A local man in the closing miles of a marathon this weekend got some encouragement from an unlikely source—the giant, ghostly head of the late actor Jerry Orbach.
"Hey, listen, you got this," the gauzy visage told Richard Wolf, 46, in Orbach's trademark sardonic delivery. "One foot in front of the other."
Orbach, perhaps best known as Detective Lennie Briscoe in TV's long-running Law & Order, died in 2004.
The head materialized somewhere between miles 23 and 24 of the Topeka (Kansas) Marathon. That was about 20 minutes after Wolf had "hit the wall, pretty hard," according to witnesses, and had slowed to a crawl, blinking hard and bumping into the runners streaming past him.
"Snap out of it!" the head growled as Wolf stopped abruptly and stared down at his shoes. "Two miles to go."
It worked. Wolf went on to finish the race, staggering across the line in 4:49, where he was met by a cheering section that included Abraham Lincoln, the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, and Edward the cat, a childhood pet.
"You saw it, right?" Wolf asked a large tank of oxygen minutes later, in the medical tent. "So beautiful. Jerry F***ing Orbach, man."
For a brief moment, the enormous floating head reappeared at the foot of Wolf's cot.
"Ouch," it said. "Looks more like the wall hit you."
Witnesses say that Wolf responded by laughing and shouting "DUN-DUN," prompting nearby medical staff to sedate him.
The ethereal, semitranslucent head could not be summoned for comment.