'Joggler' trying for marathon record

Joe Salter, 32, will be attempting a record at Sunday's Quad-Cities Marathon. The Florida man will be running all 26.2 miles backward, while juggling.

A Florida man with local ties will be impossible to miss at Sunday's Quad-Cities Marathon.

Joe Salter plans not only to run the entire 26.2-mile course while juggling, but he also will be running backward.

You read it right: running 26.2 miles backward, while juggling.

The world-record "joggler" and mental-health counselor learned to juggle from his father, Mickey Salter, who was the entertainment headliner on the Queen of Hearts riverboat in the Quad-Cities in the 1980s. The family moved from Nashville to McCausland, Iowa, when Salter was a boy, and he relocated to Florida in 1990.

"Dad worked on the Mississippi River right there in the Quad-Cities," he said Wednesday. "He juggled chain saws and bowling balls. My parents will be coming from Alabama for the marathon, and that makes it more special."

For the Salters, their son's feats are nothing new. But they won't be able to cheer him on to a Guinness World Record, which was his original plan for the Quad-Cities Marathon.

Under Guinness guidelines, every second of what Salter predicts will be a five-hour marathon has to be recorded. Several miles of the course are run on the Rock Island Arsenal, however, and officials there are forbidding videotaping on the island. No video, no record — at least for Guinness.

"The Guinness rules are pretty stringent," Salter said, adding he is not particularly disappointed to be able to discard the sticky guidelines. "I actually feel better, not having the stress."

Besides, a record is a record, and the 32-year-old's name already is in the books at modern-day record-keeping sites, such as recordsetter.com. He hopes to add Sunday's feat to his records, which include fastest time to run a mile backward while juggling (7 minutes, 32 seconds) and, get this: fastest juggling triathalon (1 hour, 57 minutes).

In other words, Salter also can juggle while swimming. Recordkeepers were so impressed, his 2012 triathalon was voted record of the year by recordsetter.com.

"Out of thousands of records last year, mine made number one," he said. "I swam a half-mile in the Gulf of Mexico, doing the backstroke while juggling three balls. I also juggled for 16.2 miles on a bike and ran and juggled for four miles."

 How does a guy figure out he can do this stuff?

"People in the juggling community have thrown it (juggling while swimming) around, jokingly," he said. "I wanted to see if I could do it. Jugglers always try to make things more difficult. That's kind of the point. I got some techniques down and trained in some rough conditions.

"It's five times harder, probably, juggling in the Gulf of Mexico than in a swimming pool."

He has only one concern about the Quad-City course: the Interstate 74 Bridge.

"They've warned me about the expansion joints," Salter said of the Moline-Bettendorf span. "I'll have to be a little lighter on my feet."

He is hopeful the adrenaline of a competitive environment helps get him through the long course, especially because he never has joggled backward so far.

"It's never been done, ever," he said of his plan. "I always like doing things first. Juggling three balls and running go perfect together. Backwards is a little more complicated."

And how do spectators and other runners respond to his peculiar brand of competing?

"Ninety-nine percent of people love it," he said. "I think it brings people's spirits up. It's joyful. I would never try to rub it in, show off. Making others feel bad is not the point.

"They (other runners) usually at least get a laugh, and I hope their being relaxed helps their race."

Race director Joe Moreno regards Salter an elite runner because of his unique on-course talents.

"I'm honored," he said of Salter's decision to stick with the Quad-Cities Marathon despite the Guinness-disqualifying sections on the Arsenal. "He had to reconsider, and I told him, 'If I was you, I'd go to Des Moines (for a marathon).' He appreciated that. A couple days later, he said, 'I'm sticking with the Quad-Cities.'

"I was thrilled."

Moreno said he never has seen anyone run a marathon backward, let alone while juggling.

"I couldn't imagine doing it forward while walking," he said. "The concentration that is required throughout the race is amazing. I saw his calves once in a photo — just a mass of muscle."