World Championships Day 6 Report: Stargazing
by M. Nicole Nazzaro
This is either a very cool story or a very lame story. Or a story about way, way too much jet lag.
In brief, tonight I met the man who more or less changed the face of Kenyan marathoning, and I almost walked away from him without realizing it. This is life at the world track and field championships.
It had been a busy day. Lots of preparation for the six finals to be contested this evening, making sure I had my athletes straight, that I wouldn’t mistake Jenny Simpson’s bouncing brown ponytail for Mary Cain’s bouncing brown ponytail in the women’s 1500m final – that sort of thing.
And then, as I approached the main media center on the grounds of the Luzhniki Stadium complex, a gentle, polite man, about my height, a few years older than me, and maybe a pound or two extra around his midriff – in short, a very pleasant-looking media-type fellow – asked me to take a photo of him with his iPad. He wanted to be in front of the stadium for one, and in front of the main media center for the other. Okay, no problem. I asked him where he was from. I guessed Jamaica. He said, “No, Kenya!” with a smile. Hint number one.
As we centered the second photograph near the media center, two Kenyan journalists emerged and embraced him warmly. That was when I realized he didn’t have a yellow media credential, but a blue IAAF Family credential. Hint number two.
Then, after I handed the gentleman his iPad, photo taken, one of the two journalists standing there asked me “Would you like me to take your picture with him?” and gestured towards the man. I wondered why this journalist would think I wanted a photo with the guy whose photo I had just taken. Hint number three.
Finally I looked at his credential more carefully.
As in, Ibrahim Hussein, the first Kenyan to win the Boston Marathon, twenty-five years ago in 1988.
And finally, the jet lag fog lifted, and I realized this was no ordinary Kenyan tourist in the middle of Moscow.
I looked at him and smiled. “You know, there is a very famous marathoner in Kenya by the name of Ibrahim Hussein,” I said. And he smiled back and said “I’ve put on a pound or two since then,” and gestured to his thoroughly normal-sized (just not elite-athlete-skinny) midriff.
Marathoning royalty, right here in a parking lot near the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Hussein won the Boston Marathon three times – twice while I was in college in Boston, so I’m sure I must have watched him run down Boylston Street at least once on Marathon Monday. But I’d never held his iPad and centered a shot of him standing proudly in front of a world championships stadium, until tonight.