Toronto’s Michal Kapral is well known in the Canadian running scene as one of the fastest jogglers (that’s someone who runs while juggling) in the country and world. He owns the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon while joggling three balls at 2:50:12 (among many other records), and his success in the unique sub-section of the sport of running recently earned him the attention of a fellow joggler in France named Johan Swartvagher. Swartvagher invited Kapral to France to join him in the Périple, a six-month joggling festival that criss-crosses all over the country. It’s essentially the Tour de France of joggling, and although COVID-19 prevented Kapral from completing it in person this year, he still managed to run his and Swartvagher’s nine-day, 147K leg of the event.
Day 1 of the Toronto joggling adventure. Gorgeous day for some running and juggling past the Chester Hill lookout. pic.twitter.com/JyA7Drs3UO
— Michal Kapral (@mkapral) March 20, 2021
As Kapral explains, the Périple lasts six months, with legs being run by pairs. There are 23 legs, each of which lasts between a week and a week and a half. Before COVID-19 ruined the plans for the event, the pairs were set to run together through France. Each pair consists of one juggler and his or her guest. In Swartvagher’s and Kapral’s case, they would both have been joggling, each carrying three juggling clubs along the way. While Kapral was stuck at home in Canada, unable to get to France for the run, Swartvagher ran the actual set route.
“They have ceremonies every week or week and a half where they hand the clubs off to different jogglers,” Kapral explains, noting that the event is one long relay. Instead of a baton or a torch, though, participants hand off their juggling clubs to the next runner in line.
Kapral says he didn’t know Swartvagher before the event, but when Swartvagher — an experienced juggler and performer who is new to running — reached out with the invitation, Kapral didn’t hesitate to accept. “Johan had heard about me, and he wanted me to be his guest to show him the whole joggling thing,” Kapral says. “He doesn’t have much experience with running, but he’s done a great job.”
One of the toughest parts, according to Kapral, was convincing Swartvagher that he was capable of running kilometre after kilometre for nine straight days. At one point in their leg of the Périple, Kapral and Swartvagher had to run 18K two days in a row. Every runner can understand how daunting a single 18K run would be when new to the sport like Swartvagher is, and anyone would doubt their abilities when facing two 18K slogs in a row (while juggling three clubs, no less).
After that first long day, Kapral says he sent Swartvagher a simple message: “You did 18K today, you can do it tomorrow. You know you can do it.” And he was right — they got through the run, just like the others before it. Unfortunately, Swartvagher didn’t get the chance to complete the nine-day event, but not because of a lack of motivation, self-belief or energy. Instead, Swartvagher was forced to stop the run for a much more personal and tragic reason, as he had to go home to be with his mother, who was ill.
Swartvagher missed the two final runs of his and Kapral’s Périple leg, but he made it home to be by his mother’s side when she passed away. Despite the fact that he was completing the event virtually and would be unable to physically pass his clubs onto the next pair of Périple runners, Kapral finished the last two days on his own.
“I got pretty emotional joggling the final 16K in the rain, but honoured Johan’s sense of fun by finishing with a big smile and a jump in the air,” Kapral says. The Périple is still underway, and it will continue until mid-August. While Kapral’s role in the event is finished for now, he says he would love to run it again in the future, but next time, he’ll make sure to be there with Swartvagher in person.