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Kopac's Corner

Den Falske Maratonløber Once Bit My Sister -- A Homage (not Fromage) to Monty Python

by Bob Kopac

"A møøse once bit my sister...Nø realli!...Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretti nasti..." MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL

And now for something completely different. This is a story of the power of the Internet to obtain information--albeit information obtained through Monty Pythonesque filters. It began when Karen T. sent me an e-mail with a question about the RRCA Convention 2000 All-Stars article on Kopac's Korner at the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club (MHRRC) web site. Here was proof that at least one person reads what I write!

In the article I mentioned an incident that had occurred at the 1972 Olympic Marathon. Pretending to be in first place, an impostor had run into the Olympic stadium ahead of Frank Shorter to the cheers of the unsuspecting crowd. In order not to give public recognition to the prankster, the media agreed not to publish his name. Those times were so much different from now. Think Lindsay Lohan's father. The impostor (the runner, not Lindsay Lohan's father) later became a powerful politician in Germany -- I thought those things only happened in America.

Karen asked if I knew the name of this impostor-politician. Well, I did not have the answer, but I was certain it was not Helmet Kohl! After all, the Olympic Marathon does not have a Clydesdale division. I fired off e-mails to people I thought might know, among them Don Kardong (1976 Olympic marathoner and Runner's World senior writer) and my German friend Thomas Nuzinger.

Karen then sent me a follow-up e-mail: "Thanks so much for trying, but I was able to get the information at a regional library. His name is Norbit Sudhouser."

From Don came the following response: "I didn't know the answer to your question, so I sent an e-mail to a friend of mine at the German edition of Runner's World. He hasn't responded yet, but it appears you've got an answer. I wonder what political position the guy holds -- Minister of Silly Runs?"

Case solved? Not yet. I forwarded both responses to Thomas. He replied with a lawyerly analysis: "You're right, I do like the idea of having a minister for silly runs -- very Euro. I have to admit that I had never heard of such an incident or met someone who had...but I can assure you that there's no such thing as a powerful politician named Norbit Sudhouser. In fact, Norbit isn't even a proper German first name -- but it resembles a lot to "Norbert", which is a proper German first name, and our last minister for work and social welfare went by the name of "Norbert Blüm" (and he actually was proud of his jogging skills). But the guy you're looking for is supposed to be called "Sudhouser" -- and "Sudhouser" doesn't sound very German to me, either...and I couldn't find any politician under more Germanic names like "Sudhauser", "Südhauser", "Sudhäuser" oder "Südhäuser", to boot. So maybe this is just another piece of US propaganda ;-) ??? Anyways, tell me more about this mysterious incident!!!"

I informed Don Kardong that the jury was still out. A few days later Don sent the following: "Bob, Here's confirmation from an independent source (my German friend) of what you heard. But, I suspect, with better German spelling, including some little dots over vowels: 'The name of the guy is Norbert Südhaus from the town of Wiedenbrück, Germany. He was a high school student at the time of the OG [Olympic Games] and presumably 18 or 19 years old. He wore the club vest of his local track club on his 300 m[eter] run through the stadium.' Glad to be able to enlighten you. Cheers, Don."

Now that I had the name of the perp, I decided to surf the Web and gather more information about this Südhaus character with little dots over the vowel. (The "little dots" are called an "umlaut". I learned that in German class.) Although I found several articles, all but one were in German! Although I had taken German, "Ich vergesse Alles!" ("I forget everything!" Except "umlauts"!) I clicked on the English translation button next to a Berliner Zeitung article by Hans Moritz and read the following:

As the "winner round" of the 16jaehrigen of pupil Norbert south house, which overcame 1972 the shut-off position before the resident of Munich olympia stadium and franc Shorter the applause stole gold medal winners.

I couldn't have written it better myself! I next clicked on the English translation for a Süddeutsche Zeitung article and received:

A runner with less effort more rejoicing took the money rarely - or nevertheless: 1972 in Munich a pupil overcame the shut-off positions named Norbert south house and went with the starting number 72 before the winner franc Shorter on the stadium round.

In Monty Python's "The Hungarian Phrasebook Sketch", a hapless foreigner attempted to use a Hungarian-English phrase book at a tobacconist's shop. The foreigner's attempt to buy cigarettes became "My hovercraft is full of eels." I began to suspect that Michael Palin had written the Internet translation tool that I used.

However, the tool seemed to be somewhat outdated. Shouldn't "franc Shorter" now be "Euro Shorter"? Or nevertheless. I was not having much luck with the translations. For instance, I did not know what a "shut-off position" was. Perhaps it was a running term with which I was unfamiliar, although it seemed to describe my state after races.

I turned my attention to the remaining, non-German, article entitled "Den falske maratonløber". Unfortunately, it was written in Danish. Since I was curious to know if this article also discussed the "shut-off position", I searched and found a web site that translates Danish web articles into English. The resulting translation perplexed me, as there was no "shut-off position". However, there was the ominous appearance of the bishop(!):

...The American Frank Shorter had guided at they last kilometre, however abrupt puppet another bishop up and bishop in at city...

..."here's a fork....here's a wrong gentleman, who's that? Vi has all along ..got bet ... However so leaving he city ...beard and ballad has he made by they all of them ... obviously.he come, he upcoming no up, he is not at all by, no, it is although, here's the real attach, he,he, a although number, ha, ha, how on earth he has ported themselves by by that scrape through cordon and checks, there were 800 from every kinds nearly... there's such a weird ...stemning at city, none correct known, about they shall whine by that, or about they shall seem, that beard, or what it is, he stands here out to left at the pictures actually ........However number 71, it is én from Bolivia, so it is possibly deromkring".

It was a german participant to ungdomslejren, Norbert Südhaus, there dristede themselves to that run in at that olympiske city that the first bishop... Südhaus went bortvist from the camp, however vi others getting us a lively experience, that vil become retained .

An analysis of the above translation leads to inevitable questions. Was the writer referring to "The Dead Bishop on the Landing Sketch" when he wrote "...however abrupt puppet another bishop up and bishop in at city...beard and ballad has he made by they all of them..."? Or is it perhaps an allegory? Could he be referring to Trotsky or perhaps to the møøse? And why was the puppet abrupt? Was it a møøse puppet? ...

[Editor's note: We apologize for the fault in the translation. The author responsible for this article has been sacked.]

Already intrigued by the "weird...stemning at city, none correct known" (wink, wink, nod, nod, say no more, say no more), I was chagrined to learn that "Südhaus went bortvist from the camp, and that vil become retained." Was it Andy Warhol camp? Why wasn’t the møøse retained? Møøse make excellent lawyers. A retainer might correct the møøse’s overbite...

[Editor's note: The editor responsible for sacking the author who has just been sacked, has been sacked. The article has been completed in an entirely different style at great expense at the last minute.]

"However number 71, it is én from Bolivia, so it is possibly deromkring,.. went bortvist from the camp" on 'Ralph' the wonder llama. Olé!