This is a guest post by joggler Joe Welling. You can read more about Joe the Juggler at his website.
First, the numbers. . .
I’m 51 years old, 5′ 7” tall, and I weigh about 160. I joggled my 5th half marathon race on Sunday, November 4th. It was my third time club joggling the St. Louis Track Club’s Half Marathon . I ran and juggled it straight through with no stops and no drops, not even stopping for water or anything else, in a rather slow 2:26:13. I fnished overall in 856th place out of 1071 finishers. ( see race results here ). My previous years’ times at this same race on the same course were 2:15:39 in 2008 and 2:21:23 in 2009. (I had 3 drops in each of those two years.)
My halfway split time on Sunday was right at 1:13, so at least I kept a solid, consistent pace for the entire race. I finished far back in the back, but I still finished ahead of more than 200 people, and I ended up leaving behind the people I paced with most of the run.
The clubs I juggle are heavily taped, relatively old Renegade standards (95mm) clubs. I wrap some boundary twine in an open pattern around the handles and cover that with additional tape so that if the handles are wet from rain or sweat, it’s no problem. They weigh just under one pound each, and are about 20” long.
Waking up Sunday morning, it was the first real frost in St. Louis this year. By the start of race time it was about 34º. Luckily for me, the nasty wind we’ve had for the previous couple of weeks was mostly gone. I opted to dress light (sort of the way the real runners do), knowing I’d be warm later. It was very cold in the line up at the start time, but into the race the runners who dressed heavier were peeling layers. It was about 45º by the time I crossed the finish line.
I struggled mightily the first half of the race that runs directly east into the rising sun. I wear light sunglasses and a hat with a bill, but the sun was too bright and too low. I don’t think darker sunglasses would’ve helped, though, since there were plenty of shadows from buildings and trees so the sun flickered on and off. There were quite a few moments where I really couldn’t see the clubs.
I very much like this race because it’s not very large or crowded. I really had no problems with jostling other than one close call at a water station. For some reason at one station people wanted to pass cups from both the right and the left. I usually run on the far left to make it clear I don’t want water, and to avoid people moving laterally. Someone started to pass a cup right across my front to a runner on my right. Uncharacteristically, I hollered, “Please don’t cut me off!” And both passer and runner gave me a clear path.
There weren’t as many spectators as you see at most races, but the Track Club enlisted plenty of volunteers (including the Michelob ULTRA Runners, Girls on the Run, and other organizations) who were enthusiastic in their encouragement. As always, the joggler gets a disproportionate amount of the cheering. I unabashedly admit that that’s the main reason I do it. I admit I’m not very self-motivated, so the cheering helps immensely.
The race benefits the Special Olympics and the Clayton Police. (And of course, the Clayton Police are very helpful in holding the race course open for us.)
The New York City Marathon would have been running at the same time as this race, but was cancelled due to Sandy. Eight runners who were registered for it managed to get to St. Louis to run our race. The race also attracted some elite runners. I saw the leaders heading back to the finish line when I was at about the 4 mile mark (and they were around the 9 mile mark). The overall winner finished about 19 minutes before I even got to the half-way mark. The top three finishing times were 1:07:15, 1:07:16 and 1:07:21. I’m amazed and inspired by such running!
The first time I ran this race in ’08, I was caught off guard by the final couple of miles which take on a series of hills in Clayton. That year, I was under a 10 minute per mile pace through 10 miles, and then slowed considerably and experienced fairly severe muscle cramps on those hills. I think this year, I erred the other way. I left too much gas in the tank. My final time was over an 11 minute per mile pace, and those hills didn’t bother me in the least.
On the plus side, my carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms have been barely noticeable for some time, and didn’t bother me at all Sunday. I got some pretty severe chapping especially right where the club handles strike my right hand (something that happens many thousands of times in a run like this). But otherwise felt fine.
I think my goal now is to start running faster again. I’m pretty sure I’ve got one more personal best (faster than the 2:15 time) in me, and I’d dearly love to break the 2 hr mark. In 2008, I ran the Fleet Feet Flat 5 (just what it sounds like, a 5 mile run with no real hills) without juggling, and did right at 8 minute miles (finishing in 40:0something) in 52nd place among men. In my youth, I was a pretty good long sprinter (did a 50 flat 400 m, and held a school record for 300 m hurdles for a long time), but never even finished well enough to count in cross country. I do like to run fast, but I’ve really become a plodder in recent years.