Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
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Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

2004 Boston Marathon Photo Op

by Bob Kopac

When Freddi Carlip of Runner's Gazette Magazine asked if I was interested in a Photo Bridge assignment above the 2004 Boston Marathon finish line, I had to consider tradition. For the past several years Bob Rother, my wife Lynne, and I had traveled to Natick, MA--10.658 miles into the race--to bestow the Boston Marathon Sideshow Awards to "interesting" runners. For example, one year a running bride and groom received the "Till Heartbreak Hill Do Us Part" Award.

Many of the Sideshow Award runners we usually see at Natick would arrive at the finish line many hours later (if at all), and I knew I would not wait that long for them. Was tradition more important than this opportunity? I waited a respectful 2.5 seconds before deciding on the Photo Bridge.

However, first I had to clear security. All media personnel applying for Photo Bridge credentials had to provide a social security number for a background security check. My first thought was that identity theft might be how the race officials financed the awards money. My second thought was, would they find anything embarrassing in my past, such as my disco dancing in the '70s? Apparently not, for I cleared Boston security.

The next problem was logistics. I drove to Boston the Saturday before the race to attend a Running Network party at a Boston Harbor restaurant. Work, work, work. Bob Rother and Lynne decided to take the scenic route. A year ago, Lynne had not been able to run the NYRRC Niketown Run for the Parks race in Central Park due to severe chemotherapy side effects, so it was important for her to run that race on Sunday.

Bob Rother and Lynne took Metro North to NYC, ran the race, then traveled by Amtrak to Boston in time to join me for the pre-race pasta party. They made it, even though they were delayed at the end of the trip when authorities evacuated the Back Bay Station due to a suspicious package. They arrived to 55-degree weather.

The temperature on race day was a sunny 85 degrees-fine for spectators but miserable for the runners. The Photo Bridge consisted of a platform across Boyleston Street, with a lower wing on either side. I chose the left wing because it was covered in shade by the Boston Public Library. I was surprised that Bob "Fitz" Fitzgerald of New England Runners Magazine and I were the only ones smart enough to choose the shade. The other photographers on the platform baked in the sun while being crowded by the television cameras just to gain 15 feet in elevation. However, wouldn't one want to be closer to the runners?

From my vantage point I had a view of the giant 2-story projection screen at the end of the block. I was in Guy Heaven! All I needed was a remote control. Between the screen and the announcer's commentary at the finish line, I was able to monitor the runners' progress. The announcer also kept us informed of the Yankees-Red Sox score-although only after the Sox had tied the game.

Starting with female winner Catherine Ndereba's near collapse as she broke the tape, I witnessed many runners in dire straits because of the heat. However, one cool runner stopped one block away from the finish line and did many pushups to the delight of the crowd.

In addition to photographing elite athletes, I wanted shots of Hudson Valley participants. As Fitz said, "Needle in a haystack." I did photograph wheelchair athlete April Coughlin of New Paltz, NY as she finished in 2:08:01. I thought I had photographed Ed Fitzmaurice of Hyde Park, NY as he finished in 3:00.32 (net time), but unfortunately it was a runner with a similar bib number. I also missed Kevin Dollard of Hopewell Junction, NY in the crowd of runners finishing at that time (3:24:39 net), even though the announcer had called out Kevin's name. Afterwards I went to the runners' meeting area to photograph the elusive Ed, Kevin, Tony Ferreri of Hyde Park, NY, and Kevin Roach of Kingston, NY.

To my surprise, I did see a runner worthy of a Sideshow Award. Lynn Mueller of Lancaster, NH crossed the finish line in under 3:35 while wearing pink wings. She receives the "Angels in America" Award. Perhaps next year runners from the Hudson Valley can wear pink wings so it will be easier for me to spot them.