Run South Florida – Doctor Dribble
The 2013 New York City Marathon boasts over 50,000 finishers. So what are the chances that a local South Florida runner would be recognized in a sea of thousands? That was the case for Darren Weissman, better known as Doctor Dribble, who was recognized by the sound of his basketballs, not by his face. Around mile 18 a blind runner being escorted by another man shouted, “Do you know who that is? That’s Doctor Dribble!” Although the runner couldn’t see, he could hear the rhythm of the basketballs. The escort said, “You dribble so beautifully even a blind man can see you!” The blind man’s speed and perseverance helped Doctor Dribble push on through his own fatigue.
Doctor Dribble grew up dribbling balls whenever he had a chance. The 31 year old said, “I would dribble to a friend’s house or to the park to play. If the basketball court was being used I would practice ball control drills while waiting.” This love of basketball led him to become a basketball trainer and skills specialist in which he develops skills such as footwork, shooting, passing and, of course, dribbling for clients. He works with kindergarteners all the way up to NBA players. As Doctor Dribble says, “I teach anyone that is aspiring to improve. Regardless of their level I’m always challenging them to do things that are either new or uncomfortable. It’s the only way to grow.”
Taking his own advice and doing something new or uncomfortable may have motivated Doctor Dribble to run his first marathon. While having always been active, at age 29 Doctor Dribble noticed he had let himself go a bit. He decided to make fitness a priority and dedicated 6 months to eating healthy and training. Happy with the results, he then wanted to sign up for the 2012 Miami Marathon. However, it was only 10 days away. Having never run a marathon before, let alone more than 3 consecutive miles in his life, he registered for his first marathon, against the advice of family and friends. With a finishing time of 3:57:53, he knew he had made the right decision.
With no plans of running another marathon, a friend dared Doctor Dribble to run the 2013 Miami Marathon but this time while dribbling two basketballs. Once again, it was only one week away. Doctor Dribble rose to the challenge because, to him, basketballs were an extension of his arms. “I’m more likely to lose a leg than a ball while running a marathon.” Not knowing what to expect from fellow participants, he was pleased with the reaction other runners gave him. They found him to be inspirational. He kept them entertained and was even used as a pacer by some runners. “I could see spectators getting excited every time I would pass by. I fed off their energy”.
Little did he know that while running the Miami Marathon he had unofficially broken a Guinness World Record for being the fastest marathon man while dribbling two basketballs. Since he had not filed the papers ahead of time, it did not count. To make it official, two weeks later Doctor Dribble ran the Ft. Lauderdale A1A Marathon while raising money for the charity Our Kids. With the time of 4:39:12 he became a Guinness Book of World Record Holder. But, for Doctor Dribble, raising money for charity was more rewarding than breaking any world records. It was a win win situation and he was hooked! “I decided I would continue racing with basketballs for charity while entertaining and inspiring runners and spectators along the way.”
Doctor Dribble hasn’t looked back since. Not only does he strive to inspire others but he makes it his mission to help them. Besides being a basketball trainer and skills specialist, he is also a personal trainer at Newton’s Method in Miami. There he works individually with clients to help them achieve their goals. His personal life is no different. Doctor Dribble took care of a boy throughout all four years of the boy’s high school. Although Doctor Dribble was only 23 years at the time, he opened his doors and allowed this boy to live with him. “I took care of him, fed him, trained him, and mentored him.” The boy was disadvantaged; living in a crowded single parent home in a tough inner-city neighborhood. With the help of Doctor Dribble, he went to college on a full basketball scholarship and hopes to become a pro.
Inspiring and helping others has led Doctor Dribble to work with numerous charities, most of which are for less fortunate children. Doctor Dribble’s dream of having his own charity has become a reality. He created Doctor Dribble’s Helping Hands. Its mission is to reach out to children either underprivileged or in distress and donate brand new basketballs to them. “Basketball is a healthy outlet that will motivate children to keep them out of trouble, stay in school, and get good grades.”
Along the course, Doctor Dribble has gained inspiration from others as well. At the 2014 Walt Disney World Half Marathon a double amputee running on prosthetic legs asked to dribble one of Doctor Dribble’s balls. “We dribbled together for about 30 seconds. All of the runners surrounding us began cheering as if we were crossing the finish line! The man began smiling from ear to ear as the applause got louder. I’ll never forget that moment.”
What started out as a dare has led to Doctor Dribble racing for charities almost every weekend. He has run multiple marathons, half marathons as well as local 5Ks. Of course he always runs while dribbling. He most recently ran the 2014 Miami Marathon where he set a new PR of 4:16:12 and soon to be approved Guinness World Record. Things didn’t go quite as well at the 2014 Ft. Lauderdale A1A Marathon. “My legs felt very heavy from the beginning.” He ended up walking and dribbling the last 14 miles. It was no longer a marathon for Doctor Dribble, but a test of resilience. “I don’t consider it a bad race. Anyone that crosses a finish line should be proud of their accomplishment. The adversity I faced in Ft. Lauderdale was a test of character and heart.”
Besides the obvious difficulties that come with running and dribbling- sore shoulders and black hands- there are also some less obvious side effects. If it’s cold out, “my fingertips go numb and hands feel like stone. If the wind gets bad I need to dribble very low and it takes a tremendous toll on my neck, back, and wrists.” Water stations can be quite messy, and comical, as volunteers pour water down his mouth to keep him hydrated all while he continues to dribble. Even this seasoned runner sometimes gets jitters before a race, “Especially when I begin at the very front of the starting line.” However, none of these deterrents stop him. Knowing that running these races is making a difference keeps Doctor Dribble motivated to move forward.
So the next time a friend dares you to a challenge, give it your best shot. You never know how it will change your life, and the life of someone else.
If you want to donate to Doctor Dribble’s Helping Hands you can do so by going to his website: www.doctordribble.com
Checks and brand new basketballs can be sent to:
Doctor Dribble’s Helping Hands
16615 SW 82 Court
Palmetto Bay, FL 33157
You can follow Doctor Dribble on Facebook or Twitter @doctordribble
Author: Daniella Draughon