‘I call it the Covid handshake, he just gave me a fist bump and a smile as we passed’
Competing in the 55 years and over category at the Berlin Marathon, John Casey (58) stormed passed the 2007 Champions League winner at the mile 21 mark and ended up finishing the event eight minutes faster.
Mr Casey finished in a time of just over 3-hours and 30 minutes, and a photograph of him overtaking Kaka has blown up on social media in recent days, but he did not realise who he had passed at the time.
“I was running with the 3.30 pacer group and we passed them at mile 21,” he said.
“I call it the Covid handshake, he just gave a fist bump to me. We exchanged a fist bump as we're passing right and a smile.
“At that juncture, the crowd knew that the world record was after being beaten around at mile 21, there was a big buzz in the crowd at that point in time.
“Then the crowd were calling out his name [Kaka] and I thought no more of it and just ran on. I didn't realise that the photograph was taken at the end and look, it absolutely has gone viral like in the last 48 hours, it's been absolutely mad.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, Mr Casey said the fist bump he shared with the footballer was typical of the “inclusive” nature of runners and athletic competition in general. He said Kaka seemed “really nice” and there was “no airs and graces about him”.
“He is a world superstar, and he really had a great interaction with the crowd to be fair to him,” he added.
Mr Casey admitted that his own achievement of beating the AC Milan legend was “good going” and he thanked his trainers at Togher Athletic for helping him to prepare.
Approaching his 59th birthday, Mr Casey took up running 10 years ago and Berlin was his first marathon. He said the race was a “bucket list” event, as his son Jack lives there.
“I think the photograph has touched people on a number of levels,” he said.
“So first of all, I think the first thing people call out like, it's a great memory to have if you're doing a bucket list to be kind of photographed at that level. Second thing is there's the kind of shared pain at the marathon, definitely on both our faces.
“And I think the other thing then is there's a good bit of banter about like. You know, this bit of rebel, I'm from Cork and there's a bit of rebel grit and Irish grit in sporting grit in the kind of performance.”
“The first marathon connection as well, like to be photographed on the line by a German photographer, out of 45,000 People that entered the race is mad.”
Following the race Kaka posted a picture, on his 19 million follower Instagram account, with his medal, celebrating his 3-hour 38 minute time.
Mr Casey said the Brazilian “put in the work and deserves everything he gets from it”.