At the start of a crowded 5-K road race in Atlanta last weekend, two runners at the front stood out. Of course they stood out -- they were juggling.
Then the race started. And they kept juggling.
Tim Sullivan, who has directed the Cabbagetown Romp & Stomp 5-K for six years, definitely noticed.
"At the start of the race I saw that they were right up front with the speedsters, more serious runners," Sullivan says. "I thought 'I will probably get somebody complaining afterwards about them getting in the way and that they should really be in the back.' Then they took off at an incredible pace and I just wondered how long they could keep that up.
"For a while, apparently."
The runners -- Bob and Trish Evans -- surprised the crowd and fellow runners by juggling for the entire 3.1-mile race, and finished in near-elite fashion. Bob, 29, was third overall with a time of 17:17 - that's a 5.35 minute-per-mile pace. His wife Trish, 26, finished 21st overall and second among women with a 20:23 -- 6.35 minutes per mile.
"When we come in, I think it does surprise (people)," says Trish. "They think, 'Oh jugglers, they might be back with the walkers and then perform at the festival.' I think it does surprise them."
And of course, Trish says, they also get a lot of curious looks (and applause) from people watching or running the races.
Fourth-place finisher Barry McGraw was passed by Bob Evans about midway through the race.
"My plan was to sit on him, let him do all the work, and out-kick him at the end," McGraw said. "Once he passed, I realized he was juggling and it really threw off my plan. I was heckled in the last 200 meters (by a friend) for getting beat by the juggler."
Below is a quick video of the start of the Romp & Stomp 5-K. You'll see Bob Evans coming up the right side of the screen, juggling the whole way. For a video of his finish, click here.
These are strong race times for someone using their arms to simply churn. And for a juggler who runs -- it's called joggling -- they're record-breaking times. Bob Evans set the world record for joggling two weeks ago in Nashville with a 16:51. Trish's best time is 19:46 in Philadelphia about a month ago.
Trish has run several times that qualify for world records, says Bob. Guinness prefers records be taped -- and they must be on certified courses -- so Bob says they're just figuring out which time to submit. Especially since their times are getting faster.
He says juggling doesn't hurt run times by much, estimating it slows them down maybe 20 to 40 seconds. A drop during the run, he says, doesn't necessarily disqualify you, but it does cost you three or four seconds as you have to go back a few feet to where you made the error. Bob says they drop once every "seven or eight races."
Bob Evans says he and his wife -- both athletes -- learned to juggle together while they were in Michigan in 2006. They didn't start joggling until about a year and a half ago. Trish is more of the runner turned juggler, and Bob the reverse.
The couple, from Wisconsin, is now touring the U.S., living out of their car and couch surfing with friends, family or fellow jugglers. From the sound of it, they're having a blast.
"Even before we were married, we had dreams of taking time to travel and be free," Bob says. "After working for a few years and saving some money, we decided to take off and tour the U.S. We figured we have no kids, most of our possessions fit in our car, we're young and healthy -- this is the time to do it. We have a rough, regional plan of our tour and we plan on joggling races every weekend that we can."
The couple plans to joggle their 20th race this weekend in Jacksonville, Fla. For more on the Evans's trip and juggling, see their Facebook page.
Photo: Provided by Forsyth Striders
Mike Benzie is the local editor for Yahoo! in Atlanta. He also volunteers his time to help organize the Cabbagetown Romp & Stomp 5-K, which is how he heard about this story. Follow Y! Atlanta on Twitter and check out your new local Yahoo! news page at http://beta.local.yahoo.com.
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