Published : Thursday, March 21, 2019 | 5:10 AM
If you know Pasadena then you likely know the white-bearded runner Haik Zakarian, who at 75, still clocks the miles around town and is known as “The Running Man of Pasadena.”
A documentary film about him was one of the featured shorts at the Pasadena International Film Festival, which wraps up with a gala event Thursday night, March 21.
The Festival’s opening night films were presented in the block, “The City of Roses and the American Dream” with the feature-length documentary “Band Geeks,” and the short films “Out of the Shadows” and “The Running Man of Pasadena.”
“The Running Man of Pasadena” was directed by Brett Nicoletti, who saw in Zakarian an interesting subject.
“I am a runner myself and I always look at runners,” Nicoletti said. Nicoletti is originally from the Boston area. “I moved to Pasadena with my family in 2006. And as a runner, I kind of stare at other runners and this particular gentleman popped out. He’s an older, bronzed man who wears colorful clothing that says ‘Running Man of Pasadena,’ and I noticed him pretty much as soon as I moved here.”
“I would see him on one side of the city to the next side of the city,” Nicoletti said. “I would see him all over town. And I was always curious about his running and how far he went. I was curious, it certainly appeared he was always running and always everywhere.”
The film covers Zakarian’s attempt at the LA Marathon and the support he receives from the people who recognize him from seeing him on his beloved Pasadena streets.
“The other endearing quality is he is just so gregarious, you know the locals know him and are familiar with him,” Nicoletti said. “He regularly gets horn honks and he doesn’t necessarily recognize the person in the car, but he is just big smiles and waves to anybody who is willing to say hi to him.”
Zakarian is retired, he came here in the 1970s as a refugee from Lebanon. He got a job and working in the auto body field, sticking with what he did for work in Lebanon. He learned the English language and moved to Pasadena to work. Work ended and since then, he’s retired, Zakarian has been running ever since.
“The Pasadena Running Man” is a story to which many in the world can relate.
“It’s an American story at its root,” Nicoletti said. ” I would say I was very interested in the running and the fitness part of it. But at the end of the day, what I really got out of it was that this is a success story for somebody who wanted to live in America.”
Nicoletti’s resume shows well-known TV ads to his credit, he’s an editor who by day splices together film and video for the most impact. But “The Running Man of Pasadena” is perhaps his best-known subject.
“He really he just loves to run,” Nicoletti said. “He’s happiest when he’s out there. He loves the people of Pasadena and loves to be out. ”
But lately, Nicoletti relayed, Zakarian has taken up swimming, which is easier on his body.
“Running has taken a bit of a toll on him,” Nicoletti said. “He’s got a little arthritis in his hip so he’s dialing it back a little bit.”
But Zakarian will not give up. And armed with his attitude and a new sport to try, he may soon become the “Swimming Man” of Pasadena.