Dave McGillivray has served as the race director of the Boston Marathon for more than 20 years. Each year, following the completion of the race, McGillivray, 53, returns to Hopkinton and runs the 26.2-mile course alone – without the benefit of water stops, cheering fans, or traffic control. McGillivray, who is also the meet director of the Beach to Beacon road race in Maine, ran across the United States in 1978 in support of the Jimmy Fund. The Daily News held a question-and-answer session with McGillivray on Thursday.

How many people are registered for this year’s race?

“The latest is 26,375 as of right now.”

How many spectators will line the course?

“It obviously depends on the weather. It could be on either side of a million. Some years, there are 700,000 or 800,000. Other years, there are 1 or 1.2 million. If it’s a really nice day, more people come out than when it’s a less nice day.”

What is the weather forecast?

“From what I heard when I attended the last public safety meeting (Thursday) morning, the forecast is calling for an overcast, chilly morning with temperatures in the 40s. It may get to highs in the 50s and potential rain in the afternoon and evening.”

Where is the best place to watch the race?

“I guess it depends on how early you get there and what you want to see. If you want to see the race early on, you should go to the western part of course – Ashland, Framingham or Natick. If you’d rather see the race as it’s finishing up, certainly Brookline or Boston would be the way to go. At the same time, if you don’t get there early, it’s not always easy to get to the edge of the road where can see anything. Sometimes spectators are five or 10 people deep. The idea is to try to find a spot along the course where you can watch the whole race and don’t have to be climbing up trees, poles, or standing on ladders or someone’s rooftop.”

Why have the Ethiopians and Kenyans dominated the Americans in recent years?

“It’s more about focus. Those athletes are more focused than American athletes in the last 20 years. There’s a lot of team sport interest here, whether it’s football, baseball, basketball or hockey. In some other nations, they don’t have those sports. So the tendency is to focus on individual sports. That’s arguably the strongest reason why they have dominated over the last couple decades. We’re chipping away, though. We have a couple Americans going into this year’s race as favorites. It should be exciting for everyone to see how that turns out.”

How do you communicate with runners in Kenya and Ethiopia?

“Obviously with the advent of the Internet, it’s so much easier now. Most people have access, so it’s just as easy to communicate with someone 10,000 miles away as someone right next to you. Most is done that way or by phone, but I’ll get on a plane and go over there if I have to meet with these people.”

What’s the most challenging part of Heartbreak Hill?

“I think that’s why they call it a marathon. That’s why not everyone does it. It’s not easy. Certainly right around that point, people hit the proverbial wall. They’re depleted and their body is starting to rebel on them. Other things kick into play, too, whether it’s emotional or mental. Runners go through cycles throughout the race. Early on, everyone feels good. After a few miles, they might fall a little bit. You can come back again through Wellesley because you peak again once you get the halfway boost. Climbing Heartbreak Hill is tough, obviously. Once you get to the top, you’re physically drained. Emotionally, you have to say to yourself, ‘I’m really close, I smell the ocean, and somehow, someway those senses to finish take over physically. It’s more of the survivor shuffle. It’s funny because you can think you’re at the lowest of lows, but you can come back from that, too. That’s the difference between experienced and non-experienced runners. Non-experienced runners think it can only get worse, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Can anyone run a marathon with the proper training?

“It’s all about making the commitment that you’re going to do it, and you want to do it. The second part is the preparation. That’s really the key. In essence, as long as you have a general bill of health – you could have things going on that prohibit you from even making the commitment – but if you have a general bill of health, you can eventually do it. You might be a little overweight, may not be athletic, may not have run a step in your life, but if you make this goal, as long as you’re realistic, patient, and you do the work, eventually down the road, I’d agree most everybody has the ability. The numbers show that 98.5 percent of people who start this race finish it. Typically the 1.5 percent who don’t either have misfortune during it, or they were foolish and went out too fast and burnt out.”

What is your favorite memory or directing the race?

“The 100th running of the event. The sheer size of the event went from 9,000 the year before to 38,000 in 1996. Effectively, it was four times the size anyone had seen before. Trying to make it work took a couple of years of visualizing and organizing. Having it come off very well is the fondest memory on the race management side of the ledger.”


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