Marathon volunteers excited for race’s return

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The return of the Boston Marathon this October means the return of volunteers who have helped staff the annual event. After missing the past two spring events, they are eager to get back to work.

“It’s awesome, it’s something I look forward to every year,” said Craig Gormley, the vice chair of the Hopkinton Marathon Committee and the captain of the Boston Athletic Association Start Team.

Gormley has been on the Marathon Committee for 15 years and organizes a team of volunteers who staff the information booths at the start line. Over the years, he has helped tens of thousands of runners with any and every question one might imagine, from where to get safety pins for their bibs, to how to find the medical tent, to which direction is Boston.

“There is so much excitement when you’re at the Athletes Village and you have this influx of 30,000 people,” Gormley said. “There is a lot of nervous energy, and we are there to help those runners get to the start line.”

The job has evolved over the years. It wasn’t long ago that Gormley and his volunteers would have to try to find someone to interpret questions from runners who came to Hopkinton from other countries. Now all they need is a cell phone and Google translate. Sometimes a bandit runner, someone without an official number, will ask where they should hang out until they can start making their way down the course.

“It’s always something new every year,” Gormley said.

This year he will have fewer volunteers at the start line information booths than in the past, a product of the race’s smaller footprint amid the ongoing pandemic.

“I think the energy will still be high,” Gormley said. “Even though it’s a smaller crowd, there will be lots and lots of energy and people amped up and getting ready to get running again. People are happy and ecstatic to get going.”

Paul Fitzgerald and Tab Kadlik both work for Dell EMC and have been involved in coordinating parking and transportation logistics on South Street, about a mile from the start line. Back when Fitzgerald started with the company in 1992, EMC did not have the day as an employee holiday and, with people already scheduled to be in the building, would coordinate with its security and operations teams to help out the town.

But even after most employees began taking the day off and many began to run in the race annually, the coordination with the town continued.

“It’s the right thing to do, and we are happy to do it,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a great day in Hopkinton, and it’s become like an annual event for us.”

The work has changed a bit over the years, especially after 2013 when state and federal law enforcement became more involved in the planning process. The company has at least a dozen volunteers and sometimes more than two dozen organizing pickups and drop-offs of runners, as well as parking for the tens of thousands who arrive in town on race day.

Kadlik manages the teams that handle the parking lots, including runner drop-off, spectator drop-off, and bus staffing.

“It’s been great working with the Hopkinton Marathon Committee,” he said. “They really take it to heart and they really enjoy their work.”

Both men said it felt strange to go through the past two Patriots’ Days without a marathon.

“It was like a missing piece of the calendar,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s nice to see it coming back, though. It’s been going on for more than 100 years, hopefully next year will be back to a spring event.”

Added Kadlik: “It’ll have a different look, I’m sure. But I’m glad it’s back. I think everyone’s glad it’s back.”