Richard Ross is no stranger to running marathons. He's also no stranger to joggling (running while juggling) road races. But the Gloucester native has never combined the two together, that is until April 7 rolls around.
On that date Ross will be joggling his first marathon, when he will be one of 40,000 runners to take part in the Paris Marathon in Paris, France.
"I was hoping this would be the year I would joggle a marathon," Ross said. "I have joggled a bunch of races locally, mostly 5k or 10k races but never a marathon. It's going to be a good test."
Testing himself, however, isn't Ross' only motivation to participate in the Paris Marathon, not by a long shot.
The 27 year old Gloucester resident will be raising money through gofundme.com for The Association Taliberté Senegal, a non-profit group that is a center for Senegalese boys who are sent from their homes to study the Koran. The center is a place to go when they are not studying as an alternative to what they normally have to do, which is beg on the streets. The center provides the boys with physical activities and constructive leadership training, according to Ross.
"I have raised over $3,000 that will be used to continue the development of what we have in Senegal," Ross said. "It's just a center for boys where they can go in the afternoon to get off the streets."
Ross is currently in Senegal and will be there until May working with the The Association Taliberté Senegal. He first went to the West African nation after joining the Peace Corp in 2009. He spent two years working in Senegal as a part of the Peace Corp and a one-year extension in the country.
When in Gloucester, Ross runs an ice cream shop on Rocky Neck called "Kiss on the Neck Ice Cream" which is open from May to October. Ross made headlines at his ice cream shop in 2012 for selling re-usable grocery bags that were made in Senegal.
While in Gloucester, Ross can usually be found joggling around the Back Shore in preparation for the Paris Marathon. But since January Ross has had to train in Senegal. Joggling has seen a large increase in popularity in the United States recently and jogglers are encouraged and cheered on at road races in the area according to Ross.
Joggling is the act of juggling while running. Although dropping a ball during the race is permitted, a runner must stop and pick the balls up before starting again.
In Senegal, Ross, who has run four marathons in his life, does most of his running on an international highway just outside the city he resides in. Ross joggles his way up and down the highway using the kilometer markers to measure how far he's gone. In recent weeks, with the marathon getting closer, Ross has extended his workouts to as long as 20 miles.
Training in Senegal has its advantages and disadvantages.
One advantage is the terrain, it is very flat in Senegal much like the terrain at the Paris Marthon. Training on flat land for a race on flat land pays dividends.
"I'm lucky I'm not training for the Boston Marathon," Ross said. "There are literally no hills in Senegal."
One disadvantage, however, is the weather. Senegal is one of the sunniest places on earth while Paris is quite the opposite. Since January, Ross has been training in sweltering heat with no threat of rain in the forecast. Paris will be much cooler and could be wet.
Another obstacle Ross hopes to tackle is a crowded race field. With narrow streets making up the 26.2 mile Paris course, it's going to take a little more effort for Ross to joggle and avoid the crowd.
"My biggest fear is making participants uncomfortable or frustrate them with the juggling," Ross said. "But when things are tight and I'm in a tough situation, I seldom drop a ball."
It is tough for Ross, who was a member of the juggling club at American University in Washington D.C. and picked up joggling after college, to pinpoint a goal as far as a time is concerned given the fact that he has never joggled a marathon before. In the back of his head he is pushing to finish in 3:30 which would match his personal best marathon time set in the 2009 DC Marathon. While he is not sure if he will break the 3:30 barrier, he is positive he will finish in under four hours.
"I'm definitely leaving my comfort zone because I haven't joggled a race this long," Ross said. "But I don't think the juggling will slow me down. It really helps me set my pace. Part of me wants to shoot for 3:30, but I know I can finish in under four hours."
Donations to Ross' cause can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/JoggleParisMarathon.