It’s not every day you get a phone call telling you that someone is going to be attempting to break a couple of Guinness World Records in your small hometown in just a matter of hours. Situations like this are especially of interest when the records being attempted are that of an obscure sport that few people are aware of, though you yourself are quite the enthusiast.
That is exactly the situation I found myself in on the morning of April 17th, 2013, when I received a phone call from a running acquaintance informing me that a local runner was going to attempt to break two joggling records at one of the local university tracks later that afternoon.
Upon hearing this news, I frantically rearranged my schedule for that day, grabbed a few supplies, and headed into town to see this event take place.
The venue for this event was the Siena Heights University track in Adrian, MI. The person making the record attempts was a man named Eric Walter, an alumni of the University and an Adrian local. The records he was going to be attempting to break were for the fastest one kilometer while joggling three objects and the fastest 400 meters while joggling three objects.
Walter learned to joggle in college in 2005, but never tried it in an event until 2011 at the World Joggling Championships in Rochester, Minnesota. Though he had never competed in joggling previously, Walter took the event by storm, winning the 200, 400, and 800 meter three ball events as well as one of the four person relay events. He even managed to set new event records in the 800m and in the relay, despite the 96 degree weather.
On this day at the track, he had a pacer to run with, several official time keepers, and a small audience of people that showed up to watch the event and to cheer him on. There were a few dozen people present total, all gathered outside in the unseasonably cool weather.
One of the challenging elements to joggling distances of this length is not only maintaining the appropriate speed needed to set the record, but to do so without dropping. While there are no direct penalties in joggling pertaining to drops, just simply the act of dropping becomes its own punishment due to how much it slows you down. It may be possible to recover from a drop or two and still set a joggling record in a long distance race of several or more miles, but not in shorter distances where every tenth of a second counts. In this case for Walter, a single drop at any point on either run would spell immediate failure for setting either of the records.
At 1pm, the one kilometer attempt began. This amounted to two and a half laps around the track. The time to beat was three minutes flat.
The gun went off, and Walter began. After the first lap and a half, he was well above the speed he needed to break the record and his pattern control was very clean. One lap later, he succeeded. Not only did he set a new record, but he completely shattered the time to beat, coming in at 2:46.63.
After his record setting 1k run, there were a few hours before his next record attempt. During this time I spoke to Walter about his training for this event.
Though he set the new 1k record with plenty of time to spare, training for this event wasn’t as straightforward as it may have seemed.
“It was tough to train while juggling over the winter time,” Walter said, reflecting on his training during this year’s seemingly never ending Michigan winter weather. “You can’t really joggle with gloves on.”
However, he was able to compensate for this by concentrating more on just the pure running aspect. “I just did more distance running over the winter time, and as it warmed up started practicing more with juggling,” he explained.
Once the weather allowed, he focused his training more on his speed workouts such as doing repeats to prepare himself to break the time required.
A few hours later, everyone gathered back at the track for the 400m attempt. By now, it had gotten darker and the possibility of a heavy rain was looming, so it was decided to get the run going as soon as possible.
Without introduction or a lengthy warm up, Walter readied and the gun went off. He joggled off with his pacer, a lap of all-out speed, as he attempted to break the 57.32 time needed to set a new record. As he came into the final stretch, it was apparent that it was going to be very close. Shortly after he crossed the finish line, the time keepers announced that his official time was 56.47, narrowly beating the required time by less than one second.
Following that, an upbeat but exhausted Eric Walters stepped inside to fill out paperwork and celebrate his accomplishment with the others in attendance. This was done just in time, as it immediately started pouring rain as everyone made their way into the University building.
Once inside, the time keepers and several people present began filling out the appropriate forms to send to Guinness. I filled out several forms listing myself as a witness for the event, even filling out a special section on the form for witnesses with an “area of expertise” due to myself being the only other joggler in attendance at the event.
After all was said and done, Walter got a mention in the local news for his accomplishment. However, he does not seem content to hanging up his competitive efforts with joggling just yet. When asked about the upcoming World Joggling Championships this summer in Bowling Green, OH, Walter was enthusiastic with his certainty. “Oh yeah,” he exclaimed. “I’ll be there for sure!”