Local volunteers key to race-day success

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Hopkinton’s Alex Danahy (right), pictured with Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi, has led the volunteer crew for the mobility impaired division for the past 12 years.
Photo/Hopkinton Marathon Committee

It takes a great deal of planning and coordination to host more than 30,000 athletes who flock to the starting line of the Boston Marathon every April.

Luckily the Hopkinton Marathon Committee has had a lot of practice.

Established in 1979, the Hopkinton Marathon Committee works in collaboration with the Boston Athletic Association to ensure the annual running of the Boston Marathon is a safe and exciting event for all.

“Our mission is to guide and help coordinate all BAA efforts within the town, while protecting the interests of Hopkinton,” HMC Chair Dorothy Ferriter-Wallace explained.  

For the past four decades, the HMC has helped coordinate the numerous logistics that are involved in hosting an event of this magnitude. Currently, 21 volunteer members are a part of the organization, including representatives from Public Safety, the Department of Public Works, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Hopkinton community at large.

Along with the planning that happens in the months leading up to the marathon, the committee is all-hands-on-deck on Marathon Monday, acting as greeters and corral monitors and coordinating the Big Brothers Big Sisters clothing drive that collects all of the discarded clothing from the runners and donates it to people in need.

With runners coming in from all over the globe, the HMC also assists in coordinating the housing for the runners while they await the big day.

“Many of the runners are staying at the New England Laborers’ Training Center,” Ferriter-Wallace said. “It’s a very nice facility for the runners, very peaceful.”

The morning of the race will bring runners by busloads to the center of Hopkinton, which is when the volunteers will spring to action making sure that the day goes “seamless.”

Alex Danahy, team captain for the mobility impaired division for the past 12 years, said that he and the 11 other volunteers are all ready to assist the 200 impaired athletes and their guides this year on Marathon Day.

“Every year these divisions have grown exponentially,” he said. “For a while the Hoyts [the father-son running duo] were the only duo team. Now it’s up to 10 duos.”

Danahy, who grew up only 100 yards from the Boston Marathon starting line, said that volunteering year after year has given him many great friends and memories.

“I got to meet Bobby Hall, the first athlete to race the Boston Marathon in a wheelchair [in 1975],” Danahy said. “It was very cool.”

The 28-year-old also recalls meeting Ernst van Dyk, a South African wheelchair racer and hand cyclist.

“He has broken so many records, to see him come back here every year is very special,” Danahy said.

While Danahy’s team gets ready to welcome and assist the mobility impaired athletes, the special volunteers know firsthand that the only support they are likely to give is moral.

“People don’t realize that these athletes are very independent and self-sufficient,” Danahy said. “But we are there for them if they need us. Sometimes the little things make a big difference.”

To Ron Foisy, a volunteer coordinator for Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises, volunteers are the lifeblood of the Boston Marathon.

“You could not run this type of event without the thousands of volunteers,” he said. “A lot of organizations are always scrambling to get volunteers, but the Boston Marathon has volunteers lining up to help. People are thrilled to be a part of it.”

Many of those people are right from where it all starts — Hopkinton. This year there are approximately 400 volunteers from Hopkinton alone.

Foisy was a volunteer for the Boston Marathon after moving into Hopkinton in 1989. He began by working at the starting line, helping runners find their places.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said.

For the past 20 years, Foisy has worked as a consultant for DMSE to coordinate and deploy volunteers to help ensure the day runs smoothly.

“We start at 3:30 a.m. on Marathon Monday to help the volunteers and law enforcement get on to shuttle busses for their spots on the route,” he said. “It is a very busy day.”

And as race day gets closer, and the volunteers kick it into high gear, it’s focusing on the little things that make Hopkinton a great place for the marathoner’s journey to begin.

“There is so much hospitality in the Hopkinton community,” Ferriter-Wallace said. “It bonds us together as we welcome the runners to our town.”