NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - The long-distance joggler understands better than most that the race is not always to the swiftest.
Joggling, juggling while jogging, requires a hand as sure as a foot is fleet. But for some well-coordinated multitaskers, there's nothing quite like it.
"Once I get in a good joggling groove with a nice, relaxed stride and a perfectly timed cascade juggling pattern, it's pure poetry in motion," competitive joggler Michal Kapral said in an interview.
Juggling is at least as old as ancient Egypt, and human beings have likely been running ever since early man happened upon his first saber-toothed tiger.
"I was amazed how the two things fit together in such a fluid motion - one ball toss for every step," said Kapral, who started joggling after reading about it in the Guinness Book of World Records when he was 12.
"Studies have shown that juggling boosts brain power, as does running, so the combination feels amazing," Kapral said.
The Canadian holds the world record for the joggling marathon, which he set in 2007 in Toronto.
And true to his ambidextrous nature, he ran the entire race while chewing gum.
"I chewed the gum as a joke, because so many people asked me if I could," he said. "I actually found that it helped me stay relaxed."
Kapral, who has experimented with joggling five balls, said that for him the juggling came before the running.
That order makes sense to Dr. Jonathan Chang of the American College of Sports Medicine.
"The advantage of joggling is on the side of people who started out as jugglers alone," he said. "Joggling adds a level of aerobic fitness to juggling."
He said the reverse could present a "supreme challenge" to uncoordinated runners. "But it would seem that as with so many things, practice makes perfect."
For Chicago native Perry Romanowsky, joggling is all about his pushing his personal best.
"I'm at day 266 of a planned 1001-day joggling streak," said Romanowsky, who writes a blog called Just Your Average Joggler.
"I decided to see if I could joggle for 1001 days. It just sounded like a fun challenge and it is," he said.
Romanowsky, a cosmetics chemist by day, said joggling caught on in the 1980's when jugglers at an International Association of Jugglers convention organized races to keep themselves amused between events.
He says there are about 1000 jogglers worldwide today, but the numbers are growing.
"Word is spreading, primarily as a result of the Internet," said Romanowsky, who credits joggling with keeping him active and heart healthy.
"I'm actually getting better and better. In my last five marathons I've had a total of three drops," he said.
Joggling rules state that if an object is dropped, the joggler must return to the point where it fell and continue from there.
Romanowsky's web site motto is Three Bean Bags and A Lot of Miles.
"I want to joggle a marathon when I'm 100 years old," he said.
"As a runner, I'm not fast," the 40-year-old explained. "In fact, I'm just average. I can't hope to be anything more than average because that's just the way I'm made.
"But as a joggler, I can be great."