While running the marathon in the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow my image was broadcast throughout the world. Seven times NY Marathon winner Bill Rogers and Sports announcer Curt Goudy were following and commenting on my performance as I approached the halfway point in Gorky Park along the Moscow River.
That evening sitting in the bar at our hotel with other Goodwill Games athletes and the television production crew, this tall, blond, cameraman with a braided goatee started to tell the gathering about this group of World Runners, of which I was one, who were running in the marathon and capturing the attention of the crowd and the cameras.
World Runners is an international running club committed to ending hunger and poverty on the planet. They raise funds and awareness by running marathons all over the world.
The cameraman went on to tell this group of jocks about this one World Runner who was caught on camera doing some kind of Cha-cha…Hula…Rhumba type dance while clapping his hands and yelling at the crowd. Bill Rogers and Curt Goudy were fascinated and could not figure out what was going on and were commenting on how this one World Runner looked like he was either suffering from heat stroke or had just lost his mind.
At this point in the cameraman’s story he glanced over at me and suddenly shouted in front of everyone – It was you, you’re the idiot that was dancing.
What could I say? He was right. I was the idiot that was dancing and clapping and I was having the time of my life. I posed for pictures with beautiful young Russian women who smelled like cinnamon, I kissed babies with curly blond hair and I took pictures of the crowd. For sure the World Runners weren’t there to win the race, especially since the fastest human beings on the planet were competing. No, we were there for the Goodwill part of the Games. Our job was to create awareness and be ambassadors for ending hunger.
It’s not often that we human beings find ourselves in situations where we’re willing to substitute our inhibitions and self-consciousness for being present to full-contact joy and elation. This was one of those occasions where I didn’t have to think about what I was going to do or how I was going to act. It was spontaneous combustion. Pure creativity. It was a breakout moment.
Little did I know I was on television all over the world—my uncle in England was watching, my friends in Hawaii, Australia, my brother in New York, friends in Florida and family in California—they all got a jolt at seeing my little performance. Would I have acted this way knowing the cameras were on me? I don’t know. What I do know is that by breaking out of my normal routine, I was able to generate global awareness for the Hunger Project and that’s exactly what I was in Moscow to do.
To find out more about the Hunger Project go to www.thp.org.