The examples of libel in class today reminded me of a story that happened years ago when I was the outdoor reporter for The Honolulu Advertiser (RIP), a morning paper, and assigned to write weekly columns on sports of my choice. Surprisingly, although I would be a competitor, a good friend and counterpart at the evening paper recommended me for the job. I covered running, hang gliding, cycling, swimming, the Ironman Triathlon, etc., and so did he. I also participated in some of the sports including bicycle racing, sailing, running and long-distance swimming. My friend was a sailor, cyclist and runner.
The Ironman event captured everyone’s imagination including mine and I wrote so many stories about it I ran out of insight. So I decided I would compete in it to write from an inside point of view. By compete, I didn’t mean “be competitive and win a trophy” but merely see if I could finish a race that consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
During the nine months I trained for the race my reporter friend called frequently to see how I was doing. He would ask how training was going and I would chat away happily, giving him the inside scoop. I was training about 10-hours a day, getting physically stronger and a tad faster.
Well, I completed the race and it took me over 17 hours. The next day I ached everywhere from sheer exertion but was thrilled just to have finished. I was even more thrilled when I learned I’d won third place in my age group. I won’t say how old I was, but my age group was 40 and over.
The next day my “friend” wrote his entire column about a woman who he said “bragged to anyone who would listen about how good she was,” and chastised said woman (who, it was later determined, was me), for “running such a slow race.” (The competitive women, many years younger than me, finished in the 12-to-13-hour range.)
Our mutual friends were furious that he would write something so mean. Sadly, his rant ended our friendship. I moved away and a few years ago learned that while he was running along the Ala Wai Canal, a deranged man pushed him in, he hit his head on a rock, and died.