More than 10,000 runners from around the world participated in Saturday’s SeaWheeze Vancouver Half Marathon, and one man took a highly unconventional approach to complete the race – as if running 21.1 kilometres is not enough of a challenge.
Darren Weissman, better known as “Dr. Dribble”, crossed the finish line of the lululemon athletica-organized race in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 23 seconds, earning him a high place of 1,483 amongst all the runners, while simultaneously dribbling not one but two basketballs along the entire route.
The 32-year-old Miami personal trainer and basketball coach finished his first full marathon in 2012 at the ING Miami Marathon, an event that he entered with just a week’s notice and completed in less than 4 hours. Prior to that first full marathon, his longest race was only a five kilometre event in 2000.
He began dribbling full marathons and half marathons in 2013 when a friend dared him. In that same year, he attained the Guinness World Record for completing the feat in 4 hours, 39 minutes and 12 seconds at the Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon in Florida.
Since 2012, he has ran a total of 21 half marathons and 9 full marathons while dribbling a pair of basketballs. But surprisingly, he does not run a lot for someone who frequently participates in long-distance running events.
“I run very little compared to most marathon runners but do a lot of strength training with kettle bells and my own body weight. I also do high intense training and yoga,” Weissman told Vancity Buzz. “As a basketball trainer I am constantly demonstrating ball control drills daily so that keeps my skills sharp.”
When it comes to overcoming the biggest challenge during the race itself, he says getting through a crowded water station can be difficult because of all the puddles and cups on the ground. But staying hydrated is not a problem for him: at water stations, he simply drops down on one knee and asks a volunteer to pour water down his mouth while he keeps dribbling.
Weissman began basketball training early on during his childhood, and he thanks his father for getting him hooked to the sport when he was just six years old.
“As a kid I’d dribble a basketball to the park to play and would pretend someone was guarding me the entire time,” said Weissman. “I watched a Pistol Pete VHS and began practicing doing things with two basketballs. If something was challenging I would practice nonstop until I had mastered it. I was relentless when it came to teaching myself new things.”
But it has been anything but a journey of personal gain. When he was just 19 years old, Weissman was already giving free basketball clinics at a homeless shelter. He also coached basketball teams consisting of inner city youth, and by the age of 23 he even opened his doors to a teenager who was in trouble.
“My relationship with Jonathan Holton began with rides back and forth from practice, individual workouts, and meals. He was living in a crowded house in a rough neighbourhood and eventually asked if he could live with me,” Weissman says. “He slept on my couch the next 5 years… we worked hard and put in countless hours together and he is now a star player on scholarship at West Virginia University with realistic hopes of playing in the NBA.”
Since then, over the last two years, he created a charity called Doctor Dribble’s Helping Hands with the intention of buying brand new basketballs to provide free clinics to underprivileged, at-risk youth and let them keep the basketball so they can practice daily on their own and stay out of trouble.
“So many life lessons are learned through sports. The importance of team work, how to learn from a loss and bounce back stronger… so much can be learned from the preparation going into a game, match, or meet,” Weissman said.
“It’s important for me to always use my talents to help others. Do more of what you love and help as many people as you can along the way.”
If you missed Weissman this year, you might be able to catch him again next year – he intends to return to the Vancouver Half Marathon, which is now his new favourite race.
“Not only is Vancouver a beautiful city, lululemon had incredible yoga sessions, exclusive clothes, a runner’s brunch, and an awesome festival featuring Capital Cities,” said Weissman. “With much of the race overlooking the ocean, it was breathtaking. lululemon always has the best cheer stations at every race and this was no different. The energy from the crowd was contagious.”
Dr. Dribble’s next races are the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 12, TCS New York City Marathon on November 2, and Disney Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort California on November 16.
Feature Image: SeaWheeze Lululemon Half Marathon