of records," said Brian Reinert, a U.S. spokesman for the venerable records keeper, based in London. Guinness' database has more than 60,000 achievements and each month, about 1,000 are broken, he said.

Masters of you-name-it regularly attach their challenges to causes, Reinert said. Kennedy is jumping to benefit the Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter, because her mother suffers from the disease. Tip off is at 8 a.m. at the Solebury Club, a fitness center in Buckingham Township. Supporters can make donations in Kennedy's name and Solebury is turning over half of all membership initiation fees collected during her session.

Kennedy likes to say she's an average woman, just a wife and mother trying to keep up with her kids, her house, her Labradoodle, her elderly parents, her job as a marketing consultant.

A trim size 8, but not skinny-skinny or taut muscle, she exercises when she can. Sometimes she goes for a run, sometimes she jumps rope. Average stuff.

OK, that "average" bit played until Kennedy got to this part. Maybe some people have the stamina to jump an hour, but five hours? Eight hours? Ten hours and 25 minutes?

Kennedy clocked that overtime on Memorial Day weekend, as part of her training.

She hardly broke a sweat, she said. She was shooting for 15 hours, but as often happens, she got interrupted.

"I never feel out of breath," Kennedy said Tuesday, as she fielded interviews and showed off skipping skills, even with her son Conor, 12, home from school with pink eye.

Kennedy jumps on a thin foam pad in a packed double garage. A big, blue clock keeps her time. She drinks Propel and Snapple Diet Iced Tea.

"This is really not a high-tech, professional thing," she said, apologetically.

On this day, she pulled out the Volvo, grabbed her one rope (a spare recently broke, wearing out before Kennedy did), popped a DVD into a laptop so the monotony wouldn't drive her nutty and went at it.

"It's really the only thing I'm good at," she said.

Her feet barely left the floor as the rope turned at a steady pace. If she trips, Guinness gives her 10 seconds to recover.

Solebury Club co-owner Ken Cloonan plans to stay the night for support. He expects hundreds of spectators. Other witnesses also will keep vigil, and a videocamera will record it all.

"It's going to be more mental," Cloonan said. "Hopefully, she doesn't pull any ligaments. That can definitely happen. . . . She's running a marathon, like a mega, mega marathon."

Kennedy is allowed a five-minute break every hour or she can accrue time over consecutive hours. Her strategy? Skip rope a couple hours straight, then break for 10 minutes.

That's when she'll change socks and shoes (always double-knotted) after a bathroom stop, stretch and power bar. She has eight spare pairs of sneakers, all colors and brands.

"It's amazing how long five minutes can be," Kennedy said, then reconsidered. "How short it can be as well."

Sometimes she kicks out a leg as she jumps. Sometimes she hops on one foot to give the other a break.

"The only part of my body that hurts is my feet," she said. Apparently, Kennedy has found no footwear specifically for her sport. She seems surprised, as if thousands do what she does.

Maybe that's because she has fond memories as a child. As an adult, she incorporated her favorite activity into an aerobic workout. "I've always jumped rope, barring pregnancy."

Even the kids allow that Mom, who can outlast them all, is a pro.

"I hope she breaks the record," said Conor, a lacrosse man. "I wasn't quite sure she was serious. Now I know."

All this world's-longest jazz started two years ago, when son Ian, then 8 and a fan of the Guinness World Records book, said innocently: "You're good at jumping rope. You should try to break the world record."

She never expected there to be a reigning champ. "Who else would be crazy enough?" she thought.

Jed Goodfellow, it turns out. "I have to knock him off."

The quest got postponed. "There was always an excuse to not do it," she said.

Then a friend encouraged her to jump for Alzheimer's.

She hasn't told her mother, Kathryn Lindenmayer, 80, who lives in a New Britain nursing home, about the enterprise. "You don't have a conversation with her anymore," she said. "You hope it'll get better, but you know it never will."

Ian, too, was relentless. "You should do it. It'll be so much fun," he said.

Finally, Kennedy decided to give it her best shot - or jump. "I have to live by example," she said.

Besides, asks Kennedy, who says she never gets much sleep anyway, "When else can I get 27 hours to myself?"


If You Go

A 24-hour open house to cheer Susan Kennedy on will be held today starting at 8 a.m. A reception is scheduled from 6 to 8 tonight with music and children's activities. Both will be at the Solebury Club, Route 263 near Route 413 in Buckingham. Information: 215-794-3494. To make a donation: 215-561-2919.


Contact staff writer Lini S. Kadaba at 610-701-7624 or Lkadaba@phillynews.com.