Tuesday 20 April 1999
By Oliver Poole
MORE than thirty hours after she started, the last of the London Marathon's 30,000 competitors yesterday crossed the finish line in The Mall. Zoe Koplowitz, who has multiple sclerosis, endured overnight rain and heavy traffic to finish the 26-mile course at 3.58pm in 30 hours 10 minutes, her fastest marathon for two years.
As she crossed the line she shrieked with joy before collapsing in a chair provided by race organisers to receive her medal. She said: "I'm overwhelmed. I had a great time, far more than I ever imagined. Everyone got me safely through the run and the weather and the worn out legs."
The 50-year-old New Yorker used a pair of purple crutches and had escorts from the 100th Yeomanry Artillery Regiment and The Guardian Angels, the community safety group. She was the last competitor to cross the starting line on Sunday morning and covered the first few miles in 40 minutes each before settling down to an average speed of 1mph.
Maj Taff Hill, who accompanied her the whole way, said: "It has been an incredible effort. She kept having spasms and had to stop, but she never gave up and was always cheerful. Once the traffic started this morning it became more difficult because she was up and down the pavement, which caused her a great deal of hardship."
Miss Koplowitz took insulin for the diabetes she developed last year and used painkillers every four hours. The worst point was at 9am when involuntary spasms in her right leg forced her to stop for an hour as the muscles were massaged. Miss Koplowitz, a manager at a Wall Street temping agency who was sponsored by Britain's Multiple Sclerosis Society, said she would love to compete next year.
She said: "All the way around people have been amazing. Last night they were even coming out of pubs to wish me luck. It was wonderful." In New York she is a celebrity greeted by huge cheers during the city's annual marathon, in which she has recorded 11 straight last-place finishes.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 25, she competed in her first marathon 14 years later, ignoring advice from her doctors. She said: "I wanted to get back everything I'd forfeited to multiple sclerosis over the years and this was my way of achieving that and taking control of my life again. I know I will never win or get a fast time, but I've always believed that the race belongs not only to the swift, but also to all those who keep on running. That is something I hold on to, both in my life, and in my marathons."
In 1998 she ran the Boston Marathon in 31 hours, the longest in women's
marathon history, but was told by organisers that she could not compete
again after they introduced a time limit. In the 1990 New York Marathon
she was confronted by a mugger with a gun who only waved her on when he
saw her running number. Since then she has always been escorted by The
Guardian Angels. In 1992 they had to fight off a dozen rats which attacked
her at night during the race