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Joggler Interview – Ralph Kidner and the Quest for a Drop-free 10K

Here’s another in our continuing series of interviews with juggling runners (jogglers). Ralph Kidner is a relatively new joggler but he has clearly embraced the sport and become a great joggling ambassador.  Here’s his story.

Introduction

Hi. I’m Ralph Kidner. I live in Leeds, England. I do software development and general IT support for a small chemical distribution company, and I’m joggling rk3also on the internal auditing team. I’m 55, married, with four children, with just the youngest (23) still living with us now.

JYAJ – What is the story of how you learned to juggle?

My sister-in-law’s brother, who’d had a spell working with a traveling circus, started teaching a few of us when he visited once. I didn’t get it straight away, but then I bought some bean bags of my own and took them with me on my next business trip. I learned to juggle, over the bed, in a hotel room in Croydon [near London]. I think that was probably around 1989.

JYAJ – When did you start joggling?

My first joggle (out in public, from scratch!) was February 16th 2008. I was out for 13 minutes and dropped the balls 33 times. For comparison, I then ran the same route – without balls – in 8:58.

JYAJ – Why did you start joggling?

Starting in November 2001, I’d done a 10k race in Leeds each year called the Abbey Dash. In November 2007 I managed to break through the 50 minute barrier, which was a significant achievement for me. I didn’t then want to just keep aiming to shave seconds off my PB, so I thought “what can I do to make this more interesting?”. The idea popped into my head in early 2008, having (as I recalled) seen people juggling while running marathons, etc, that I’d like to give that a try.

In an amazing example of synchronicity, when I spoke to a work colleague about this [Tony Gough], he said “I worked with someone in the States who was a serious joggler … ”. That was you, Perry – and that must have been the first time I’d heard the term “joggling”! I got in touch with you, and you’ve been a great source of inspiration and support to me ever since – thank you. (You’re welcome!)

JYAJ – How many races have you done while joggling?

My first joggle in an organized event was a 5k in May 2008. I must confess to stopping juggling through a couple of tricky wooded sections, but I managed it in 32:07 with about 35 drops.

My first 10k joggle was in June 2008 – a disappointing performance, 1hr 12mins with 82 drops! One significant factor was that the bean bags I was using at the time were quite small and light and it was a very windy day and they were getting blown around a lot [see “advice” below]. I then joggled parkrun-leeds-80th-11aanother three 10k’s in 2008, managing to break the 60 minute barrier for the first time [58:18] in the Abbey Dash in November – albeit with 33 drops [but, hey, I was improving!].

I also discovered a great free weekly event in 2008, called “parkrun”, which is hosted [in Leeds] by Leeds University. Every Saturday morning at 9am, in various places throughout the UK, there’s a measured and timed 5k run around a local park. I’ve joggled this about 25 times now, and in recent weeks have finally managed 2 drop-free outings, in about 29:15 each time. So, I can see that my goal of a drop-free 10k (hopefully sub-60) sometime this year is definitely achievable!

JYAJ – What are some of your favourite races?

I can certainly tell you my least favourite. It was a 10k on probably the hottest day of 2008 and it didn’t start till 10:45. It was a very hilly course and a lot of it was off-road. I decided at one point it was prudent to stop joggling for a while, after I saw a (normal) runner sprawled at the side of the stony pot-holed track having lost her footing.

Another frustrating 10k was where I probably would have achieved sub-60 if I hadn’t got stuck behind a slower runner on a long canal towpath section – I was scared to try and overtake in case my beanbags finished up in the water!

Definitely my favourite joggle so far was on 4th April this year [your birthday, Perry, and my eldest son’s too!] when I managed my first drop-free 5k – I was elated at the finish!

JYAJ – What is your best story about joggling?

Coming up to the finish of my first 5k I heard the man on the p.a. say “and here comes the juggler” – I’d been noticed!

There was a photo of me in the local newspaper after the Abbey Dash, captioned as “a juggler”. (As far as I know, I was the only juggler that day, but I wasn’t complaining!)

On the whole, I do like the attention I get when I’m out joggling, and the chance to engage and interact with people. Probably the most extreme example of this to date has been when I was surrounded by about 8 drunken students while I was joggling home from work one evening – I had no choice but to stop and talk to them! One of them was saying to me “hey, you’re legend, man”, and I finished up sharing a few full-on hugs with a couple of them before they let me on my way!

JYAJ – What kind of training do you do? How fast do you run?

Through the winter, I’ve been going out just once a week, 2 or 3 miles each time, just to keep ticking over. I’m now going out 3 times per week, typically 3 to 6 miles each time, including joggling home from work once or twice a week (which is about 4 miles). I don’t push myself speed-wise, I just go at a pace that feels comfortable (about 9-10 minute mile pace?) – I’m focusing more on not dropping the balls at the moment! I do occasional runs without the balls as well – no real logical or scientific reason, just because I want to, I guess!

JYAJ – How long do you think you will keep joggling?

For as long as I can keep running! (My right hip gives me a bit of grief sometimes, but it’s not stopping me yet!)

JYAJ – Do you eat a special diet?

My wonderful wife Liza makes me marvelous meals every day. We have a good balanced diet, I think – meat, fish, Quorn, potatoes, rice, pasta, various veg, etc.. I have toast or muesli for breakfast and usually a cheese or ham sandwich for lunch, with perhaps a banana as a snack at some point. I rarely eat crisps, but I’m partial to chocolates/cakes/biscuits/etc, for example if someone has brought them into work for a birthday treat!

JYAJ – Do you have any advice for would-be jogglers?

You may feel embarrassed when you first start joggling in public – I certainly 2009-02-28adid! Push through that barrier, it will be worth it.

When I started, I was using smaller lighter bean bags. As well as getting blown about a lot if it was windy, I found that I was tending to impart too much energy to them, especially if I was running faster (e.g. downhill). I’ve now switched to using larger heavier bean bags, which I find easier to keep under control.

I used to have a lot of problem coping with the sun – particularly dappled sunlight through the trees. I’ve found a way of compensating for this now, which is to look down through the balls towards the ground in these conditions rather than gazing straight ahead, which is what I usually do.

Something that’s helped me with reducing mid-air collisions – which I think is a good rule of thumb when juggling generally – is to try and keep my arms relaxed and low, with my elbows close to my body (not out in front of me), and try and keep the pattern fairly wide (throwing across my body rather than up and down).

Finally … don’t forget to breath, and don’t forget to blink! When I first started joggling, I noticed I wasn’t doing either of these things when I first set off – which was a symptom of me being too tense generally, I suppose.

JYAJ – Where do you see the sport of joggling in 10 years?

Sadly, I can’t see joggling as a ‘sport’ – in terms of organized events – progressing much beyond featuring prominently at IJA conventions, etc..

However, as an “activity”, I would very much like to see it grow. I would like many more people to experience the fun and sense of achievement that I’ve felt over the last year or so. In my own small way, I like to think that I’m helping to raise awareness of the fact that joggling [first of all!] exists. I’ve yet to recruit my first convert – or indeed make contact with anyone else in the UK who’s actually doing it “seriously” – but I’m going to keep plugging away!

Happy Joggling!

Thanks Ralph! An engaging story and a great list of joggling advice. If you are a UK joggler (or have joggling aspirations) and want to get in touch with Ralph you can email him at: ralph.kidner (at) ntlworld (dot) com

Or, connect with him on Facebook.

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