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Boston Takes On New Meaning For Race Director Dave McGillivray

The 59-year-old will run his race in memory of a child killed in last year’s terrorist attack.

The 59-year-old will run his race in memory of a child killed in last year’s terrorist attack.

BOSTON — There was a moment on Wednesday morning where Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray had to pause and let out a deep breath. Stopping—even for the briefest moment—is tough for the energetic 59-year-old who will be directing his 14th Boston Marathon next Monday.

En route to a press conference in downtown Boston, McGillivray was speaking to fellow race director Creigh Kelley, who leads the Kaiser Permanente Colfax Marathon in Denver, Colo. Over the phone, Kelley asked how everything was going.

“It’s going great, we are getting there and we’re almost ready,” said McGillivray. “I feel great, we worked really hard on this one.”

Kelley’s next comment brought McGillivray, a father and avid marathoner runner, to a stop.

“He said, ‘Well great, ’cause we are counting on you.’ It just hit me—a fellow race director saying we are counting on you,” recalled McGillivray with a short, reflective pause. “The magnitude and setting the standard, responding to what happened last year, everyone is counting on us and we are going to come through.”

The comment gave McGillivray added perspective. When he began directing the Boston Marathon in 1988, he didn’t sign up to help heal a city.

After the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks of April 15, 2013, McGillivray soon became a recognizable face of strength in the Massachusetts community. He was known as “the guy that puts on the marathon then goes and runs it.”

To race directors, he was an example of what to strive for.

“On the one hand, I took [Kelley’s comment] as that’s a lot of pressure. But on the other hand I took it as a compliment,” McGillivray said. “I understand because right after last year, as we all know, a lot of other races responded to what happened here in Boston by ramping up their security measures and doing very, very similar things that we are doing here.

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McGillivray set a standard, one that he continues to rise year in and year out.

“This is my 27th year and much of this year has been somewhat surreal, in some areas like starting all over again,” he said. Moments later, after a deep breath, he added, “We signed up to put on a road race here, a lot of us race directors. None of us really expected to get involved in this level.”

With Monday’s 118th edition of the Boston Marathon right around the corner, a number of thoughts come flooding back to McGillivray. At the top of his to-do list is to create the best Boston Marathon in history.

“We really feel that it’s important that this race go well from a security perspective and that it’s a family, fun, friendly race so we can get back to—at least close to it—get back to the way it was. That’s what we’re all hoping,” he said.

Day-in and day-out, McGillivray said the community has showed support in various means, to a point that it has become a bit overwhelming.

“I can’t keep up. The social media from the running community, the e-mails I get. It’s overwhelming,” he says with a chuckle. “I’ve been doing this, the marathon, for 27 years. Putting on races for 35 years, and I always feel I’m ahead of the curve. I always pretend an event is two weeks before it really is because I want to be able to just deal with stuff. I haven’t caught up—I mean not on the operational/logistical side—just with the volume of stuff, people writing. It’s so wonderful but it’s overwhelming too.”

McGillivray says he gets between 700 and 800 e-mails a day. He looks at and/or responds to each and every one.

“That’s why I’m not getting much sleep either, because I can’t go to bed without responding. I feel an obligation and responsibility; if someone reached out to me, I am going to get back to them,” he said. “I’m trying to keep the pace.”

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On Patriots’ Day, McGillivray will direct the Boston Marathon, and then plans on heading out to the start in Hopkinton and running in honor of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy from Dorchester, Mass., who was killed in last year’s attacks.

That has given this year’s event even more meaning. When he crosses the finish line, it will be his 42nd straight Boston Marathon finish, according to the Boston Marathon Media Guide.

“It’s very special. You put a little closure on what happened last year,” he said. “For 40-plus years it’s been just do it for myself. Now it’s do it for someone else. That’s what I’ll be focused on the entire time.”