Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
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Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

Boston Marathon 2005 Photo Op

by Bob Kopac

For the second year in a row, Freddi Carlip of Runner's Gazette Magazine offered me the Photo Bridge assignment above the Boston Marathon finish line. I guess Freddi tolerated my eclectic photos from last year, including one of Lynn Mueller of Lancaster, New Hampshire finishing while wearing pink wings. Here then, are my random impressions of the 2005 Boston Marathon.

Once again I had to clear security. All media personnel applying for Photo Bridge credentials have to provide a social security number for a background security check. I kept checking my bank account balance, in case identify theft might be how the race officials finance the award money. I cleared security, so they missed my having removed the "Do not remove" tag from my mattress--so much for Homeland Security.

Lynne and I drove to West Natick the day before the race and took a train to Boston's Back Bay area. I didn't want to drive in Boston, and I didn't want to pay $32 per day for parking at our hotel. It was our lucky day, for the train was packed with people going to the Red Sox game, and for some reason the train conductor never collected money from the passengers. Perhaps he was a Sox fan?

While at the Copley Plaza Hotel to pick up my photo pass, I spotted Kathrine Switzer. I confess that I acted like a stalkarazzi and accosted Kathrine for a photograph. Fortunately, she graciously consented to be photographed instead of calling the police and ruining my security clearance.

This year's Runner's Expo featured a black wall with the names of all marathon entrants. Runners searched for their names and took photos of the wall using cell phone cameras. One company offered a poster of the Boston Marathon finish line; in the background were the names of this year's entrants.

The booth for the Las Vegas Marathon featured a model dressed as a Vegas showgirl. She was very personable; I spent a lot of time talking with her about the Las Vegas marathon and about her modeling career. Work, work, work. I was surprised to discover she was a real person! I never saw anyone who looked like her in my high school when I was growing up; I always thought these women were computer-generated.

At the Utica Boilermaker booth, Mary MacEnroe said that Don Kardong and Greg Meyer would be inducted into the Running Hall of Fame at this year's Boilermaker. General Motors is a new sponsor of the Boilermaker. Mary said that when Greg Meyer saw the GM sign at the press announcement, he said he was impressed that they displayed his initials so prominently!

At the Runners World shoe clinic, instead of reading my palm, they read my foot pressure points. I discovered that I have been wearing the wrong size shoe. Instead of size 9, the printout said I should wear a size 17. Due to a cracked computer chip, all men's readings came out as size 17, and all female readings came out as size 18. Perhaps this is how Bigfoot came into existence.

Since Lynne and I had thought the food at the 2004 pre-race pasta party was average, we decided to skip the dinner. However, when we attempted to make restaurant reservations in the Back Bay area, we were told there was a wait of up to 4 hours. We decided the pre-race pasta party sounded pretty good after all. Thus, instead of arriving at the dinner at 4:30 PM, we arrived at 7 PM, and the queue was not long. As we waited in line with RRCA director-at-large John and his spouse Stephanie Farrow, an Elvis Presley lookalike on stilts entertained the crowd. There also was a band playing music, and, before we knew it, we were inside the food tent. Lesson learned: to avoid long lines, arrive later instead of earlier at the pasta party. I thought the food was much better this year, or else hunger and limited options helped improved the food. One tip: Do not sit near the loudspeakers. I said, DO NOT SIT NEAR THE LOUDSPEAKERS!

Afterwards, we went to the finish line on Boyleston Street. The street was closed to traffic, and many people were milling around, creating a festive party atmosphere. It was the only way I will ever cross the Boston Marathon finish line.

At 9:30 AM the morning of the race, we went to a chain restaurant for breakfast. The waitress said they did not serve breakfast, but we could have a hamburger. For breakfast? She said people in Boston usually do not eat breakfast. We then wandered over to Newberry Street, where we found a tea restaurant that had an egg sandwich listed on the menu. However, whenHoHhh we tried to order egg sandwiches, the waiter said they did not serve egg sandwiches until after 11 AM. Huh?

Back at our hotel room, Lynne and I watched the start of the Boston Marathon on TV before going to our positions on the course. CBS Channel 4 had a great shot of a runner who wore a T-shirt reading, "In my mind, I believe I'm a Kenyan."

This year, the 25th anniversary of Rosie Ruiz's being disqualified for cheating, second-place finisher Jacqueline Gareau finally was able to cross the finish line and receive the cheers of the crowd for being the true race winner 25 years ago. She was this year's course marshal, replacing Johnny A. Kelley who died last year at age 97. Channel 4 recounted a great quote from Charlie Rodgers, Bill Rodgers' brother. Charlie had voiced suspicions about Rosie Ruiz's "victory", saying, "Rosie Ruiz has Erma Bombeck thighs."

After watching the start of the race, I crossed the finish line at 0:12:00 to take my position on the Photo Bridge. Although Lynne and I intended to communicate with each other via cell phone, the noise at the finish line from the announcer and from the crowd caused us to always miss each other's calls.

The race appeared to be a repeat of last year's race. Not because Ernst Van Dyk won the male wheelchair event for the 5th time, and not because Catherine Ndereba became the first female to win Boston 4 times. The reason was that once again hot weather caused many runners to be in dire straits. Last year the temperature was 87 degrees, so runners knew to run conservatively or else suffer the consequences. This year the temperature was 70 degrees, and some runners told me they actually did worse this year because they ran too fast for the deceptively hot conditions. Each member of the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club (MHRRC) finished 5 to 30 minutes slower than what they had projected.

From Lynne's position in the press bleachers on Boyleston Street, she was surprised to see many runners simply stop running at the intersection of Exeter Street, one scant block from the finish line. These runners then painfully walked or hobbled to the finish line.

I have photos of what the end looked like for some of these people, and it was not pretty. One female runner was so physically distressed that 2 male runners had to support her, practically carrying her across the finish line. Brandon Stapanowich of Asheville, North Carolina collapsed 30 yards from the finish line. He couldn't get up as course officials surrounded him. However, he was determined to finish, so he crawled on his hands and knees to the finish line. When the officials helped him up, his knees were bloodied from crawling on the pavement.

Some runners dealt with the heat in different ways. In the reunion area after the race, a friend sprayed Kimberly Likens of Tallahassee, Florida with champagne, which probably helped cool her down, although I mourned at the waste of perfectly good champagne.

At the awards ceremony that evening, several runners ran up to the podium to receive their awards, showing no effects from the earlier heat, while other runners, including some Kenyans, hobbled painfully up to the podium. The winning visually-impaired athletes were inspiring. Wheelchair athlete Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa wheeled up to the podium to accept his Boston Marathon first-place trophy for the fifth time in his illustrious career. When Catherine Ndereba accepted her first-place trophy, she gave thanks to God for allowing her to be the first female to win Boston 4 times. Catherine, in my opinion, was by far the best-dressed athlete.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I again saw Lynn Mueller finish while wearing the pink wings that she had purchased at the Cincinnati Flying Pigs Marathon, so she receives the movie-themed "Babe" Boston Marathon Sideshow Award.