Jeff Kolpack, Published May 13 2013
'Joggler' set to turn heads at half-marathon
“What is he doing?” was the over-riding comment. Another young man wearing a backpack paused with a puzzling stare.
What was he doing? His name is Ivan Schleppenbach, and he was showing his talent to a photographer. The freshman mechanical engineering major at NDSU is going to run all 13.1 miles of the half-marathon at the Fargo Marathon on Saturday while juggling three balls.
Hence the name, joggling.
“I love to do both, so it just seemed natural to combine both,” Schleppenbach said.
He’s not alone across the country and it’s not exactly new. The International Juggling Association is hosting the 32nd annual World Joggling Championships in July in Winston-Salem, N.C. That’s more of a track event while Schleppenbach will be in for a longer haul on Saturday.
The farthest he’s ever joggled is just over 12 miles. The farthest he’s ever run is 14 miles.
“Like anything, practice makes perfect,” he said. “I knew it would be difficult when I first started.”
The most difficult: using your arms more for juggling instead of running. Schleppenbach said it’s more of an issue on how to use your arms.
“Over time, it’s become easier and easier and smoother,” he said. “It’s a lot easier now to focus on the running aspect.”
He’s only been juggling for two years when his brother got him into it. The most he can do is six at one time. A native of St. Joseph, Minn., who graduated from Sartell High School, his juggling is expert enough for him to teach a community education class back home. He’s also a pretty good runner.
The hope on Saturday, besides a light wind, is to run eight-minute miles, which would put him at a finishing time of around 1 hour, 45 minutes.
“That’s a pretty good pace considering what I’m doing,” he said.
During the winter, Schleppenbach trains at the NDSU Wallman Wellness Center. Since joggling with snow on the ground is not advisable, plus the cold temperatures are not great for the hands, he had to wait until it melted to train on a 2.5-mile loop around campus. Certainly, he’s gotten used to the funny looks from people.
“Yeah, people occasionally stop what they’re doing,” he said. “But mainly it’s words of encouragement and that keeps me going. I’m hoping for that on race day.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found