In 1990, I spent some time working on the Boston Marathon media relations effort through its major sponsor, John Hancock Financial Services.
In the weeks and months leading up to the event, my primary responsibility was to create press materials and handle requests for credentials – no small task, since the Marathon is, after the Super Bowl, the largest one-day sports media event.
But by race day, all of that work was done and my work was far more mundane. Indeed, at the end of the race my job was simply to escort the elite athletes through the “chutes” and into a suite in the old Hancock Building for drug testing.
The winner of the women’s race was Rosa Mota, the world and Olympic champion.
But the runner up was a relative unknown – a very athletic-looking 24-year-old blond from Germany named Uta Pippig. As it turns out, Pippig had been born in East Germany, and hence was not nearly as well known as the other athletes; and although the Berlin Wall had just fallen a few months before, it was only weeks before the Boston Marathon that Pippig had made her official break for the West.
As she came across the finish line, I met up with Pippig. She was elated and energetic, and not a little bit disoriented. I didn’t even know if she spoke English. I tried to apologize and explain that I needed to accompany her directly to the drug testing room.
“Dat’s fine,” she said, “because I really really need to pee!”
Pippig went on to win Boston three straight years. She also won the New York Marathon in 1993. Ironically, in 1998 she was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs by the German Track and Field Federation. She denied the charges; the case ended without a conviction.
Listen to my WEEI radio broadcast from the 1990 Boston Marathon – click on the 5th one from the top.