In a time of 31 hours and 20 minutes, Zoe Koplowitz completed the New York City Marathon yesterday (the day after she started) in last place–and she couldn’t be happier.
“It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to finish, it’s that I finish and I finish from the heart,” she said at the end.
For the 23rd time, Zoe crossed the Central Park finish line on crutches. The 63-year-old author and motivational speaker, who set a world record for the longest marathon finish time in the history of women’s running, has been living with multiple sclerosis since she was 25 and has completed every NYC Marathon since 1987–in last place. In fact, this is a woman who changed my life before I even knew who she was.
It was 1994, and it was the day after I had run my first NYC Marathon. Sore, tired and a bit discouraged (because the 26.2 miles were so much harder than I ever imagined), I gingerly hobbled out of my hotel which was across the street from Central Park. As I stood there in the crisp New York fall air, I noticed a lot of hoopla in the park–the location of mile 25 from yesterday’s marathon. There were reporters, news trucks and a small crowd cheering. When I walked over there, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a woman, on crutches, still doing the race. I listened to the crowd marvel over the fact that she had been out there all night and was still going strong, determined to cross the finish line even though she had MS. She was out there to prove a point: She could still do this. Watching her with tears in my eyes (and now as I write this), Zoe became an inspiration to me. No longer could I complain about being tired and sore after the challenge of running this marathon in a fraction of the time that she was out there. No longer could I feel sorry for myself for not meeting the time goal I had set for myself (even Oprah beat me that year when she ran the Marine Corps Marathon a month earlier). And never again would I say “I can’t”.
So often we only hear stories about the front runners at races, but this story of the last place finisher is my favorite. Seventeen years later, I am still hearing about Zoe. And still being inspired by her.
Watch her amazing finish here: