True grit: Woman with MS is last at NYC Marathon, a day later

Updated: November 5, 2007, 5:42 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- When the elite athletes passed her, Zoe Koplowitz kept walking. When the hard-core runners went by, she kept walking. And, finally, when every other one of the thousands of people in the race had finished, she kept walking.

Koplowitz crossed the finish line and completed her 20th New York City Marathon on Monday -- just under 29 hours after she started.

Wearing braces on her back and knee and using purple-painted crutches, Koplowitz walked the entire route, accompanied by supporters. The 59-year-old woman has multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

"I'm just extremely grateful," she said after reaching the finish line in Central Park. "I don't get any younger, my MS doesn't get any better." She called crossing the finish line "a total blessing."

Koplowitz, a motivational speaker, was diagnosed more than 30 years ago with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system. She entered her first NYC Marathon in 1988 and made her best time -- just under 20 hours. This year's effort was 28 hours, 45 minutes.

The time doesn't matter to Koplowitz. She enjoys her unusual vantage point, which lets her see some of the world's best marathoners run by.

"The best part is you get to be both a spectator and a participant," she said.

Koplowitz started the 26.2-mile trek ahead of the main pack, this year at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, and pulled over to give the elite runners room.

The women's winner, Paula Radcliffe, won in 2 hours, 23 minutes, 9 seconds, just nine months after giving birth. The men's winner, Martin Lel, finished in 2:09:04.

Ruth Brenner, president of the New York City chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, called Koplowitz an inspiration.

"She's not letting MS change her life," Brenner said Monday. "I think she is a real champion."

Koplowitz also has completed races in Boston and London and hopes to keep taking part "as long as I'm able to keep getting around."

Her short-term goal, though, was to relax.

"I'm going to go home, cuddle with my husband and my dog and take a nap," she said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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