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Darren Stakey reflects on marathon performance


Four days after wrapping up a marathon performance of 111 consecutive hours of piano playing and singing, life is slowly returning to normal for Darren Stakey.

The Riverhead native, who set out to break two Guinness Book of World Records as a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, even stopped by the Polish Fair on Sunday.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Stakey said the fundraiser surpassed $10,000 in proceeds.

His voice still too weak to speak, Mr. Stakey reflected on his experience in a Q&A via email. Here’s what he had to say:

News-Review: What was the greatest challenge you had to overcome during the 5 days?

Darren Stakey: There were no shortage of challenges with the attempt. Finding music to play within 30 seconds started to become a real issue as time passed. Also, I don’t want to say I was hallucinating per se, but, by the end of Day 3, I kept having this feeling that there was someone standing over me. But, of course, I would turn around sharply and there was nothing but the wall behind me. I guess some would say I had an angel over my shoulder. The piano also needed to be very close to the wall in order for our live stream setup to capture the clock in frame, so I could never really get comfortable behind the piano. And my bladder became a real issue, too, at one time. For the most part I was OK, but there were a couple of hours where I really had to go and just didn’t have any rest time to take a break. But, maybe the greatest challenge of all was starting in a deficit. Technical issues with the video setup kept me up pretty late and I only got about two solid hours of sleep the night before my attempt even began. I think that made the first two days harder than they would have otherwise been.

NR: How much did the support you had help you reach the end?

DS: The support of everyone was essential! And it was so overwhelming. I didn’t have anything left by the end. It was only the energy of my family, friends and community that kept me afloat. It sort of gets me worked up to think about it, but I felt so loved and so propped up by everyone. We were all in it together and together we did something that one person could never do alone. In that way, it is just like the fight against autism.

NR: How much have you slept since Saturday night?

DS: I just went back to a regular sleep schedule. I got a regular night’s sleep on Saturday night, went to church as planned, ate breakfast with family and friends, then went to the Polish Fair for a few hours with my sister, Renee. I did take a power nap on Monday, but otherwise I’ve been trying not to sleep during the day. While preparing for my attempt, I read up a little bit on sleep science and it seemed that the best bet for recovering quickly was in getting back to a normal routine as soon as possible. I have also been lucky enough to travel a little bit in life, and I have learned how to deal with jetlag. In many ways, the waves of tiredness and nasuea that have hit me feel a lot like jetlag. So, I have been able weather the storm pretty well without pulling the ol’ Rip Van Winkle.

NR: How long do you expect it might take for you to fully recover?

DS: I am hoping for a week, but I’m guessing it’ll be about two weeks before I fully recover. The blisters on my fingers have already gone down a good amount, and my fingers don’t even hurt now unless I press on them pretty firmly. My lower back is a little sore, but really not terrible. And my voice doesn’t hurt at all unless I try to talk. Of course, my voice is still totally gone. But, I can feel myself getting better every day. And everyone has been so warm and encouraging that it was a small price to pay. I’m sure my family is secretly happy to have a little peace and quiet for now, too.

NR: What will you take away from this entire experience?

DS: My biggest takeaway is the importance of having a community, and friends and family. Having people around you that care about you, and that you care about, is better than any material thing in this world. I think, after you go through something cathartic, you realize that the everyday mundanities of life really don’t matter. Finally, I learned that it you believe it, and your willing to suffer for that belief, you can achieve almost anything.

Photo Caption: Darren Stakey performs Friday at Outerbanks Restaurant on the fourth day of his record-breaking attempt. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)