Beloved Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin William died Aug. 11 in his California home from a tragic suicide.
Williams was known for his roles in “Good Will Hunting,” “Dead Pets Society,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and as the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin.” But as the world mourns an icon that was able to make us laugh to the point of tears, the running community will mourn the loss of a fellow runner.
“I love running cross-country … on the track I feel like a hamster,” Williams once said.
The stand-up comedian ran cross-country track in high school, running 800 meters in 1:58.8 in 1969. That same year his relay team in high school held the 4 x 400-meter school record in California with the time of 3:21.7. Redwood High held that record for decades.
He also competed in the Dispea Race in 1984, finishing in 232nd place out of 1,375 runners.
During his stand-up performances, he would talk about running. He joked that people don’t need cocaine, but rather they should just run for the same—and cheaper— high. His bit includes how in the first few miles, runners feel fabulous. After eight miles, your body doesn’t feel too good, and after 26 miles, you are asking yourself why did this?
Warning: graphic language
He opened his first “Saturday Night Live” monologue with jokes about the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. He brought joy to many, not only through his roles and performances, but also through his heart-warming compassion. Williams narrated a group of videos for the Olympics titled “Celebrate Humanity” in 2002, where we refused to be paid. He was an active voice for 20 years with the Challenged Athletes Foundation that provides opportunities to athletes with disabilities.
“He truly found joy in participating side-by-side with our challenged athletes and we cannot thank him enough for the support and energy he brought to our organization,” the organization writes.
Last year, Williams was asked what sports movie he was make that has not yet hit the big screen and he told the Dan Patrick Show that he would explore the story of Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian who won the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon barefoot.
Williams’ untimely death at age 63 was announced a suicide on Tuesday. He hung himself with a belt in his San Francisco Bay Area bedroom, and had cuts on his wrist. He was found by his personal assistant.
The man who made us all laugh and brought us so much joy suffered from his private sadness of depression. He was a recovering drug and alcohol addict, who recently was treated for a relapse after 20 years sober.
Robin Williams touched all our hearts—even the heart of the gorilla Koko. Koko is the famous gorilla that is fluent in sign language that is taken care of by the California-based Gorilla Foundation, The Woodside. Williams visited the foundation in 2001, making the gorilla smile for the first time in months.
“Not only did Williams cheer up Koko,” a Foundation spokesperson said, “but Williams similarly seemed transformed — from a high-energy entertainer, into a mellow, sensitive, empathetic guy, who also happened to be really funny.”
After Koko found out about his passing, the gorilla “became very somber, with her head bowed and her lip quivering.” This video made me tear up as we celebrate the joy that Robin Williams bought to all walks of life. While he is no longer with us, the joy that the adored comedian, actor, runner and ambassador of good will brought to us will continue to run in our hearts.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”- Robin Williams