Waldo, the striped-shirt-wearing star of the “Where’s Waldo?” book series, is famously hard to find, but children in Gahanna are making easy work of it.
Residents near High Point Elementary School, 700 Venetian Way, have spotted the character running from Theori Avenue to the Rose Run area and Bryn Mawr.
Dressed in a red-and-white-striped shirt, bobble hat and glasses, John Romot, a Theori Avenue resident, made his inaugural run as Waldo on April 19.
With families stuck inside because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, his running has been a welcome distraction, especially in the neighboring Souder household.
“Go, Waldo, go!” screamed Fiona Souder, a 6-year-old High Point first-grader, and her brother, Lucas, 4, as they peered out the window and jumped up and down with excitement at the start of a recent run.
“I always alert Colleen (Fiona and Lucas’ mother) when he’s running, and the kids watch for him,” said Aly Romot, John’s wife. “Our neighbors’ kids love Waldo.”
John Romot, 34, said he got the idea to dress up after seeing a news story about a Columbus running club in which members dressed in colorful clothes.
“I thought a better idea would be to dress up in a costume for the neighborhood kids and also give other runners I go by a laugh,” he said. “I used to look through those (“Where’s Waldo?”) books all the time. I have seen more than a few people take pictures or videos, which makes me happy. I love a good head turn as I run up on people who don’t see me coming.”
When he’s dressed as Waldo, Romot said, it helps him keep a faster pace.
“The faster pace is to make sure kids see me running with enthusiasm and not like I am on my last breath,” he said.
Romot, who works as finance business lead for Nationwide Insurance, said he started running when he was in high school.
“I stopped for a while and then picked it back up before my wedding and then again last year,” he said. “It’s a good outlet for me to relieve stress and listen to music without kids.”
He said he listens to oldies, such as 1950s and ’60s music, or alternative rock bands Imagine Dragons or Fall Out Boy.
Aly Romot said her husband mowed their lawn as Waldo in the Gahanna Green neighborhood April 18.
The British series of children’s books created by illustrator Martin Handford include detailed illustrations depicting dozens of people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location.
Readers are challenged to find Waldo hidden in the group.
“Our neighborhood friends with kids watched him (mow) and lost their minds over it,” Aly Romot said. “His intention was always to run in (costume) to make people smile. I posted it on Unite Gahanna and was surprised to see so many people saw him and commented.”
“I love this,” wrote Britney Nicole on the Unite Gahanna Facebook page. “I love that people are doing silly things like this to make people smile.”
A video posted by Aly Romot shows Waldo running down the sidewalk as daughter Gloria, 3, yells, “Hi, Daddy!” Romot responds, “It’s not Daddy, it’s Waldo!”
Gloria replies, “Hi, Waldo.”
The couple have lived in Gahanna since May 2014, and they have a younger daughter, Emma, 19 months.
John Romot said no children have tried to catch him on his 3- to 5-mile runs that he makes about every three days.
“Parents have been outside with their kids waving,” he said. “I plan to run as (Waldo) through the summer, if possible. I have plans to ask some other neighborhood runners if they want to join me in costumes – running at a distance, of course.”
Romot said he hopes to run in the Aug. 29 OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus.