On early weekday mornings, just as the sun starts to rise, drivers headed across the Ringling Bridge watch 49-year-old Barak Hirschowitz clip along at a smooth 9-minute mile while juggling three balls in the air, rarely, if ever, dropping one. Hirschowitz, president of Hospitalio Recruitment, is a competitive joggler and marathoner, and yes, joggling is a real sport with its own world championships hosted by the International Jugglers’ Association. Last month, Hirschowitz competed in the New York City Marathon as part of Michelob TEAM Ultra, where he juggled and ran for 26.2 miles.
“There were 15,000 applications and TEAM Ultra took only 98 people,” says Hirschowitz, adding that Sarasota attorney Michael Belle was also on the team.
An avid kiteboarder, Hirschowitz started joggling 18 months ago as a bonding experience with his 74-year-old super fit psychiatrist father, a world-record-holding joggler. The younger Hirschowitz’s first marathon was the Celebration Marathon in Orlando in January 2019. “I dropped a ball every mile and a half to two miles,” he says. “By the time I ran the Santa Rosa Marathon in California in August, I didn’t drop the first ball until mile 25 and I cut 40 minutes off my time.”
Joggling is not as impossible as it looks, he says. The skill comes quickly to runners once you can juggle; he advises starting with two balls and standing up against a bed so the dropped balls land on the mattress and you don’t need to bend over as much to retrieve them. Joggling also forces the runner to develop better form. “When people get tired, they tend to drop their heads,” he says. “But if you keep your head up you feel much stronger and less tired.”
Even though Hirschowitz trains to beat his own times, he mostly runs for joy. “If I wanted speed, I’d put the balls down,” he says. Passersby and other runners smile and compliment him as he trots by, asking him if he’s part of the circus or telling him he needs to slow down since he’s making the more mortal runners look bad as he passes them.
“What I love most is that people often have a grimace when they run, and then they look up and see you juggling and they laugh. I like to feel like I’m getting people in a better mood,” he says. “I’m just having fun.”