WELDON SPRINGS — More than two miles into a training run, Arnica Zitting became concerned that her cross country coach had not caught up to the group.
"I asked someone where he was and they said, 'He will catch up, he's just joggling,'" Arnica said.
Sure enough a few minutes later Nate Tower passed the group while joggling, the term for juggling and jogging simultaneously.
"He was making conversation like it was the easiest thing in the world," Arnica said.
Tower, an English teacher, track and cross country coach at Francis Howell High School, picked up joggling more than five years ago. On Nov. 30, he set the world record for one mile of backwards joggling for "The Book of Alternative Records." Yes, that means he juggled while jogging. For one mile. Backwards.
"It is exactly the kind of records that we want to include," Ralf Laue, owner of "The Book of Alternative Records," wrote in an email. Laue's alternative records catalog is not be confused the "Guinness World Records" book.
"We publish only those records that can be attempted by the readers," Laue said. "This means that you will not find any information about the tallest man or the oldest dog, but fun records such as the backwards joggling are the ideal categories."
Started in the 1980s in the United Kingdom, the alternative records project publishes oddities and achievements of humanity from across the globe. Some highlights include the world's largest (unused) barf bag collection (3,728), the biggest potato dumpling (804.7 pounds) and the most balloon animals modeled in one-, three-, six-, 10- and 24-hour periods (529, 827, 1,616, 2,228 and 6,176, respectively).
Tower, who lives in Ballwin, was the first person to attempt the backwards one-mile joggle for the alternative record book. He submitted a video of his attempt, along with witness testimonies, for review and verification before he could be named a record holder.
Tower was inspired to pick up the hobby after seeing someone joggle the 200-meter dash.
"I had juggled for about 15 years. I said, "I can run, I can juggle, I can do this,'" Tower said.
Tower keeps his juggling objects simple — bean bags about the size of tennis balls. After mastering juggling while walking and perfecting the front joggle, Tower decided to try it backward. He trained for about a month before his record attempt.
"I wouldn't say I went through a really rigorous training process," he said.
With students and school staff cheering him on, Tower's backward joggle mile clocked in at 8 minutes 22 seconds.
A few of Tower's cross country and track athletes have decided to try the skill, including Zitting. "I think it might help out because it helps take your mind off running," Zitting said of joggling's influence on stamina.
As colder months move in, Tower said he'll take a break from long-distance joggling to focus on new feats. He has his eyes set on some new records.
"I want to do a forward mile joggling while wearing a 40-pound weight vest and also want to do the blindfolded 100-meter joggle, but those things are way in the future, especially the blindfolded one," he said.