Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
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Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

With a Little Lot of Help from Her Friends

by Bob Kopac

"Marathoning. The triumph of desire over reason." New Balance poster at the NYC Marathon Expo

Was it reasonable for Lynne Kopac to run 9 New York Road Runner Club races in 2003 to qualify for the 2004 New York City Marathon while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer and while suffering from skin rashes, mouth sores, and extreme sensitivity in her hands and feet? Was it reasonable to continue training for the NYC Marathon after developing plantar fasciitis and after her training partner and best friend Bob Rother collapsed and died while running with her? Of course not! However, with desire and with a lot of help from her friends, it was possible.

Lynne Kopac found herself at the starting line of the NYC Marathon, her first marathon, after undergoing all of the above tribulations, and yes, many people were responsible for helping to get her there. Bob Rother provided moral support by traveling with Lynne and me to NYC for every one of her surgeries and chemotherapies and by running the 9 NYRRC qualifying races with her

After Bob's untimely death, Jim Smith offered to coach Lynne. Jim, who has run over 100 marathons and ultramarathons, met weekly with Lynne, reviewing her progress and suggesting adjustments to her regimen. Jim said anyone can run 20 miles (!); his goal was to create a plan to get Lynne through the last 6.2 miles of the marathon.

To overcome her plantar fasciitis problems, call in the specialists! Lynne relied on podiatrist Dr. Leonard Gerber, physical therapist Lilly Rawlyk and massage therapist Bonnie Nussbickel. Lynne faithfully followed her specialists' advice, doing exercises and icing and taping her feet. Although Lynne lost 6 critical weeks of training, she was able to resume running. To prevent a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis, she limited herself to dirt trails except for NYRRC checkpoint races, such as the Manhattan Half and the 18-mile Marathon Tune Up.

Through the Onteora Runners' Club e-mail chain, Lynne met Bob Ricketson. Bob had run the 25th NYC Marathon and wanted to find a running partner to train for the 35th. Since Bob lived in Catskill, NY, he met Lynne on the weekends for long training runs on the Wallkill Rail Trail between New Paltz and Rosendale, NY.

Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club members Gail Epstein and Barbara Heiles volunteered to meet Lynne at the Arlington Middle School dirt track once a week. No matter the weather conditions, they ran at 5:45 AM under the lights. With all that support, Lynne was ready! As an added incentive, Lynne decided to run the marathon as a fundraiser for Miles of Hope, a Hudson Valley breast cancer support organization.

In Manhattan on the Friday before the marathon, a knock came on the hotel door. Lynne opened the door and saw a teddy bear sitting on the rug. She looked to the right and there was Ann Bryson, a childhood friend who Lynne had not seen in 14 years. Ann, also a breast cancer survivor, had flown in from Columbus, Ohio with her friend Jeri to support Lynne. That evening we all had dinner with Bob Rother's son Brian.

On Saturday Rachel Zinaman, Lynne's nutritionist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, joined Bob Ricketson, Marsha Kramer, Ann, Lynne and me at an Italian restaurant. We joked that Lynne must be an elite athlete to have a nutritionist give her personal advice on what to eat the evening before a marathon!

Race day, and the support for Lynne continued. Rob Ricketson ran beside her the entire race, even for the dancing to salsa music in Brooklyn! At First Avenue and 70th Street, Roy and Erika Abraham and Al and Laura Grigul1 awaited her. Next was First Avenue and 80th Street, where Phil and Jean Sylvester, Ann and I stood. We all joined forces over at Mile 24, just south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to meet Bob Ricketson and Lynne again. Farther down the course at Mile 26, Rachel cheered on Lynne and Bob. When we next saw Lynne and Bob at the family reunion area after the race, Lynne was all smiles. She smiled more widely, if that was possible, when her sister from Orlando, Florida called on the cell phone and her parents called from Poland, Ohio.

Lynne said there was never the option of dropping out because Bob Rother would not have let her quit. He ran every step with her, for she had placed his photo on her Championchip.

When we returned to Poughkeepsie, Lynne found a bouquet of flowers waiting for her from Bob Rother's daughter Kathleen and her family. Lynne also found over 40 e-mail messages from friends around the country and around the world congratulating her on completing her first marathon.

With much support, Lynne is now a New York Marathon finisher. It truly was the triumph of desire over reason, with a lot of help from her friends.