My post last week about Peter Sagal got me thinking. Because not only have I read about his marathon exploits, I’ve actually seen him running on the Chicago Lakefront.
It was a Sunday morning and I was out for the start of a gentle 12-mile run, and he was headed the other way on the path. I totally had a star-struck, brain-freeze moment, too: First, I noticed him, then my brain realized that I had seen him somewhere before, then the pieces fell together and I knew him, but the rush of recognition hit so quickly that it failed to bring me his name at the same time. You can’t really accost someone and tell them you love their work if you can’t also call them by name.
He can’t get recognized all that often. He is, after all, a radio personality. I had just finished reading his book, too (“The Book of Vice”). It made me laugh out loud more than once. Plus, with the whole running angle, I was fully armed to chat him up and praise him well. My only trouble might have been trying to keep up with him on the run if he decided to drop me. (The little Boston-qualifying speed demon.)
But he isn’t the only fame-touched person I’ve seen while running. In fact it’s happened a number of times.
Lisa Ling once popped out onto the path in front of me near Oak Street Beach. Petite Asian girl in a Miami Heat basketball jersey. I remembered reading something where she said that she likes to wear a Duane Wade shirt while running. I recognized her right away, but even if I’d wanted to say “hello” to her, she was way too fast for me. I was doing 8:30s that day and she blazed off at an easy 7 clip.
By far the most frequent sighting I’ve had in Chicago is of our governor, Rod Blagojevich. He lives a little west of my neighborhood (he refused to transplant his family to the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield) and I’ve seen him running at least a half dozen times, in a handful of different locations. I'm sure they have him vary his route every time out just for general security. The first time I saw him was a sunny summer afternoon. I was on the sidewalk and he was running in the street. I made eye-contact with him as he ran by, and he gave me a little runner’s greeting thumbs-up. Then a few moments later it hit me "Hey, that was the Governor!" He's got the most uncomfortable, loping, knee-lifting stride I think I’ve ever seen. Every time I’ve seen him since, I can always tell it’s him from a ¼ mile away because of that painful gait. Well, that and the security guy riding a few yards behind him on a bicycle.
I also saw the Illinois State Treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias, on the path just north of Irving Park Road. He wasn’t running, but I was. He had his bike out and was standing near the parking lot seemingly waiting for a lady friend. He’s a young guy. Younger than me, even, and he's taller and beefier than he looked in his campaign commercials. He looked like he must have played football in high school or something. I couldn’t place him at first, either (taking people out of their context, you know). I was convinced I knew him from one of my freelance jobs, or something, and I gave him a purposeful, friendly nod. He kind of looked back at me like I was purple. Hours later I figured out who he was.
As far as recognizing people, I once saw former Atlanta Brave and fan-favorite catcher, Eddie Perez jogging the street of the city. He stopped for a traffic light right next to me and the first thing that ran through my head was, “hey, that guy looks just like Eddie Perez!” Then it hit me that the Braves were actually in town to play the Cubs and suddenly I realized, wait, that IS Eddie Perez, but the light had already changed and he was off down the street.
My most surreal sighting actually happened at O’Hare Airport. The terminal was especially crowded on my way home from a family holiday. I was walking on the edge of the crush, near a bay of windows, when a rather tall, heavy-set, black man in an elegant business suit literally trotted past me. I knew him instantly: Jesse Jackson. Yes, himself, the man (Green Eggs and Ham). He had no bags or luggage, and he was, like, doing laps or something in the terminal – the very crowded terminal. Or maybe he was just trying to avoid being stopped by any admirers in the airport. He kept his trotting pace far down the concourse until I finally lost sight of him. Just strange.
I’ve also seen a few people who are actually famous as runners. One-time U.S. 10K champ, Katie McGregor, jogged past me once on a sidewalk in Lakeview. Her shock of red hair made her unmistakable. I ran a trail ultra in 2007 that super-elite ultramarathoner, Karl Meltzer was also in. (He lapped me twice (!)on that looped course). And, best of all, I managed to be in New York City last November to see the U.S. Men’s Olympic Marathon trials. I had goose bumps watching Ryan Hall power his way around Central Park in the late miles of the race.
So, tell me! What famous footers have you seen running or while running?