Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
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Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

The 100th Boston Marathon Sideshow Awards

by Bob Kopac

April 15, 1996- the 100th Boston Marathon! Linda and I drove from Poughkeepsie, New York, to Natick, Massachusetts, to spectate along the marathon course. We had been hearing horror stories about the 100th: that two exits of the Massachusetts Turnpike would be closed ("The Turnpike's closed, man!"), that there would be massive traffic delays, that we should plan on leaving Poughkeepsie two full moons before the starting time just to find a place along the race course. However, the traffic was normal (i.e., typical crazed Massachusetts drivers), and we had no problems arriving at our vantage point at marathon mile 10.658 or thereabouts.

Our mission was to chronicle, as Linda wrote at the top of her pad, "crazies and MHRRC members" (which was redundant). I stood on the side of the course with a camera; Linda stood next to me with pen and paper, ready to scrawl down observations of what was about to unfold before us (e.g., any origami runners).

With 38,000+ runners, there would be a few interesting runners (interesting, as in "That's an interesting looking baby"). The start of the race was fairly normal. The wheelchair racers came flashing by on time, followed shortly by the lead runners. There were about 15 runners in the first pack, running so close together that I had to check to make sure they were not attached; but most were single (the loneliness of the long-distance runner). Then the next few packs kicked by, then Rick Hoyt ran by pushing his son in a wheelchair. The woman from the American West who eventually won the women's race (Utah Pippig) was the third-place female at that point. Linda thought she saw Amby Burfoot (sic?) but the runner didn't look sic, so it may not have been him. Then the hordes descended upon our position, and I began to bestow the following awards to the most interesting runners:

The Spirit-Of-Boston Award goes to the runner dressed in a patriot outfit because it was Patriots Day (which I didn't understand; football season had been over for quite some time, especially for the New England Patriots, and what does football have to do with running?).

The Flying-The-Flag Award is shared by the many runners flying flags from their hats or carrying flags. There were United States flags, a giant POW/MIA flag, a flag bearing the inscription "REMEMBER SHOAH", a Peace flag, and flags of various nations, including the flag of Norway painted on the face of a runner which was running (appropriately) down his face.

The Goldfinger Award goes to the runner who painted his entire body red, white, and blue.

The Braveheart-But-Cold-Unmentionables Award goes to a kilt-wearing runner.

The There-Will-Always-Be-An-England Award goes to the runner dressed as the Queen of England, unless it was actually the queen (no professionals allowed), in which case the award goes to the two runners wearing British-flag shorts and Bobbie hats.

The Federal-Witness-Relocation-Program Award goes to the runner who wore a fake beard.

The Carrot-And-Shtick Award goes to the runner who ran with a stick extending in front of his head; a beer can dangled on a string from the stick. He would reach for the can and thus increase his speed--it's a simple law of physics.

The Just-Looking-For-Romance Award goes to the runner dressed in a harlequin outfit--how novel! (Harlequin Romance Novel, get it? I hate when I have to explain.) Runner-up is Marathon Dave in a court jester outfit. (No, not Letterman. This guy was funny.)

The Eat-Cheese-Or-Die Award goes to the Cheesehead runner (or, because of cholesterol, the Eat-Cheese-And-Die Award).

The No-Guts-No-Glory and No-Brains-All-Pain Awards go to the masochistic runner who ran barefoot--after 26 miles he would be totally paranoid after trying to keep his feet from being stepped upon by 76,000+ feet! The runner-up is the runner who ran with his left arm in a sling. Honorable Mentions go to the runner who ran with an icebag stuffed inside his sock and the runner dressed as an American Indian who ran backwards.

The Even-Runners-Look-Ridiculous-Wearing-Polyester Award goes to the runner wearing a golf shirt, while the Quasimoto Award goes to the runner wearing sleigh bells ("The bells!").

The Crustacean-On-The-Brain Award goes to the person running with a lobster on his head.

The No-Truth-In-Advertising Award goes to the runner wearing a "Stud Muffin" T-shirt. Runners-up for this award are also the winners of the Kodak-Moment Award: two Japanese runners who stopped in front of us. One runner then ran further down the course, turned around and took a picture of the second runner doing his impression of Marcel Marceau running at full speed.

The Miracle-Bra-Uplifting Award goes to the many propeller-heads. The race officials penalized each propeller-head by adding 15 minutes to their times, because each of these runners, being lifted up off the ground by the propeller, could run more easily. Also penalized was a clown in full pancake makeup running with helium balloons and a runner wearing a hot-air-balloon hat.

The Head-Of-Beer Award goes to the two runners wearing inflatable beer-mug hats. The Until-Heartbreak-Hill-Do-Us-Part Award goes to the running bride-and-groom. The Millennium Award goes to the runner with the shaved head which was marked with strange New-Age hieroglyphics (unless it was a map of all the port-a-johns on the course).

The I've-Got-The-Blues-From-Wearing-Black Award goes to the two runners dressed as Jake and Elwood and who probably wished that the Blues Brothers had dressed in white or in mesh.

The It's-A-Living Award goes to the runners who distributed flyers to the spectators while running. Runner-up goes to the running waiters (great bow-ties). Honorable Mention goes to the erst-while entrepreneur wearing a T-shirt which read "YOUR AD HERE!" (He must not have been able to get a Nike or Power Bar endorsement.)

The Yakuza Award goes to the shirtless runner with multiple tattoos (not one of which was "YOUR AD HERE").

The Run-With-The-Sharks Award goes to the runner with the aerodynamic shark-fin hat.

The Go-To-Church/Church-To-Go Award goes to the runner who ran with an eight-foot tall church steeple strapped to his back. A sign on the side of the church said he had carried it in the Bays-To-Breakers race, proving that runners never learn.

The UnBEARably-Cute Award goes to the runner who strapped a blue teddy bear to his head. Runners-up are the runner with a yellow rubber ducky strapped to his head and the runner wearing bunny ears (he just keeps going and going).

The Magnum-P.N.(Private Nerd) Award goes to the runner wearing a Hawaiian shirt and black socks. Runner-up is the male runner wearing a grass hula skirt.

The Faster-Than-A-Speeding-Ticket Award goes to the Superman/Superwoman runners.

The Hapi-On-The-Outside Award goes to the frowning Japanese runner wearing a hapi coat.

The This-Could-Be-Heaven-Or-This-Could-Be-Heartbreak-Hill Award goes to the woman dressed as an angel, complete with wings and a prayer, er, halo. Runner-up is the red-devil runner.

The I-Report-It-I-Don't-Explain-It Award goes to the runner who carried a four-foot inflatable banana. Runner-up is the runner who wore gift bows on his shoulders as epaulets.

The I-Shot-An-Elephant-In-My-Running-Shorts Award goes to the runner who ran dressed as Groucho Marx. Runner-up is the individual wearing fake glasses/nose/mustache.

But isn't this an article about the Mid-Hudson Valley runners? Linda's last entry on the pad is "Did we miss everyone but Jim Smith and Bob Wright?" Yes, it's hard to believe that Linda and I saw the backs of only two local runners; after all, there were only 38,000+ runners to scan--I looked at all the female runners and Linda handled the rest. The Mid-Hudson runners must have decided to party early, keeping with the spirit of the Molson Icers and the Brew Crew!

We may have missed a local runner. Many runners slapped hands with the spectators along the course. Right in front of us were several youngsters who high-fived the passing runners. A somewhat-familiar-looking runner flashed by, high-fived a young girl, and was gone. The girl turned in dismay to her father and wailed "He was slimy!" That's when we knew it was one of our runners!

Footnote: While waiting for the runners to appear, I read an item from the 4/14/96 Boston Sunday Globe that made my blood run cold: "According to Emptage (Rosie Ruiz's boss), he offered Ruiz a chance to redeem herself soon after Boston, giving her a paid leave of absence to go train for an upcoming marathon in upstate New York." (The highlighting (and horror) is mine!) Could Rosie Ruiz have contemplated running the Dutchess County Classic?!! I think not--we don't have subways!