Maybe it’s a runner thing.
A much younger me remembers my dad castigating Minnesota Vikings’ players for cliche post-game interview answers, suggesting he, or me — if given the opportunity — ought to provide off-the-wall answers to the stupid questions lobbed by media members.
I never made it to the NFL (sorry, Dad), but Norway’s wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen must have heard the call.
And I love it.
In a world where offering one’s two-cents to the press can seemingly alter your life, or at least ruin your week, Jakob — the youngest sub-four miler in earth’s history, an Olympic gold medalist by 20, and as a 6’1 Norwegian, an anomaly in events dominated by prototypical East Africans half his size — doesn’t follow the rules when a microphone is shoved in his face. Which, as you can imagine, happens a lot.
At the Prefontaine Classic, Jakob gleefully wrote “back-to-back” on a promotional sign in the mixed zone, facetiously warning us — and his helpless competition — of his intentions (and confidence) to win a second Olympic 1500-meter gold. Assuming his goal was novel, when an astute journalist pointed out that Seb Coe accomplished the feat in 1980 and 1984, Ingebrigtsen sheepishly turned to Marketing Gal, smiled, and said, “just add one … back-to-back-to-back.”
Then, as if to warmly remind us of his humanity — since his performances have been leaving us in question lately — he slouched in the same manner a 12-year-old does when asked to wash the dishes and moaned, “Ughh, that’s going to be a difficult job.”
When he was 16, in the midst of winning an incomprehensible triple — 1500, 5000 and 3000-meter steeplechase golds — at the 2017 Norwegian Championships, Ingebrigtsen joyfully waved his arms to the crowd and then ‘dabbed’ at the finish line. When he repeated the former gesture at the 2022 World Championships, it didn’t come across as showboating, but rather a wake-up call.
“You’re at the World Championships!” he seemed to proclaim. “Get pumped up – live a little.”
To be honest, it’s the same taste his interviews leave reporters and fans with. The raw authenticity and intermittent jokes make everyone wonder if we are just lemmings walking in-step with some arbitrary mainstream social order, which Jakob is happy to make a mockery of.
Maybe that’s why Jakob is my kind of guy. Few urges coarse through my veins like the desire to be different and the carefree confidence to actually do it. There’s a close second, though, and it requires us to switch gears, metaphorically and literally: my strange obsession with mountain biking every forest service road I pass. Thankfully, I have a guy for that, too.
When I was chatting with Breck Epic founder Mike McCormack about his Vail 100, he commented on his favorite part of his new race’s course, a perch from the top of the valley complete with 360-degree views.
“There’s a couple of forest service roads that all intersect,” he described.
“And you have this moment of, ‘I wonder where that goes? Where does THAT go? Oh, this would be a great place to camp.”
Saying Mike’s sentiment resonated with me would be the understatement of the century.
“Like we drive in the car and I’m always looking around going, ‘I wonder where that trail goes? I bet you could ride that,’” he continued.
Good. I’m not the only one who scouts potential bike ride/campsite combos. Maybe it’s a biker thing.
Back to my boy, Jakob.
Walking through the world championship mixed zone after the 5000-meter prelim, another promotions agent (go figure) approached him and asked if he would finish her sentence “just like at the last meet.” Though this individual apparently believed she was ‘tight’ with the star, his blank look seemed to suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, he graciously paused and acquiesced.
“Finish this sentence,” she said as the Norwegian star impatiently waited to start his cooldown. “I can’t wait to —” and without even thinking of the career implications or potential headlines on NRK.no, Jakob said, “win” and made a gesture many teenage girls have perfected, which, when translated, means, “a … duh.”
Seconds later, he was pestered with a question about the impending heat wave for the 5000-meter final.
“No,” he said when asked if he was worried. “Hot weather is just happy weather.”
Yeah — maybe it’s a runner thing.