My wife has a running friend who is volunteer team captain of the Maine contingent for the Boston Marathon. In early January, her friend sent out a Facebook message soliciting volunteers. Mary thought it would be fun to give something back at one of the elite marathons in the world, and asked if I was interested. I said “yes,” and consequently forgot about it.
About six weeks ago, emails began arriving, indicating that we were both in (Boston requires 9,000 volunteers supporting 30,000 runners, and they turn away many who want to be part of the volunteer brigade). We would spend Patriots’ Day in Boston, handing out water or Gatorade to runners streaming by Hydration Station 14 (at mile marker 14, in Wellesley).
Patriots’ Day is a big deal in New England, especially in Massachusetts. Boston.com and Roberto Scalese have a pretty darn good summation of the significance of the day if you live in the region:
Here in Massachusetts, Patriots’ Day is a big deal. More than 30,000 people gather in tiny Hopkinton and run towards Boston, some 26 miles away. The Red Sox play their only morning game every year. If the Celtics or Bruins have their act together, they’re just starting their playoff runs. Kids have the day off because Patriots’ Day is the start of April vacation week.
It’s a day of civic pride at the start of the spring. It’s a day to come together and congratulate each other for surviving another winter. It’s a day to drink. It’s a day to flirt.
While the day is a big one for New Englanders, I’ve only attended one Red Sox Patriots’ Day game at Fenway. The marathon, while important, wasn’t my first thought. That changed four years ago, Mary’s second cousin, PK, ran her first marathon. Mary’s extended family showed up en masse to watch PK pass by on Commonwealth Avenue, and then, we broke bread together to celebrate. It was pretty impressive being there on the sidelines and seing a mass of humanity grinding out 26 miles.
2013 was a year many would like to forget. Last year, the race become more than just about running. 2015 seems to be about getting back to the primary reason why people run have been racing from Hopkinton to downtown Boston for more than 100 years.
People come from all over to race Boston. At the hotel just before dawn, I met a runner from Delaware in the hallway. We were both up early in search of some coffee pre-Starbucks opening. Fortunately, the Verve Crown Plaza had a Keurig machine and we both got our morning joe. In our brief passing over coffee, she told me she was shooting for a time of under three hours, so I knew she was a “real” runner. I looked up her race time afterwards and saw she ran the course in 2:59:58, which I think was a PR (personal record) for her. Way to go, Sarah!
Mary and I arrived at our volunteer meet and greet around 7:30. We received our marching orders, and our group of about 80 volunteers commenced setting up and taking care of our mile marker along Wellesley’s Washington Avenue. For nearly six hours, we passed out cups of Gatorade. Then, as the rain picked up, we began breaking down the tables, and cleaning up the mountain of cups and other debris along our section of the course.
While the day was wetter than we may have wished for, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm our group of volunteers brought to our duties. Many runners thanked us and verbalized their appreciation. I was in awe of every runner who passed my station, especially the 34 elite runners that are just plain super-human.
We were both a bit tired and a stiff on the drive home, but we felt great that we had a small part in this year’s running of the Boston Marathon. Now with this gig under our belts, don’t be surprised if we do it again next year, which would be the 120th running of the storied marathon.