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Harrison grad, Purdue runner claims Guinness record with ‘joggling’ mile
Harrison grad Caleb Williams ran a mile Sunday in 4:36 … while juggling three balls in pursuit of a world record. Watch him do it right here
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PURDUE, HARRISON RUNNER CLAIMS GUINNESS RECORD WITH ‘JOGGLING’ MILE
Caleb Williams, stepping to the starting line Sunday on West Lafayette’s Straley Field track, had been eyeing this day for more than a year.
In July 2022, Williams, a former track and cross country standout at Harrison High School, ran a 4:44 mile on Purdue’s track – while juggling three balls, roughly the size of hacky sacks, on each of the four, quarter-mile laps.
That put him a second behind the fastest mile time while “joggling” listed by Guinness World Records, set in 1986. It also was a couple of seconds off the 4:42:36 joggling record recognized in 2003 by the International Jugglers Association.
Williams – a Purdue senior on the university’s cross country and track teams and an avid joggler since his high school days – had already run a 2:10 time trial in the 800 meters, in what should have been enough to break a record that still stands at that joggling distance. But questions about track certification got in the way, he said.
“I was really close to the record last year (in the mile), so I immediately got in touch with Guinness to see what I had to do, knowing I was going to do it again this summer,” Williams said. “I had a good feeling about it this year. As long as I didn't drop anything, I knew I could kind of blow it out of the water.”
Sunday afternoon, in front of family, former West Lafayette track coach Lane Custer and a handful of Purdue teammates ready to sign affidavits marking his time, Williams came through.
His time, waiting for certification: 4:36:78.
“Now, we just wait,” Williams said. “This is just a wacky thing I like to do. It’s fun, no matter what happens.”
Here’s the first of two videos documenting Williams’ joggling run:
Juggling started for the 2020 Harrison grad in 2014, when the International Jugglers Association brought its festival to Purdue that summer. Williams’ dad, Jeff Williams, said Custer had invited the family to check out the 34th annual International Joggling Championships, taking place on Purdue’s Rankin Track and Field Complex as part of the festival.
Joggling is similar to a track meet, except that balls or clubs need to be juggled every step of the run. Runners who drop a ball have to retrace their steps to when they lost control and pick up the race from there. And competitors have to finish the race in full control of the objects they’re juggling.
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Jeff Williams said they missed the joggling races at Rankin that year. But he said Caleb was taken by the juggling at the rest of the festival.
“He went home that night and taught himself to juggle,” Jeff Williams said. “He just has always been very good at it.”
Caleb Williams said the joggling came later, inspired by watching Cooper Williams, a standout distance runner at West Lafayette and at Indiana University. While still running for West Side, Cooper Williams was encouraged by Custer to give joggling a shot and won the three-ball 1,600-meter race in 5:45.40 at that Purdue meet.
“I was, like, I know how to juggle and I like to run – this sounds like something fun to get into,” Caleb Williams said. “Cooper was this big local runner that we all knew about. He’s probably the biggest reason I do this.”
Caleb Williams said that he set up his first mile time trials at the old track on West Lafayette High School’s campus while he was still in high school. He said Custer invited Cooper Williams to come watch. Caleb Williams dropped a ball during one lap and had to chase it under a chain-link fence that lined the track. He still came in with a better pace than Cooper Williams had set at the Purdue meet a few years earlier.
“I don’t know if he’d remember saying this to me or not, but he told me that someday I should go for the record,” Caleb Williams said. “That was huge for me, coming from him. But I’m sure he doesn’t remember that.”
Cooper Williams, graduated from IU and now living in Nashville, Tennessee, said he, in fact, does remember saying that. He said he doesn’t remember the time Caleb posted that day, but he remembers the ball finding its way under the fence and Caleb chasing it down.
“After I saw that, it was very obvious Caleb could break that world record,” Cooper Williams said Monday. “And now it has happened.”
And one more view:
After Sunday afternoon’s joggling record attempt, Caleb Williams went to meet coaches ahead of the season at Purdue. (“He initially thought I was going to say I ran the world record for the beer mile,” Caleb Williams said.) On Monday, he helped his sister move some things into her place before the start of the semester.
And while he’ll still juggle pins and balls as a hobby, he set aside joggling for the start of training for the cross country season. He said he won’t pick that up again until after the track season in the spring, where he specializes in the 3K steeplechase. (For the record: His personal record in the mile, minus juggling balls, was 4:10 during an indoor meet last year.)
He said he’ll schedule another time trial for himself next summer. And he’ll continue to organize an 800-meter joggling race as a counselor at the All-Star Cross Country Camp in Anderson.
“It’s just trying to teach all the kids and get them to try it, because it’s so much fun,” Caleb Williams said.
For now, Caleb Williams said he’s gathering photos, video and signed documentation for the Guinness folks. He said he doesn’t expect to hear confirmation for another three months. But he said he’s hoping it’s enough.
And if it’s not? He said he knows the time he posted, had plenty of people there to watch him and had fun doing it in a singlet he and his brother, Jake, designed years ago as a goof: “Williams Bros. Gas Station Sushi Shop.”
“It’s one of those things so if anyone asks for a fun fact,” Caleb Williams said. “It’s kind of funny to say, ‘Ever heard of joggling?’ It would be pretty funny to say, ‘Yeah, I hold the record.’”
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