Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
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Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

Stamped Out

by Bob Kopac

A couple of years ago I was in the post office, and in the lobby was a large poster for a commemorative stamp featuring a runner with "MARATHON" written across the top of the stamp. "Cool!", I thought, and went to the counter to get me a mess of them (the stamps, not the poster). When I requested the stamps, the postal worker asked if I was a runner. I said yes, and I asked if many people were requesting the stamps. She said no, that I was the only one who had asked for the stamps. This caused me to wonder--why wasn't there a run on these stamps? Wouldn't all runners want to buy these stamps to put on their envelopes to let everyone know they were runners? Wouldn't runners want to flaunt their athletic prowess by mailing these stamps to their non-running friends, thereby helping the runners rationalize the pain of all the blisters and shin splints? Having time on my feet, I decided to theorize on why runners treated these stamps like Rosie Ruiz.

Reason 1: The Out-of-Sight-Out-Of-His-or-Her-Mind Theory. Ultra-marathoners would not buy these stamps because they never would see the stamps in the first place! They have never set foot inside a post office--they have no need for a post office because they run-deliver their mail! These runners run around town paying their bills or dropping off letters. Although this may seem incredible to us non-ultra-marathoners (i.e., normal or sane runners), it really is not much of an effort for ultra-marathoners. After all, ultra-marathoners do not have many letters to deliver, since they are so busy running they never have a chance to cultivate friendships and therefore don't write many letters (the loneliness of the long-distance runner). The only time this regimen becomes tough is when an ultra-marathoner has to run-deliver a non-local letter; for example, a letter to Iceland.

Reason 2: The Running-Widow(er) Theory. The reason (non-ultra-) marathoners never venture inside a post office is because they are out running, especially on a Saturday morning. The post-office chore is left to the long-suffering-non-running Significant Other. When the Other Half sees the marathon-stamp poster, what resentment must well up inside the running widow or widower! A subconscious desire to lash out at the running partner would cause these people to shun buying the marathon stamp. But, there is a far greater social cost involved here than just stamps being bypassed! The negative waves emanating from these non-runners affect everyone in the immediate vicinity. That's right, I am blaming non-runners for Disgruntled Postal Workers!

Reason 3: The Short-People-Got-No-Business Theory. Short-distance track runners would set foot inside a post office but would disdainfully ignore the marathon stamps because they have a genetic superiority complex concerning long-distance runners. I propose that short-twitch muscles not only affect how fast a runner can sprint but also affect the portion of the brain that controls humility; the humility part is short-circuited by the short-twitch muscles. That is why there are far more short-distance-trash-talking runners then there are long-distance-trash-talking runners, and why short-distance runners loathe marathoners.

Reason 4: The Logo-Loco Theory. Marathoners and ultra-marathoners who actually enter the post office would not recognize the marathon stamp because the runner on the stamp has no sports insignia on his clothing and thus cannot be a runner! It has been years since a runner has seen an article of clothing that did not have a company name or logo or swoop. The runner becomes confused at the sight of a picture of a runner without sports insignia so the runner's brain erases the irrational sight from the runner's short-term memory, thereby completing his or her postal errand without ordering the running stamps.

Reason 5: The Mr.-Blackwell Theory. Fashion-conscious runners who enter the post office would not recognize the marathon stamp because the runner depicted on the stamp is dressed in a garish, non-color-coordinated dweeb outfit (I don't mean that in a bad way). He could be a candidate for Mr. Blackwell's list of 10-worst-dressed runners. With a brown tee-shirt, green-black running shorts, no socks, and baby-blue (!) winged (!) (not winged-tipped) shoes, the runner looks more like a nerd than a sophisticated, runner-about-town fashion plate. Therefore, fashion-conscious runners think the stamp is just part of the post office recent series on the movie industry--perhaps a stamp tribute to Revenge of the Nerds.

Reason 6: The Fitful Theory. Runners with perfect running form who enter the post office would not recognize the marathon stamp because the runner depicted on the stamp has an ungainly and ungaitly running form. Unlike the smooth, animal-like movement of elite runners, the runner has a wide, pronated right-angular gait. Of course, the elite runners would not recognize him as a runner. However, from my position in races, I see many people who look like the runner. Less-kind people might say that the artist modeled the stamp runner after me, but I'd pronate after them and kick them.

Reason 7: The Put-On-a-Happy-Face Theory. Runners would not recognize the runner because he is laughing! Have you ever seen a laughing or smiling runner? No, I don't mean the runners drinking Hudson Valley Lager beer after the race at the Woodstock Memorial Day Run, I mean runners who are in the heat of running battle. I have a photograph that someone took of me as I crossed the finish line of the Canfield, Ohio 4th of July Firecracker run. The look on my face was truly frightening (more than usual). My snarling face caused women to shield their young children and babies. A laughing runner? I think not!

Reason 8: The Wrong-Sport Theory. Runners would not recognize the runner on the stamp because the runner appears to be a basketball player. He is wearing one of those sleeveless tops and baggy shorts that are endemic and epidemic on basketball courts. As for the baby-blue-winged shoes, I at first thought that might be Dennis Rodman's new shoe line. There is also an orange ball directly in front of the "athlete" that to all appearances is a basketball; after countless hours of study, I determined that it probably is an artistic representation of the sun. That History of Art course I attended really paid off, especially the Modern Art chapter! The other sign that it wasn't a basketball was the lack of a corporate logo on the orb, and I know that corporations have not placed logos on the surface of the sun yet, although Sun Microsystems reportedly is working on it.

Reason 9: The Domus-Vettiorum Theory. The well-traveled runner would think that the stamp is a representation of the fountain statue in the Domus Vettiorum (House of the Vettii (not Jedi, that's Star Wars)) in Pompeii, Italy, because the person on the stamp has no hands! (I only report it, I don't explain it, except to say that the runner could never be in a relay race.) There is one physical attribute of the statue which proves that the stamp is not a representation of the statue, but decorum about the Vettiorum forces me to end the subject.

Reason 10: The Generic Theory. Runners would not be interested in the marathon stamp because it did not represent a specific marathon. A runner would be loathe to wear a T-shirt from a race in which he or she did not participate, so it stands to reason that a runner would not use a stamp if it was not from a particular race in which he or she suffered. The stamp was of a generic marathon, and a runner has never run a generic marathon; therefore, a runner has no interest in the stamp.

But the most likely theory on why runners would overlook the stamps is the Runners-High Theory: they are on an endomorphic rush and oblivious to their surroundings.