I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from my Rob Ford story. Before he became the most notorious politician in the world, he was just a very notorious politician, and around that time I went to find him for a story. He was trying to get in shape. I saw him running by himself, in the snow in a cotton sweatsuit, and approached him and together, we ran.
He couldn’t have been more sincere. Ford didn’t like the press but here was a journalist, at the school near his house, coming up to him while he ran, and Ford didn’t chase me away. Quite the contrary, he was gracious. When I told him I’m a runner, he asked me questions. His face was beet red and his shoes were soaking wet. He was overweight and the day was cold. The NFL playoffs were on and I’m a runner, but I wanted to go home.
Ford landed on his heels. Barely lifted his knees. But he kept going. His determination was matched only by how humble he was. Since I was there for a story, I was there with a photographer. He looked like crap. But Ford let my guy come right up to his face and snap pictures. It was an intrusion. But the Mayor didn’t seem to mind. Out there, and I say this in my book and I’m not proud to keep leeching off someone who is now deceased, but we were just a couple of schlubs running laps in a school yard on a miserable Sunday. I admired him then as much as he later repelled me during the crack tape scandal and his horrible NFL tie worn on the day he made his non-apology to the public. I certainly didn’t know him well and I absolutely can’t judge his character. But we did share a moment and go out for a run.
The Mayor became someone awful who I think did not only Toronto but all of Canada harm. On the day I met him, however, he was attempting to work his life out. He was attempting to wrestle some demons, give himself structure, battle the elements, battle temptation, battle himself—feel proud. Ford eventually gave up running and after that day his problems went from bad to worse. I feel bad for Rob Ford and feel bad for his family, for his children, for his wife.
A lot of people run to fight demons. I wish I could’ve kept him on that path.