Ever since I started courting German tower running/backward running champion Thomas Dold to answer a few questions, I never stopped to wonder what probably should have been an obvious question.

Does he even speak English?

My travels in Germany taught me that most Germans not only speak English, they can tell whether or not you speak English a mile down the street and will be sure to greet you in your native tongue. It seemed preposterous that Dold, the five-time winner of the Empire State Building Run-Up, wouldn’t know enough English to answer a few of my silly questions.

But late last night, I worried I was wrong. Although Dold has an English version of his Web site, he still speaks German in all the videos on the site. What if that English-written version was only for foreign journalists and English-speaking tower running enthusiasts?

For a moment, I thought I had a concrete reason why Anyone Can Enter was failing to score its first big interview. I wanted to believe that it had nothing to do with the fact that Dold is a star athlete with little time to worry about a start-up blog, especially one in which its most-viewed post is an entry detailing the creation of a potato car.

I ran to my computer, only to find several YouTube videos of Dold speaking English the same way he climbs stairs—quickly, efficiently, with total ease.

Turns out, however, that I was right to believe in some form of a translation error. And I have a junk e-mail to thank.

Thanks to those geniuses at Google, I’ve barely seen a trace of junk mail in the past 6 years. Geniuses or not, Google can’t stop every e-marketing spammer from slipping through my filters. So when I had an e-mail labeled COMPARE THESE FORKLIFT PRICES AND SAVE in my inbox this morning, it hit me: I contacted Dold through a form on his Web site. A German Web site. Since I had not contacted him directly from my e-mail, Gmail must have figured that an e-mail from Dold would be no more valuable than a solicitation from an illegal viodin dealer.

My heart raced as I opened Gmail. For the first time in years, I went to my spam folder not to giggle about the promise of an extra 10 inches. Nope. I was on a mission, and I’d hit the jackpot. 617 junk messages awaited me. And all I needed was one from Dold. I loved my odds as I typed his name into the search bar. Somewhere in this folder, hidden between an offer for a free credit report and a great deal on a timeshare, I could have a note from a world famous athlete. This was the equivalent of keeping a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth in your dirty clothes bin.

One click later, I saw exactly what I wanted to see:

Thomas Dold–Re: contact enquiry from http://www.thomas-dold.com–Apr 5

Immediately, I pumped my fist and somehow stopped myself from screaming “Yessssss!” in the middle of the office. Suppressing my delight forced me to look closer at that subject line.

April 5. Oh crap! That was exactly two days before I posted a video practically begging Dold to critique my stair climbing form. In all, it was the fourth Anyone Can Enter post solely dedicated to Dold, including an open letter and a cry for my readers to contact Dold on my behalf.

In all my excitement about staring this blog, perhaps I’d gone too far. Asking a guy to do an interview is one thing. Posting a video of yourself, sweat-drenched and asking him to do you a favor, borders on obsession.

Suddenly, I was mortified, embarrassed by my recent blogging exploits. I could see my college journalism professors shaking their heads, groaning in disapproval of the disgrace I’d bestowed upon their profession. I had failed them, all for the sake of a few pointless blog posts, by antagonizing my source.

It’s amazing how quickly one’s emotions can change. Ten seconds before, I couldn’t wait to open that e-mail. Ten seconds later, my index finger was paralyzed. Maybe, I thought, this was just one of those automatic response e-mails. I’d click on it and see a message informing me that, due to his intense training schedule and lack of availability, Mr. Dold is unable to respond to notes from fans and deranged bloggers.

I clicked it open, and after days of anticipation, I was finally staring at a personal note from the fastest stair climber in the world.

And he wasn’t exactly thrilled. And I felt like a used sneaker.

Yes, he received my e-mail. And the note from his manager. And he’d seen the blog posts encouraging strangers to flood his inbox. And he all but accused me of being the least patient person ever to contact him. And he was probably on the phone with a lawyer applying for a restraining order in advance of his next trip to the US.

Forget the autographed Babe Ruth ball in the laundry, this was Ruth holding a shotgun in his driveway, telling you to stop staring at him through his window at night. And to quit sending him love letters.

In my embarrassed state, I focused on the first few sentences so closely that I almost didn’t read the rest of the note. The part where he wished me a great race in Toronto. And the part where he agreed to answer my questions. And the part where he even added an important question, to which he added a :-).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here first. I have been emoticoned by a world-class athlete!

This is huge. Thanks to Dold, Anyone Can Enter just took an epic step towards legitimacy—towards something greater than a home for feckless musings on obscure competitions. No. Soon, it will be an actual SOURCE for obscure competitions!

But not for another couple of days. Dold’s responses deserve their own post. And I need to write a short letter of apology.

Not to Dold. To my journalism professors.

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