Toronto’s champion ‘joggler’ sets sights on another world record
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
Michal Kapral admits his sport is bizarre.
Children point at him. Teenagers shout, “That is sick!” Women jokingly ask him to marry them and fellow runners yell “show-off” as he blows by.
“When I run, no one ever cheers me on. But when you’re joggling people are like, ‘Yeah! That’s awesome!’” he said.
Joggling — to juggle while jogging — has been around for more than 30 years. It’s an obscure, niche sport but one that appears to be growing in Canada, especially with people like Kapral captivating pedestrians and runners alike.
Known as “The Joggler,” the East York writer is one of the world’s top jogglers. He holds the Guinness world record for the fastest marathon while joggling and the 10-kilometre title as well.
“You make people laugh, so it’s the greatest thing. You’re running around and you see people who look like they’re not very happy, and then all of a sudden they break into a big smile,” he said.
A chance discovery three decades ago set the wheels in motion for his future success.
Flipping through the pages of a Guinness World Records book as an 11-year-old, Kapral stumbled across a marathon joggling record. Having just learned how to juggle, he thought: Neat! Someday I want to break that record.
“But then I forgot about it for many years,” he said.
It wasn’t until 2004 that joggling re-entered the picture.
He had just run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, setting a world record for fastest marathon while pushing a baby, his daughter, in a stroller.
After the race, someone said to him: “That was awesome. What are you going to do next year?”
“Well, I’m going to run it while juggling,” he blurted out.
Now 42, he plans to complete the trifecta of joggling world records by competing in the upcoming Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront half-marathon on Oct. 19. Guinness officials will be there to observe.
The trim Kapral calls joggling “second nature.” He juggled casually while speaking with Torstar News Service at his Bloor St. office, where he works as a writer and editor with Health Quality Ontario, an arm’s-length government agency.
He tried to retire from joggling several times, he said, but he’s caught the bug.
Kapral insists there’s more to joggling than silliness, including a great workout.
“Your brain (is) trying to concentrate on this juggling pattern and your arms are working too, kind of like cross-country skiing,” he said. “It really just adds this whole extra element to the sport of running.”
It helps that there’s a “mesmerizing pattern” floating around in front of you, he said.
And his times are impressive.
In 2007, Kapral set the fastest marathon joggling time of two hours 50 minutes 12 seconds, a record that still stands. He only dropped the balls twice.
He’s competed in 30 marathons, including seven joggling ones. He even won the 2002 Toronto Marathon (he didn’t joggle), with a time of two hours 30 minutes 40 seconds.
Kapral’s talents recently caught the attention of Marriott’s Fairfield Inn and Suites. The hotel company flew him out to Los Angeles last month to feature him as a person “with amazing skills” in their upcoming commercials.
Joggling does appear to be a growing sport in Canada.
Kapral received about 40 emails from prospective jogglers after he set his marathon world record in 2005. Some Toronto high school students also recently took up the sport, he was told.
He points out that at one time, sports like golf and basketball also seemed ridiculous to observers.
Gabrielle Foran, 23, who lives in Hamilton, took up joggling two years ago after a juggler friend challenged her to a race. She was already a competitive runner and eventually became talented joggler.
“It fit with what I was already doing,” Foran said.
At the International Jugglers’ Association festival in August, she set the world record for women’s joggling with three balls in the 800-metre and the 1600-metre race.
The 35th annual joggling world championships take place in Quebec City next year. About 40 to 70 jogglers take part each year.
“You never know … the next joggling boom could be around the corner,” Kapral said.
After nearly a decade of joggling, the married father of two still calls the “crazy sport” a perfect metaphor for his life. He juggles kids, work and day-to-day responsibilities while moving forward as fast as possible.
“I think all of us in some ways are joggling through life,” he said.
The rules of joggling:
Typically, jogglers toss three round beanbags as they run.
Jogglers are allowed to drop their beanbags, but must stop and restart juggling at the drop point.
Jogglers must juggle every step of the entire race.
If a joggler stops to drink water or use the washroom, he or she must stop still, hold the beanbags and then start again at the same point.
Michal Kapral’s top 6 joggling tips:
1. Learn the cascade pattern: Get comfortable with the basic three-ball cascade juggling pattern, concentrating on perfect tosses that peak at about eye level.
2. Time your tosses: When you start joggling, time your tosses so they match your running arm swing and leg stride.
3. Swing your arms: Keep your arms swinging as your normally would while running, which means you’ll be holding on to the ball for a bit after you catch it as your arm swings back and forward.
4. Look through the beanbags: You don’t want to be tripping in potholes, so focus on the road ahead, keeping the balls in your peripheral vision. Don’t look at your hands.
5. Keep it smooth: The joggling technique should feel seamless and relaxed, like you could do it for hours (and marathon jogglers do!).
6. Don’t give up: You will drop a lot at the beginning, but that’s life. Pick up the ball and try again. Once you get it, you won't forget it.