Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club
MHRRC Home  Recent  Humor  Information  Boston Marathon  NYRRC Races  Other Races  By Friends
Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

The Adventures of A 2006 NYC Marathon Packhorse

by Bob Kopac

My status as the official packhorse for Lynne's running of the 2006 NYC Marathon was in serious doubt, considering I had had back surgery 5 weeks earlier. As for Lynne, she had developed plantar fasciitis, which caused her to lose 3 weeks of training. Thus we both were questionable for the marathon.

Instead of taking the train from Poughkeepsie on race day, we stayed overnight in Manhattan so at least we would be well rested. So much for that plan, as noise kept us up. Was it the sound of the pre-race fireworks? After an early dinner, Lynne went back to the hotel to sleep, while I ventured to Central Park to see the fireworks display. I walked past the long line of runners waiting to get into the pasta party, which convinced me that Lynne was right in deciding instead to eat at an Italian restaurant. As the fireworks lit up the sky under a full moon, the sound of the explosions echoed loudly off the buildings on Central Park West, like rolling thunder. However, that was not what kept Lynne up.

The noise in our hotel on 45th Street sounded more like a jackhammer. It seemed odd that there would be construction work that late at night. Thunk, thunk, shudder, shudder. Finally at 11:30 PM, I traced the noise to the elevator shaft. Thunk, thunk, shudder, shudder, all night long. Now I know why NYC is known as the city that never sleeps at night. Around 4:30 AM we heard the sound of revelry in the street outside our hotel. Was it the sound of noisy runners going to the buses? No, it was the sound of happy patrons leaving a nearby bar.

At 5:30 AM, sleepless, Lynne and I met Tiffany Parsley, who was staying across the street at a quiet hotel. They both got into the line at the New York Public Library for the buses to Staten Island. Amazingly the line never stopped; it was an ever-flowing river of runners slowly shuffling forward and boarding the buses, like sleepless zombies Night of the Running Dead.

Lynne wore sweat pants because of the cold. Whenever she had to show her bib number on her running shorts to security personnel, she had to drop her drawers. Lynne wore so many layers, she could have been mistaken for the Pillsbury Doughboy. Sally from New Orleans, on the other hand, was underdressed for the cold weather, so Lynne gave her some of her layers. They both huddled in a tent, trying to shield themselves from the wind.

Meanwhile, at dawns early light, and with a bad back, I packhorsed 2 suitcases through a deserted Manhattan to switch hotels. Since I could not check in until after 3 PM, my next stop was a NYC Marathon headquarters hotel. I figured the TV screens in the lounge would be showing the marathon, but inexplicably they were tuned to another channel.

I dozed off in a lobby chair. When I awoke, Lisa from Calgary invited me to breakfast with her fellow spectators from Canada. One of her friends had been asked by someone at her youth hostel, Have you ever seen a moose? She replied, I have two in the freezer! My thought was that they would be mighty uncomfortable there. Wasn't the spare bedroom available?

After breakfast I went cross-town to Central Park just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Spectators jammed the side of the course just south of the Met, but there was plenty of space at my position. I talked with the police who patrolled the course, and I watched them patiently explain several times to irate joggers why they could not cross the road to go jogging at the Reservoir. (Typical New Yorkers.) I resisted asking the joggers why they weren't running the marathon.

After seeing the leading female and male runners, I had to make a decision. Should I wait to get a photograph of Lance Armstrong, arguably the most famous race entrant? But, if I did, I might miss giving Lynne her supplies on First Avenue. My job was being Lynne's packhorse, so I wisely chose to go to First Avenue and 81st.

When I arrived there, spectators stood 4-deep in front of me at the intersection. As I contemplated that it would be difficult for me to see Lynne and for Lynne to see me, a woman behind me said, Excuse me and pushed past me. She did it to each person and made it to the front row. I thought she was joining a friend, but no. She had brazenly pushed herself to a prime viewing position. One man became quite irate and yelled at her to get back, but she ignored him. I said to him, Typical New Yorker. He replied, I know, but I still hate it.

Then Jean and Phil Sylvester joined me to wait for Lynne. Although Phil was going to work 3rd shift, they had come down from Poughkeepsie to see Lynne run the marathon. We saw 7 racers running abreast, each wearing a shirt with a letter: N, E, W, Y, O, R, K, whatever that meant. A runner went by wearing a T-shirt that read, Bjorn to run. There were not one, but two runners in rhinoceros costumes making a point. One South Korean runner ran the race backwards; he wore a sign that said this was his 150th backwards marathon. Why? I don't know. I report it; I don't explain it. Alian Barley (!) of Great Britain ran the race dressed as an English Bobby. If he consumed too many barley products at the bars on First Avenue, would he have had to arrest himself?

A word of advice: Do not arrange to meet a runner at First Avenue and 81st. No, not because of pushy spectators, but for the safety of the runner: volunteers along First Avenue were handing out bananas to runners. Lynne saw me, came over, and just as she got to me, she slipped on a banana peel and almost ended her marathon then and there. Phil recorded the incident with a digital camera, and now I continually threaten to send the clip to Americas Funniest Home Videos. Although Lynne probably did not want to see a banana after what had occurred, I gave her one as part of my packhorse job.

After the excitement of First Avenue, Lynne said the sparse crowds in the Bronx were somewhat of a letdown. And, as she headed back into Manhattan and saw 135th Street, she realized just how far it was before she could enter Central Park at 90th and Fifth Avenue. (20 short city blocks equal a mile, as anyone who has run the NYRRC Fifth Avenue Mile race knows.) However, once Lynne entered Central Park and encountered more cheering throngs, she became recharged.

Phil, Jean, and I were part of the throngs. We had left First Avenue and had gone to Central Park just south of the Met to await Lynne. Again I acted as a packhorse and gave her another banana, which helped lighten my load.

At Mile 26, Lynne saw Rachel Zinaman, her nutritionist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who had come out to cheer for Lynne. Rachel had kept in phone contact with her sister, who was monitoring Lynne's progress on the course. Later we all gathered in the family reunion area at the K sign for Kudos to Lynne, where I completed my final packhorse duty by giving Lynne extra clothing to keep her warm.

Lynne finished her marathon a half hour faster than her 2004 NYC Marathon, and I fulfilled my job as a packhorse. Was I disappointed in not having photographed Lance Armstrong? No, but I was very disappointed in not having photographed supermodel Kim Alexis in the race. After all, I'm a Guy.