The sticky yellow Gballz floated alone on a sea of synthetic grass. Put there by a momentary soccer ball distraction and the initial conditions of the Big Bang. It was the first of 4 drops I would have that day. I reached into the Kelly green field and brought the isolated bean bag back to the group. Took 2 steps back, started juggling, and resumed the race.
With an almost 2-minute lead, this surprising drop didn’t hurt much. But it did give me a chance to look around the track and see the 10 other joggling 5K competitors. The mass of flailing arms and moving balls showed me I was no longer a lone joggling eccentric. Here, I was proudly part of the joggling community. And I was winning!
Joggling Sign up
Before the competition, I didn’t know what to expect at the 2008 IJA Joggling Championships. I’d never been to a juggling festival like this and certainly hadn’t participated in a joggling track meet. Questions about the seriousness, the level of participation and the quality of competition echoed through my head. I wondered, “Am I really just an average joggler?”
Walking into the gymnasium to register, I quickly realized I was certainly an average juggler. The room was filled with people doing amazing tricks with clubs, balls, rings, and hats. I smiled and wished some day to be as good as them.
The registration table for joggling was near the entrance and manned by Bill Giduz. He’s a tall, slender guy who clearly has run a few races in his time. We exchanged some pleasantries and talked about the joggling races a bit. He and I had previously exchanged emails so he vaguely remembered my joggling blog.
I was the first to sign up. My lone name etched on the blank sheet of paper was depressing.
“Don’t worry,” said Bill as if sensing my despair, “there will be a lot more signing up later.” I got my number (576), race directions, and a set of tiny gold safety pins. It was just like signing up for a real running race. Exciting.
Morning of the Joggling Races
The races were held at a local high school track 3 miles from the juggling convention. This kept the jogglers suitably separated from the hardcore jugglers. After all, to some in the juggling community, joggling is not much better than clowning or miming.
When we arrived there were dozens of students using the soccer field inside the track and some others running laps on the outside. This was nice because whenever a joggler passed by they would yell and applause. Jogglers love an audience.
5K joggling race
Bill corralled the 5K jogglers lining us up on the track at the starting area. The black, rubberized track was already hot from the morning sun. Standing on it made you feel like a piece of bacon sizzling on a griddle. It transported me back to 1987 and the track meets ran in high school.
I looked around and saw no familiar faces. Could there really be this many jogglers I’ve never heard of? The competition seemed great. Everyone was skinny and looked like runners. I couldn’t tell who was going to be fastest but if it was anything like last year’s, that might just be me.
Not knowing the other jogglers, I worried about my pace and wondered how fast to go. When you have no chance of winning a race (as is generally the case for me) you don’t think about the other runners. You just set your pace based on the time you want to finish and go. This race was different. Winning was a possibility but I was unsure how to do it.
The starter’s hand went in the air. He yelled “On your marks”, paused and then let his hand drop. It would be a familiar site for the rest of the games.