Joggler Takes One Step More
three balls represents a physiological step above running without juggling, is
five ball joggling a step higher still? Billy Gillen of Brooklyn, New York,
certainly thinks so.
He also acknowledges that it's lonely there
at the top. Despite his attempts to convince others to join him, he's the only
person who regularly practices this particular physical regimen. It has required
a great deal of practice and patience in the year that he's been at it, and will
require a lot more to perfect it.
Unlike three ball joggling,
during which a runner's stride is basically unchanged, five ball joggling
demands short, shuffling steps to keep up with the quicker hand movement of five
ball juggling. More hazardous still, the five ball joggler must keep his or her
eyes trained upward at the pattern, instead of forward watching for the changing
terrain underfoot. Considering that Gillen does most of his five ball joggling
along the potholed and heavily trafficked streets of Brooklyn, the feat becomes
In recent time trials on a smooth track, however,
Gillen proved that five ball joggling is for real. His fastest of three
quarter-mile attempts was I :55.8, which included time spent picking up three
drops. He joggled 100 yards in :20.1 with no drops. Since that time, he claims
to have managed a phenomenal 6:15.52 mile with 12 drops.
Comparing the relative speeds of juggling five standing still and
joggling five on the run shows that joggling slows down the pattern slightly.
For 50 throws with five balls while standing still, Gillen averaged 12.4
seconds. Joggling, the time slowed to a 13.9 second average.
Gillen has proven he has the determination and eccentricity
needed to overcome obstacles and push back the frontiers of joggling. In 1980 he
joggled a stick, ball and baby carriage wheel (club, ball and ring) 30 miles
from Oakland to Berkeley, California, while balancing a bean bag on his head. He
admits interrupting the jaunt at the 26 mile mark to see a Fellini film.
In 1982 he trained for six months to run four miles around the
track at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn joggling four five-pound
weights. It took 56 minutes to complete the feat, but a month for Gillen to
recuperate from the strain. It didn't make him famous, but "I gave myself a very
solid pat on the back!" Gillen said.
His fastest joggling occurred on the footwide elevated center
divider of the defunct West Side Highway in lower Manhattan. During a lightning
storm one summer's day, he joggled three balls along that narrow path for a mile
in 4:30. He thinks fear of electrocution had something to do with the fast time.
Gillen has been a runner since childhood, when he raced the bus a
mile through city streets to grade school. Wandering through Central Park one
day in 1976, Gillen was enchanted by the sight of a juggler. He learned of John
Grimaldi's lessons at Trinity Church near Wall Street, and learned to juggle the
next day. "I went home and juggled for 12 hours straight;" he said. "But I was
tossing the balls out in front of me and had to step forward to catch them. The
next day, I was joggling!"
For several years he joggled up to 10
miles a day with three and four balls, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in his
Captain America suit and circling Washington Square before returning home. He
found out about the IJA convention joggling races and participated at the 1983
Purchase convention. He finished second in the five kilometer event with a time
of 20:07.6, but moreover was astounded to discover another dozen jogglers after
so many years of practicing alone.
A month later he began working on five ball juggling and carving
himself another lonely niche with practice of five ball joggling. Since that
time, he has rarely joggled three or four. Through last winter's slush and
snow, he joggled five around his usual long loop, stooping hundreds of times to
pick up his frequent drops. By March, though, he could go a city block without a
drop, and is now working on dropless quarter-miles. At next summer's Atlanta
convention, he plans to joggle five balls in the 100 meter and one mile events.
A former health food restaurant chef, Gillen now makes a living with
occasional work as a building renovator. He has also lately begun street
performing at neighborhood festivals in New York City. He credits joggling as
good training for his ability to tap dance, do a jig and break dance while
juggling five balls for an audience. He also includes club juggling, plate
spinning, magic tricks, balloon animal creation and story-telling in his street
"Joggling is a new athletic frontier, the same as running was several
years ago, " Gillen said. "I think it suits intellectual people who are studying
new age consciousness. These are people trying to integrate new challenges into
their practice of sport, to take it that little bit further... to do it with
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Presenting Billy Gillen, another 5-ball joggler
You've already heard about the amazing 5-ball joggler, Barry Goldmeier. Now here's an article from the mid-80s from Juggle magazine about another 5-ball joggler named Billy Gillen (pictured above on a joggle in Brooklyn):